As BlueJeans looks toward the future, digital transformation is a topic that we continue to discuss. Organizations throughout the world are looking to transform their tools to provide an environment where employees are empowered to work efficiently and productively. To this end, we’ve created the Think Forward City Tour, a multi-city event series focused on examining how science and technology are changing the future of work.
We recently sat down with Think Forward panelist Greg Verdino to discuss his thoughts on what denotes a successful digital transformation and how leaders should prepare their organizations. Known for his uncanny ability to get ahead of trends, Greg’s perspectives have been shaped by more than 25 years spent working on the forefront of change, during which time he has advised hundreds of organizations, including more than 50 of the Fortune 500. Today, through his work as a speaker, author, and strategist, he helps organizations make sense of exponential change and reimagine their businesses for the future.
Take a sneak peek of some of his thoughts, and join us on the City Tour to hear him speak in person.
Q: The term “digital transformation” has grown in popularity in recent years, but there doesn’t seem to be a clear consensus on what it means. How would you describe the “digital transformation” and what do you expect to come from it in the next five years?
GV: You're right. Ask a dozen people and you'll get thirteen definitions. Mine is actually pretty simple—digital transformation closes the gap between what digital constituents already demand and what analog companies actually deliver. You'll notice that I don't mention technology in my definition (I might be the only one!) because, in my view, technology isn't what really matters—it's just the means to the end. Yes, of course, technology is the vehicle for transforming the business but at the end of the day, the goal isn't to be better at digital; it's to be a better business because of digital. This is a business revolution, not a matter of giving your existing business a technology makeover, and the revolution is all about creating new value in new ways.
I'd love to believe that in five years' time we wouldn't be talking about digital transformation anymore—that it will have become the new standard for doing business-as-usual. In reality though, very few companies are approaching anything that resembles digital maturity today and I expect that in five years they will be farther along but still have a way to go. Bear in mind, of course, that digital transformation is not a project or a point in time—it is a process, a journey. And as long as technology, customer demands, employee expectations, and cultural beliefs and behaviors continue to evolve, companies will always need to evolve to stay relevant. In other words, the ability to transform your business, over and over again, becomes a core competency of any thriving organization.
Q: You mention that “digital transformation” is not a technology makeover, but a business revolution. What is the difference and why should leaders differentiate them?
GV: Technology is only one piece of the puzzle. You can makeover your technology to do the same things you're already doing faster or cheaper. You can add a layer of technology to make your existing products or services better or easier to use. Either is a great start, but both sell short the true potential of digital—inventing entirely new ways to do business and create value that would not be possible without digital. Now, clearly technology is necessary, but if you lead with technology you run the risk of making it all about tech for the sake of tech.
Instead, successful transformation starts with a business problem—technology becomes one tool for addressing that problem. But as the solution comes together, leaders find that the solution is never "just" about technology; solutions span the entire organization: business strategy, business model, organizational structure, culture and more.
Q: When you think about the future of work and the ways in which work will be disrupted, which roles do you feel will be most susceptible to this change?
GV: Any task that is routine, rote, repeatable will be susceptible to automation. So in that sense, every role will be affected by this change. But note that I said "task", not roles—because the truth is that every role is made up of a combination of repeatable tasks and unique valuable, uniquely human activities. So for many workers, the routine tasks will be automated—which could be bad news if the vast majority of the work you to is routine—but rather than forcing these workers into technological unemployment, this new dynamic will change the dynamics of work. As machines take over the routine tasks, workers will be "freed" to focus on higher value, more strategic, more fulfilling and more creative tasks that are best done by humans.
Q: As leaders look to future-proof their organizations, what must they do to ensure that their companies (and their products) remain relevant for years to come?
GV: This could be a very long list, but I'll highlight a few things I believe are vital. First, leaders must have the ability (and make the effort) to imagine a future that is likely to be very different from the present. And it's not just about anticipating that the future will be different, but about envisioning your organization's role in that future. Leaders need to be willing to let go of assumptions and step away from the legacy beliefs and behaviors that led to success so far in order to define the new rules for success for digital and beyond. Second, leaders must educate employees, inspire employees and bring them along on the organization's transformation journey. Third, they must empower employees—give them access to the right digital tools, teach them the right digital skillsets and mindsets, and so on to ensure that they are well positioned to succeed.
And that's just "inside" the organization—the future of work stuff. Looking outside, relevance means meeting or exceeding consumers' expectations for best-in-class experiences. In other words, true transformation. And this, in turn, requires that leaders become students of what constitutes best-in-class, looking not only at what today's competitors are doing but also at how leaders across any industry are moving the goal posts for everyone.
Finally, taking the internal and external together, the key for all organizations will lie in increasing the organizational "clock speed"—ensuring that the organization is making major strides in meeting the exponential change happening on the outside, to become a truly agile organization on the inside.
As you can see, Greg Verdino is an expert on digital transformation and how it is going to transform the world in which we work. As part of the Think Forward City Tour, he will be joining world-renowned physicist Brian Greene, along with technology futurist Tamara McCleary and cloud technology expert John Knightly, to help you navigate the uncertainties that accompany periods of rapid change and disruption. We hope you will join us in Atlanta, Dallas, or San Francisco to hear Greg Verdino speak in person.