If you want to have some fun with your CEO and give them a scare, ask a few of these choice questions: “Can I see our digital transformation roadmap?” Or, “Do you think our competition can disrupt us with new digital technology?” Or even, “How are we becoming a software company?”
These questions are certainly thrown around a lot, and they are almost givens or clichés in the business world. Sort of like “Is your company Innovative?” And yet why is it so hard for most of us to have a confident answer to them? First, let me preface that I’m the last guy I thought would be commenting on digital roadmaps. I have looked at IT technology as a means to an end to enable “real” innovation in products and services. However, I was lucky enough to have Clear Process Solutions’ CEO, Mark Orzen, invite me to his LEANutopia event as a speaker on Innovation last month. It was a great time, and Mark yet again cobbled together some great industry leaders to talk about their technology. CEO's like Jon Hirschtick from Onshape and Jesse Shiah from AgilePoint.
What these gentlemen actually did was talk about seismic, disruptive shifts in cloud-based enabling technology. Far more than talk about their own products, they talked about the true nature of this new strategic paradigm. I found their message to be compelling because in that one event, both these men enabled the audience to see this fundamental shift or inflection point.
Again, I’m not a digital geek, but anytime you are in the presence of innovators who are changing the world, it’s a powerful moment.
So much so that a month later I had to follow up with Jesse to hear more. We had a great phone conversation, and yet again I was amazed at how he takes a scary topic like all the change and complexity in the digital world and makes it exciting and approachable. His main points were:
- EVERYTHING is going to be digitized. Everything!
- No matter what your product or service, you will need to publish your unique skills.
- You need to leverage your unique competence via software so your customers can consume
- Making this transition using current methods is nearly impossible. The coding and dollar costs will be astronomical. CEO's are constantly being asked for more resources in this environment, but that is NOT the answer.
- Disruptive technology is emerging that is asymmetrical. Low-cost, low-code enabling software that rapidly solves problems and is configured on the shop-floor or in the office by “citizen developers”.
As I was talking to Jesse, I asked “How can I believe that citizen developers are really possible?” He told an amazing story about students at the National Taipei University of Technology (NTUT) that were involved in an experiment. Students were run through a five-day summer camp, and then in the end were creating their own business apps. “So what?” you might say. This is a very prestigious technical school. But in the experiment, they took students from the Literature Department! These “misfits” in the school were up and running in a week!
So, of course, Jesse, Jon, and Mark are trying to grow their companies and sell their products and services. In fact, Mark and I are working together on his Strategy and Innovation roadmap. But my point today is not to run an advertisement for any of these companies.
My point is that if someone like me who was formerly “Digitally Averse” can see an important shift coming, so can you.
I know all companies are facing massive change, and the first thing their CEO’s hear is the call for more. I would encourage anyone in this situation to do the research. Google the buzzwords: Digital Process Transformation, Industry 4.0, Citizen Developers, Future Proofing, Digital Process Automation, Software Development Democratization and take a look at the websites of these cloud-based companies: Clear Process Solutions, AgilePoint, Onshape, Tulip. Pay attention to their vision statements and their reason for being. You may never buy their products, but I do know it will help you to make the digital future a lot less scary.