Change your flight plan : Digital transformation means business transformation

Part 3: Managing a company’s digital evolution

Pulling off a successful digital transformation requires a lot more than just adopting new technologies. It demands a complete reorganization of your operations and business objectives, and even of your company philosophy. Could switching to digital be a state of mind? If so, how do you instill a culture of technological innovation at organizations enmeshed in tradition?

To tackle these questions, four digital experts at Sid Lee present their ideas at a round-table discussion. The partners contributing their points of view are: Julie Provençal, Executive Vice-President; Yanick Bédard, Vice-President, Strategy; Christian Quenneville, Vice-President of New Business Development; and Éric Briand, Vice-President, Digital Solutions and Partnerships.

This talk was moderated by Jean-François Légaré, Editorial Director at Sid Lee.

Rule 1: Forget about the software that will fix everything

JFL: Clients that want to digitally transform their company often start by asking, “What software do I need to buy?” What do you tell them?

YB: That it’s magical thinking. First, you need to get rid of this idea of a turnkey solution. It doesn’t exist. Second, you need to change your operational processes. Third, you’ll also potentially need to change your products and services.

JP: It’s a lot scarier to have to change your processes, products and services than to spend $14 million on a solution that does everything. Even worse, a lot of clients buy a Mercedes when what they need is a Jetta. And do they even know how to switch gears in a Jetta anyway?

Rule 2: Forget about annual planning

JFL: What business practice do you see as outdated in the digital age?

CQ: The strategic planning process. Unfortunately, most clients still plan their activities on an annual basis. They assess their past year’s work, then plan for the next year. That needs to change.

YB: All entrepreneurs need to ask themselves what their business could die from in the next five years.

EB: People are afraid. They say to themselves, “Yes but in five years, who knows?” But you still need to go through the exercise of trying to see what’s coming in the future. You need to consider different possible scenarios and ask the right questions.

Rule 3: Seek out criticism everywhere you go

JFL: If you only had one piece of advice to give entrepreneurs who want to digitally transform their businesses, what would it be?

CQ: I would ask every entrepreneur to travel the globe, to interrogate their clients, their competitors, their peers—in short, to take the pulse of the market. They need to do more than just a comparative analysis, otherwise they’ll always be lagging behind.

YB: I met an Australian businessman at C2 Montréal last year. He considered Canada a secondary market for expansion. He came here, not knowing anyone, so that he could get a feel for things. He met 350 people over three days and was asking them all to “Poke holes in my business.” Tell me what doesn’t work. He wanted to know the risks and the problems. He wanted to know everything so he could be completely prepared.

JP: It’s important to surround yourself with people who don’t think in the same way you do and to know how to accept criticism. As an employer, you shouldn’t hesitate to hire employees that come from different backgrounds. If there’s no confrontation happening within a team, you’ve got a problem.

CQ: We’re living in an age of conformity. This phenomenon has only increased with the use of algorithms on social media. We get exposed to ideas from people who think like we do, which makes us feel comfortable in our way of thinking. But when everyone around you is the same, it’s hard to evolve.

Rule 4: Encourage your employees to make mistakes

JFL: How do you inculcate the value of innovation at a company that is reluctant to change?

YB: You have to start by granting your employees the right to spend 15 to 20 percent of their time in performing tests, making mistakes and trying things out. By instituting this measure, you can double your capacity for innovation.

CQ: You need to accept that ideas can come from anyone, no matter their position. It’s perfectly fine if a coordinator has a better idea than the president and they’re willing to put it to the test.

EB: I often see clients who don’t encourage healthy collaboration. There are people who are careerists and who only think about their own progression within a hierarchy. To innovate, you need to set your ego aside and work together with all employees.

CQ: Employees are the bearers of change. You need to consult them and truly involve them in company decisions. The principles of customer satisfaction also apply to employees: evaluate their needs, create your campaign and be prepared to adapt.

In other words, technological innovation needs to become more than just a way of doing things. It has to become a way of being.

The opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal. As a result, the Chamber cannot be held responsible for published content.

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