Digital Transformation Dividends

Ben Hart
Not so long ago I was privileged enough to be invited to speak at a Lloyds Bank digital espressos. A regular quick shot of thinking and experience from outside the bank (me!) with an open invite for anyone within the bank with an interest in digital to come along and hear a 30 minute thought piece. Hosted in their digital innovation centre in Clerkenwell my challenge was not to preach to the choir and rather to try and introduce something new and compelling to inspire their digital leaders. I shaped the presentation around post digital, something that has interested me for a while and that I think might very shortly become very timely in concept and interest. Broadly the idea is that we are in the midst of and arguably the tail of the digital revolution. Long before digital we had the agricultural revolution, the plough a strong symbol of increasing productivity in agriculture and the  production of food to make it more efficient and allow for mass production and distribution. Then followed the industrial revolution, electricity and machines provided the means for manufacturing and the conditions for growth, improving living standards and creating surplus labour. This surplus labour was then deployed to create new things, the railways and factories which in turn drove more growth. Depending on how you count it the digital revolution has now been with us since the 1950s following shortly after the invention of the transistor in 1947. Definitions vary (and this isn’t a history lesson), according to wikipedia one of the earliest examples of an electromechanical relay computer was the Z2 created by the German engineer Konrad Zuse in 1939. Since we’ve had a hurtling rate of progress leveraging technology, many of you will remember your first computer, mine was a BBC Micro which was released in 1981, 34 years ago. 16KB ram meant if I spent all day I could plot an outline of a castle in a glorious 8 colours. For the purpose of this count it's now been nearly 70 years since the digital revolution began. We now have super fast broadband, processing speeds the average home user never actually needs, video, social media, automation and more and more artificial intelligence and virtual reality. My challenge to the Lloyds bank digital innovators was that we are now moving to a world of digital ubiquity, post digital and more human. People, certainly in the developed world, now not only access but also expect the online experience that they have of brands and products to just work, anywhere they are, on any device. In the workplace, knowledge can be readily and expediently shared; enterprise social media allows for collaboration and exchange and with the rise of the gig economy the best talent is often outside of an organisation's 4 walls. Many of the highest growth and well known brands in the world are digital first. Google’s mission is to organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful - they haven’t done a bad job by me. Many of our friendships are digitally enabled and, in most cities the world over, when we chose to shop, travel, chat or seek entertainment we have an app for that. What therefore are the digital dividends that we should seek to leverage to enable growth, and for what purpose? And how are we going to leverage these into the next (post digital) revolution? Artificial intelligence is variously seeking to replicate (crucially rather than replace) human function; everything from playing chess to helping to answering your medical needs. Virtual reality allows us to be in places we aren’t, imagining and exploring worlds beyond the physical. Large companies are looking around and thinking what on earth is happening? (or at least those that are honest with themselves). Their hierarchical structures often predicating an inability to respond, both quickly and with agility, to market change that is an ever present threat to market share. Put simply, digital transformation provides strategy and programs of activity and change to modernise, prevent against threat, and to go for the opportunity present in this digitally enabled world, where post digital is just around the corner. Digital dividends is not only a useful way of thinking about the benefit of digital transformation and resulting outcomes but also a useful frame to ensure return. Consider the utopian contemporary organisation: That leverages data and has the culture and skills to move beyond dashboards and reporting to drive out insight that informs constant and iterative improvement. The allows teams to form around business objectives, co-creating ideas, inviting involvement internally and externally, and collaborating to make the best products and services in market. That deeply understands what its people and customers need, providing them answers to their questions almost before they’ve asked, making their lives easier and better through personalised and meaningful responses. That is relevant now (and will remain so) because it is listening and acting on feedback and engagement, knowing where it needs to change and making that happen. Being there for people; connecting people with high exchanges of value. We believe that post digital will be a human movement, one that creates a space for people to be their best and achieve great things. Digital will move much like mechanisation and electricity once did to ubiquity. It’ll be the enabler of what happens next rather. What happens next will be about purpose; we’ll spend our digital dividends on finding ways to ensure people care about what we do and in turn showing how much we care about them and their lives by return. Get in touch to have a chat to us about how well your organisation is realising is digital dividends and what you’re going to do with and why with the resulting increase in supply of brains and time.    

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