The Pressure On Enterprises To Transform Intensifies

Business is under intense pressure to transform these days whether it’s finding ways to capitalize on mobile, social, the cloud or big data or taking it a step further and becoming a truly digital enterprise. That was the message this week at the Gartner Portals, Content and Collaboration Summit in LA –and as I listened to this lesson, I wondered how many people in that room were ready to hear and accept the overall premise, never mind execute on a vision to drive meaningful change inside their companies.

Some enterprises have begun exploring ways to exploit these technologies while others are caught in the headlights of the high speed train of change, not knowing where to begin and hoping they don’t get run over by a younger more flexible upstart that’s unencumbered by legacy technology.

While Gartner analysts Jeffrey Mann and Susan Landry danced around the idea of digital transformation in their opening keynote, their message began to come into clearer focus in some of the sessions when we listened to real-world implementation stories and learned what happened when companies truly embraced change. The promised transformation actually materialized and that had to be comforting to companies feeling rudderless in a time of intense change.

For instance, Deutsche Bank, as buttoned-down and conservative an institution as you’re likely to find–we’re talking a German bank here–changed the way they communicate internally after implementing Jive as an enterprise social network and built it up to 40,000 users in two years.

How about Sony Pictures Entertainment which implemented WatchDox as part of a mobile initiative that would allow their various stakeholders to carry scripts and other movie IP on mobile devices protected in a Digital Rights Management (DRM) wrapper. This tool provided a way to control who can print, edit or even forward a document. It also allows them to expire documents or remotely remove access privileges. And for a company with tens of millions of dollars at stake with each script, this was an essential capability that allowed them to take advantage of one of these key technologies –in this case mobile –while providing some level of protection as the content¬†moved through the world.

As one panel member speaking on the cloud put it, you need to explore how to convince people who might otherwise reject some or all these technologies to say “Yes.” He explained when you begin to dig into objections to change, you often find they are making assumptions without real data to back them up.

You also have to be willing to accept good enough. Deutsche Bank’s John Stepper said his team was willing to make certain compromises to get the project off the ground through pilot to the point they were building numbers and affecting meaningful change. They had a perfect vision of how their project should look, of course, but in the end they didn’t go for perfect. They went for good enough and adjusted as they went along.

There were other examples of companies switching from on-premises software to Office 365 or Google Docs and the world did not stop. When Toyota put their documents in Box, people loved it. In spite of warnings to the contrary, the companies that changed not only survived the transition, they thrived. In the process, they delighted their users, who had been using clunky software and were more than willing to replace it with something that helped them work better and faster in a modern context using tools similar to the ones they had been using at home.

These were valuable lessons for participants to hear because these success stories provide proof points that they can take back to their companies and as they argue for a similar change in their organizations, they can answer the naysayers with real-life examples.

Gartner spoke of managing change at the various organizational levels –technology, people and systems –and all of these need to change in lock-step for this to work. That means you need to not only switch out the technology, you have to make sure people are on board with the change, or at the very least understand why you’re doing it, and finally you have to change your systems to take advantage of the new way of working the technology provides

I think people heard what they needed to hear and although change is hard and what companies are being asked to do has to be daunting in many cases, they can achieve digital transformation they need to reach one project a time. And that could be a sound approach.

PHOTO CREDIT:  (c) Can Stock Photo