Scared by digital transformation? Think like a start-up

For many organisations, digital transformation can be an intimidating prospect, immediately conjuring-up a long and thorny list of challenges. Not least among these are risk, change, expense, the need for cost-effective innovation and the conundrum of where to start.

For bigger blue-chip companies especially, where the pace of change is traditionally conservative, barriers to digital transformation can seem insurmountable.

However, companies that are agile, change with the times and embrace new ideas. In retail, for example, brands like Zara, H&M and Nike have adopted this mentality — shedding their old-school skin and stimulating sales, providing customers with convenience and high satisfaction.

The fact is, these companies are thinking like start-ups.

KPMG neatly summed up the situation in its recent Think Like a Start-up - Top of Mind Survey, saying “businesses and retailers need to understand that growth is as much a mindset as a market condition”.

Fast eats small

When it comes to digital transformation, the stakes are high. Businesses need to use data and analytics wisely to understand their customers. The pace of social, economic, technological and environmental change going to accelerate, and adapting to it – being agile like a start-up – is key.

The bigger you are, the tougher it is to be agile, but there is a real opportunity for those who dare to lead the pace of innovation. 

It is possible for organisations across a broad spectrum of sectors to successfully begin or bolster their digital transformation journey safely and cost effectively if they are willing to adjust their mindset.

That’s not to say organisations should necessarily attempt a wholesale transformation of their company culture overnight. 

Larger less agile companies can identify priority IT projects and build small teams, whose members are predisposed to innovation, to work on these projects on a limited scale.

In this way, a project team can be liberated from the corporate culture and, with the right leadership, freed from the fear of failure. 

Incentivising risk

To think and act like a start-up, it’s necessary to incentivise risk taking and put experimentation and intelligent failure at the heart of company culture. Meanwhile, thanks to the limited size of the project, wider corporate anxiety and perceived risks can be kept to a manageable level.

Working in partnership to boost innovation

Black Pepper Innovations Director, Simon Jones, spoke in detail about this approach at the recent IT Directors’ Forum.

He pointed out that choosing the right IT partner to work alongside in-house talent can be a key way to achieve a cross fertilisation of ideas, boosting innovation and agility.

An effective approach is to select a partner who will work as a facilitator and enabler, rather than someone who will take ownership of the project and resulting intellectual property.

Working in this way, a small and agile team of under a dozen members, split between inhouse talent and external partner, can work on a priority project. All this is possible with a limited budget and in a safe ‘sandboxed’ environment, to achieve proof of concept.

Once this has been achieved, and an IT director can show their digital transformation project will work, wider board-level buy-in should be easier to achieve.

Black Pepper Software is a leader in digital transformation. Take a look at our expertise in this area to see how we can move your business ahead of the competition.

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