Businesses that lack the ability to embrace change will fall behind, while ones that execute digital transformation will win as a team.

By: Mark Reisig, Director of Product Marketing, Aras

Change itself is simple, right?  Consider a game of chess. As my opponent makes moves, I counter, continuing to adapt and changing my strategy as required. Except, perhaps chess is a poor analogy. People are not pawns. They have differing opinions. Some can’t move when required, others don’t play well together.  Business is a game where strategies change and accelerate, while chess has a limited set of rules that have existed for centuries. According to Gartner, “Through 2021, digital transformation initiatives will take large traditional enterprises, on average, twice as long and cost twice as much as anticipated.”  In this article, we’ll take a look at why organizations struggle with digital transformation, and how they can approach it to empower their business.

digital transformation what must change

The Obstacle: Understanding “What Must Change”

Charles Darwin once said it’s not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It’s the one that is most adaptable to change. Understanding what’s holding us back is the first step in moving forward. As human beings, we’re conditioned to be focused, so much so that we often miss the forest for the trees. The first trick is to identify the obstacles in the way—those that prevent our success. As executives, we need our teams to understand the real obstacles.

Communicating “Why We Must Change”

The former CEO of GE, Jeff Immelt, once famously predicted that GE would be a top 10 software company. Jeff inevitably failed not because of his vision or the incredible talent he had at his disposal, but because he did not explain “why” his company must transform.  If people don’t understand the reasoning behind change, they will not follow. People are emotional and even irrational at times, each with an internal ROI clock that we use to decide whether or not to change our behavior. If we don’t see the value, we’ll revert back to what we know—old habits—and perhaps even resist change, creating an even more toxic culture.

Execute Incrementally

Change is best done incrementally. It’s easy to decide to run a marathon, but getting in shape to run one should be done incrementally. By carving up transformations into bite size phases, businesses become more agile. This enables us to more readily mitigate risks, thus increasing our chances of success. More importantly, you’re building up momentum—a cadence of faster successes—so that ROI is realized sooner. Winning teams attract people and justify why they should change their behaviors.

Digital Transformation is Continuous

Digital transformation isn’t a one-and-done project. Change is constant and the rate of change your business is experiencing is only accelerating. Therefore, whatever you’re transforming must be done as part of a larger, more holistic vision—a constantly changing, multi-year roadmap that your executive team continuously revisits and modifies. In other words, it’s a strategy that never ends.

Platform Technology

Even with the best people, process maps, strong data governance, deep funding and strong executive leadership, businesses can still easily fail. The biggest obstacle is almost always your entrenched legacy technology. If you have mounting technical debt because you’ve coupled together many different technology stacks over the years, no amount of emerging technologies (AI, AR, Data Lakes, IOT, etc.) are going to help you navigate around the obstacle in the way. You must be able transform your product ecosystem with an end-to-end digital thread based on an open, flexible, scalable and upgradable platform that enables greater collaboration and sustainable change across your product lifecycle, supply chain and with your assets in the field. CIMdata, Gartner, and IDC refer to this as a Product Innovation Platform.

Resilience and Agility

We are transforming to a future which is not yet known, therefore everything we build must be able to adapt and pivot with speed and resiliency to unforeseen disruptions, with the agility to attack opportunities.

Successful transformation is a collective challenge. It only succeeds when everyone succeeds. This is literally a team sport. According to McKinsey, when companies organize themselves to transform as teams, they are 1.5 times more successful. You can’t point fingers if you’re all on the same team and this collective team needs to be bigger than the obstacles they face.

Borrowing from General Stanley McCrystal’s book, Team of Teams, you can’t manage this type of environment like a chess master trying to move all the pieces. There’s too much change and complexity to deal with, and it’s changing at rate we can’t even comprehend. Instead, we need to be more like a gardener, nurturing our people and providing the necessary ingredients for everyone to flourish and collectively grow as a team.

mark reisig aras
Mark Reisig

Mark Reisig is the director of product marketing at Aras. Prior to joining Aras, he was a senior director at General Electric, where he spent 12 years in leadership positions designing and delivering global PLM, Digital Plant Design and Digital Transformation initiatives across several divisions. In his current role, Mark is responsible for leading the product marketing team in creating and positioning messaging for the Aras Platform. Mark graduated Cum Laude from the University of Maryland University College, receiving his bachelors degree in technology and management.