Recently, I read (and posted to LinkedIn) two articles that both highlighted a) the need for organisations to have a digital vision outlining how digital technologies will reshape the business environment they operate in and b) the absence of such visions in most organisations with an ad hoc approach typically being taken.
Both articles begged the question – how do you go about generating a digital vision for your organisation?
So here’s a seven step guide:
Step 1 – Agree the purpose and focus for your digital vision
There is no point developing a digital vision unless it is going to help shape the long term direction and investments that need to be made. Hence our recommendation would be that the focus should be on how the markets currently served will differ in 10-20 years, how emerging digital forces will or could reshape them, and what successful participants in those new digital landscapes will look like.
Step 2 – Catalogue the problems you solve
The father of modern marketing, Theodore Levitt, used to teach:“People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole!” Or as Clayton Christensen has put it, “Customers want to hire a product to do a job.”
So as the starting point, rather than use current offerings directly, use them indirectly – create a list of the customer problems you solve or the jobs you enable customers to perform to uncover the fundamental needs that you are meeting. Generate a long list of problems solved encompassing all segments served then cluster to create a manageable number of higher level ones.
Step 3 – Brainstorm how digital technologies can better solve these problems
There are multiple emerging digital forces that will have a very significant impact over the next ten years. These include new data sources, analytics and artificial intelligence, biometrics, mobile and wearables, social interactions, cloud and usage-based models, and augmented or virtual reality. For the groupings defined in Step 2, look at how each of these technologies could enable customers to do those jobs cheaper, with better performance or quality, with greater customisation, more conveniently, more responsively, more securely or more pleasurably.
Step 4 – Broaden and deepen
Step 3 should deliver a series of ideas, but a bigger transformation risk or opportunity may be missed. Hence there is a need to widen and lengthen your perspective. Firstly, by considering the offerings supplied by other companies that are bought in conjunction with yours – what jobs do they enable customers to perform? This enables a more holistic, higher level view of the problems customers want solved. Secondly, by considering the upstream dependencies and downstream impacts of what you are doing to provide a more value-chain or societal definition of the problems you are part of solving.
Step 5 – Brainstorm digital solutions to these larger problems
Repeat Step 3, but using the more holistic customer and societal problems defined in Step 4.
Step 6 – Draft the vision
From Steps 3 and 5, a series of themes will emerge. Take these themes and use them to describe how the future will be different.
Step 7 – Start again with a different group (without sharing findings)
No one group has a monopoly on imagination or insight into how events will unfold. Hence future-gazing is an ideal task for crowd sourcing. So the more groups that are put through the process the better, so long as each group is not influenced by previous sessions – the wisdom of crowds only works when people decide independently and are not biased by what others think. The outputs from all the different sessions provide the inputs for the senior team to pull together the organisation’s vision, informed by the richest sources of insight that the organisation can muster.