Why early adoption is not enough; evolution and iteration needs to be at the forefront of business’ mindsBecoming an early adopter of new technologies, systems and processes in order to develop as a digital first organisation can be a scary process. Taking risks can seem unnecessary when you could let others try before you and encounter problems. However, as long as there has been innovation, there have been those who are willing to take risks and reap the rewards. But what happens after you’ve taken the first leap? It may be appealing to ride the wave of one change as far as you can and do no more. However, a digital first mindset, enabled by early adoption, is something that needs to continue if you want sustainable growth, relevance and ultimately profit.
To achieve success in today’s business world, many people speak of undertaking digital transformations. But transformations have a beginning and an end. Digitisation, however, will never end. We’re at the stage where digitisation is no longer a revolution, but rather an evolution. In this respect, when it comes to adapting to new systems, processes and technologies, one should not speak of revolution, but of evolution.
Iteration is key to this evolution process; businesses should never stop trying new things and improving on existing methods. Leaders must remember that after the change process is before the change process. No matter how progressed you are, even as a digital first organisation, there will always be new and improved technologies and processes that come to market. Evolution requires constant change and control; becoming and staying an early adopter means you must constantly be open to change in order to allow your business to become the best it can be.
With the pace of technological change having increased, if as a leader you are unwilling to embrace the unknown, you are risking your company being left behind. Because technical innovation cycles are becoming shorter, changes within companies must become considerably more agile and a Minimum Viable approach needs to be embraced. Minimum Viable Transformations enable dynamic and agile projects, which are then continuously monitored for success and can be iteratively adapted. This creates the basis for quick wins and fast learning, all while ensuring the entire transformation process is not put at risk by small failures.
As you look to enable these agile processes, “learn early, learn often” should be the mantra to live by. Projects must be defined and implemented in a flexible and lean manner. They must lead to actual and measurable results as early as possible in order to be able to measure the success of the projects at regular, short intervals and subject them to iterations based on the learnings. This is why a Minimum Viable Transformation approach based on lean management is preferable to single, cumbersome and slow transformation projects.
Success is also reliant on team involvement. Staying open to new ideas will only succeed when everyone – management, employees and supervisory bodies are convinced of the “why” and “how” a change is required. Leaders have to ensure there is continuous acceptance and support from all relevant stakeholders and that the company has the talent and the know-how required to cover the diverse fields of competence in the digital world.
However, early adoption and digital projects can become difficult and costly when not managed well. It is important to remember that the customer must be at the epicentre of every decision. Every change strategy must take into account the effects of a change process on customer behaviour and customer satisfaction, otherwise they will not work. And above all, it is vital that leaders have the ability to set the right priorities and make decisions about what needs to be done and what measures should be avoided in the interest of project success. As Steve Jobs once said, “deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do.”
Survival of businesses is no longer a question of strength, but rather a question of the ability to iterate, adapt and evolve. By being an early adopter you’ll be ahead of the curve, but only by continuing to iterate from this point will you be able to futureproof your business and remain relevant. The faster you can respond and the more agile you become, the more responsive you’ll be able to be to market feedback and the evolution that is digitisation.