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Long live the Digital Planning

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Digital Planning is the discipline to work with long-term strategic actions without being detailed of how to implement activities. It provides an overall investment focus to values and outcomes and how this ties into the investment streams to provide digital road-maps for planning. While the old approach of power-point based IT Road-map planning seems dead, e.g. see the post by Patrick Gray,  then the digital formulation of it may survive  – in particular in the form of mindset and direction-setting that keeps the the main purpose of planning.

Planning may be situational, just like detailed plans always will depend on the specific case, situation and conditions. The difficult part of planning is the uncertainty of the future: One may shorten the horizon to improve the likelihood of estimate,  improve the underlying model, or reduce the feedback from the prediction to mitigate the uncertainty. However, does it in context of strategy and market remove the need for planning? The answer is “no”. The ubiquitous purpose of strategic planning is to become aware and be prepared – and that clearly involves more stakeholders and is very different from the actual plans or project performance. We came to the conclusion that there are five fundamentals as to why strategic planning is important – and despite their inherent uncertainty, they are more required than ever!

  1. The opposite of Planning is not no-planning; the opposite seems to be detailed plans that are excelled into beyond the point of validity. Planning serves a higher purpose.
  2. Projects differ in uncertainty – to what degree are they repetitive and common? Should we really apply the same methodology to all types of development?
  3. Situational transition dictates what methodology to apply  – How to secure the right toolbox for the right type of development?
  4. The definition of Planning is that well defined? If you ask the chef, planning is to have the groceries for the dinner same day, whereas for the farmer to produce the crop for harvesting season. Do we mean the same even though we use the same wording?
  5. Not to mention the data-connectivity – only an old-school architects would do IT Road-maps in PowerPoint. If planning is democratized, poor planning is the same as a poor information based on no-connectivity and silo-approach.

Let’s go through these fundamentals one-by-one:

A: The opposite of Planning is not no-planning

The ubiquitous purpose of planning is to become aware and prepare. So planning has a value to understand, e.g. why a competitive product or service is challenging a revenue, and very different from executing a marketing plan without changing it – or changing the product or service, if indicators show the battle will not be won. Dwight D. Eisenhower once said,

“In preparing for battle, I always found that plans are useless but planning is indispensable”.
– Dwight D. Eisenhower

For a company to survive the coming 3 or 10 years,  it is hard to argue that no considerations of external threats, technology changes, emergent legislation should not be considered. But equally fair to guess, that even considered, the actual impact will not be fully understood until later in time. May well be that the forecast is poor and the prediction ends up being wrong or displaced, but planning as the preparation and improving the agility of what to respond as an enterprise is indispensable. The purpose of keeping the foundation of the planning intact is crucial in a digital world. Scenarios of what-if alternatives might be understood, and the opposite is not no-planning. The opposite is a constant pressure on doing the execution of the approved plans.

B: Projects differ in uncertainty

To what degree are they repetitive and common? Should we really apply the same methodology to all projects? Agile is certainly something we advocate for open-ended discussion, but if you happen to have more close-ended solutions, the construct of agile approach may be much too time-consuming. Agile goes well when everyone is uncertain – that will eventually lead to planning. However, if the project is to setup yet another new shop, the type of project may not be new, and the approach to seek experiments and agility may be less urgent.

C: Situational transition dictates what methodology to apply

The STARS approach by Michael D. Watkins ought to be mandatory reading for all information architects.

If you have something to protect such as knowledge, services, brands or patents, you will likely be in a sustain or realignment situation where you have time to act and provide planning of how to secure your assets as part of a business transformation.

Typically architects asked to help in a turn-around or start-up’s will have a much harder time, when speed of action weighs higher than thinking to protect parts of as-is. One could argue, that that the act of planning, in case of a change in oil prices is really to prepare for a worst case scenario, such as a 50% cut in price per barrel, before it happens. But as we don’t know the prices in the future, the specific plans are likely of no use – but if we can carve-out the actions to take given specific what-if conditions, that may be indispensable as the new way to do long-term planning.

D: The definition of Planning is that well defined?

Is the definition of Planning that well defined? If you ask a chef, planning is to have the groceries for the dinner that evening the same day, whereas the farmer needs to know what to grow before harvesting season. Do we mean the same even though we use different wording?

According to Wikipedia,

“Planning is the process of thinking about and organizing the activities required to achieve a desired goal. It involves the creation and maintenance of a plan, such as psychological aspects that require conceptual skills. As such, planning is a fundamental property of intelligent behavior.”

So even here planning has a wide range of meanings, and provided the desired goal is to continue as an enterprise, we should all maintain a plan of how to survive in the market. Maybe that is different from the actual 3-year road-map, however, if the plan mandates to migrate to a new payment platform or banking platform – how can we do this without more detailed planning?

