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Nomading the Way to Digital Transformation
Dan Ault, Assistant Town Manager, Chief Innovation Officer, Town of Cary
Defining digital transformation is an important exercise to inform how to apprehend success. It sounds simple and is complicated by a multitude of factors, but to define it elevates our thinking. Regardless of your definition, there are common threads that cut across the broad fabric of digital transformation. For this article, the thread I’m going to pull on is a word that is often mixed into digital transformation: journey.
After getting past my own annoyances at the prospect of journey becoming another buzzword, I realize the word journey has in fact enriched my understanding of digital transformation. This begins by analyzing the timeless elements, items, and factors of journeys. No better place to start than to turn to the lifestyle devoted to journeys¬─ the nomadic lifestyle. *This is where I would insert your definition of nomad, and then proceed to show how nomad definition links to the work of digital transformation feeling nomadic. By definition, being nomadic means that something is migratory and being a nomad implies you are unsettled.
In dedicating the last decade of my work to digital transformation, I can attest to feeling nomadic in my own journey. The reference resonates and brings this important work into a new light.
The journey truly begins once you reach a distance that highlights the fact that there are barriers in the path to returning to the origin. This brings the group closer together by providing a clear and unambiguous need to develop new capabilities.Think of it as burning the bridge behind you at every major crossing. You’ll have to fight to keep the members of your caravan from building a bridge back to certainty of the previous landscape. The focus of the entire group must go the next crossings. This serves three key purposes.
First, it moves the group’s focus away from the previous stop onto the next crossing all the while embracing the new challenges and opportunities. Second, it surfaces the need to develop new capabilities and applications of their knowledge and skills. Third, it highlights the need to form strategic alliances and add new members to increase the impact as well as the resilience of the group. All the while, this allows for each member of the caravan to have a memorable moment simultaneously nurturing an individual need and strengthening their relationship to the overall effort.
So how does the transformation occur in a nomadic caravan and digital transformation? With both journeys it is the little steps every day and occasionally big steps are overtime tethered to essential functions that enable us to survive the journey and achieve a new level of prosperity. It’s the nomadic journey itself that develops new capabilities, incrementally leading to transformation by way of new tools and infrastructure. The caravan is quite simply where and how the transformation happens!
The first step of leading digital transformation is building organizational coalition analogous to building a caravan.
Today, our technologies make it easy to become untethered from the little steps. Giving an illusion that transformation is something that can be acquired, entitled, bestowed, or simulated, these illusions lead organizations in circular route ultimately back to where they came from with some new shiny digital tools minus the cultural transformation and vulnerability to threats in a changing landscape.
When does the journey end? I guess it depends on how you define your digital transformation. It could be simply the moment at which we see the manifestation of our journey in practice, supported by newly defined standards and infrastructure. But when considering the whole caravan concept, your journey won’t end just because you’ve installed a shiny new sensor. For others, this will be the beginning of a new frontier to continue and pushing farther to develop new capabilities. Enjoy the journey and all of its stops along the way!