E: Not to mention the data-connectivity

Only an old-school architect would collect excels for planning, so is poor planning the same as a poor architecture? Or could it be that poor planning is often the immediate outcome of poor information management? As described in other posts, we see the concept of living architecture or new architecture as a fundamental for successful planning. Because pace of change is increasing, and management calls for better ways to get insight to what-if. the objective of digital planning is collectively to prepare more for these events.

Which services should we expect to use the coming years? Where are the candidates for take-out? What new offerings will fuel our revenue? Such analysis should not be project deliverables, but be part of an ongoing planning where data may be connected and viewed in new ways to support few-clicks to better fact-based decision support. By revitalize the architectural information you can move the data governance to be automated and be part of the strategic agenda.

We tend to say that long-term planning needs to align with short-term planning, which is an ongoing process – and a digital process of information management. Long-live the digital planning – may be part of the digital transformation!

We power your digital mood!

 


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Digital – Outer Game or Inner Game?

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We all want a place in the digital market, we all have strategies and discussions of how to win the battle. However, as part of this dialog, we often see different levels of abstraction to words such as ‘digital’, ‘AI’, ‘transformation’… We may point to the definition of  ‘digital transformation’ and ‘digitization’, however, in this article, we rather structure a few of the terms to provide a more transparent dialog to what does it mean to have a place in the digital market.

The two terms  ‘digital transformation’ and ‘digitizationstrictly are very different, but they are  both part of the digital agenda. Where the digital transformation at the heart is about changing form and paradigm, the other one is to optimize while keeping the paradigm. So to have better discussions about internal or external forces, of effectiveness and efficiency in the digital age, we advocate to structure the digital dialogue using:

–          Games

–          Themes

–          Elements

With a decomposition of a strategy discussion we start to obtain the common vocabulary for some of the apple-to-apple discussions of what we want to achieve as part of the digital agenda. The reason be that with our definition of Games, Themes and Elements we can start to have much more meaningful conversations to what does it mean to become ‘customer centric’ or make ‘a successful disruptive customer journey’…

The purpose of this is two-fold:

  1. to structure the dialog so we can compare apple-to-apple in the discussions and needs of using words like disruption, digital, etc.
  2. and second, to be able to break down the dialog to another level, where we can support the behavioral change of the strategy execution.

To increase the chances of winning a strategy, we need the construct of Themes and Elements which can be part of a behavioral change – and be made actionable daily.

So how to make a strategy successful? Of course, the content is part of it, which might be assisted by better digital planning or Digital Twins; however, even without the bullet proof planning, the strategy still needs to leave the glossy PowerPoint and become actionable for more people!

A successful strategy cannot survive successfully with high-level statements such as “we need more levers”, “digital customer satisfaction”, “larger on business value”, etc. For two reasons, it doesn’t answer the question of how and it doesn’t make it actionable for anyone within the organization. Having said this, when we help large companies, it is very often in that field of executing the strategy by encouraging more people to do what is actionable for them; one may argue it is less about the strategy, and more about getting to the point, where people can contribute to the strategy. This is how you make sustainable change.

To make a strategy executable, we need to de-compose it into Games, Themes and Elements, and then further into the ‘daily behavior’. If things become part of daily behavior, we start collectively to move. In other words, in order to succeed with the strategy execution, we need the decomposition that relates to daily behavior.

We have identified currently two håndful of  digital elements, three digital themes, and two games, that currently seem to address most of the strategy-to-execution assignments we meet.

The two games represent the Outer Game and the Inner Game of an organization. These terms are re-used from leadership schools. These two games represent two different perspectives that will supplement or compete. The Outer Games is by definition the external perspective of ‘what is possible’. The Inner Game has a focus on the existing organization and competencies, hence ‘what can we do better’.

Digital Transformation by its definition is part of the Outer Game – how to design the new business model. The digitization is by its definition much closer to the Inner Game of how to do things more efficient – without changing our fundamental customer base, culture or anything touchy…

Now, the two games are related like strategy to culture, like Yin to Yang, like innovation to operations. They cannot live without each other, but they also represent opposite purposes. The purpose of the Outer Game is to follow principles of the Porter school, how to create a future into the market. As opposed to this, the Inner Game focuses on what can we operate, what can we do better, to fit with our capacity, our skills our collective win.

Now, having the two games defined, we see at least three digital themes that need to be addressed to make a successful change. We advocate to limit the themes to not more than these three Themes:

  1. [inventing] New Business Models
  2. [Changing] Customer Experience
  3. [Improving] Process Excellence

Then the digital elements are groupings within the Themes that are simpler to make actionable and behavioral. And to succeed with strategy to execution, we need to decompose into elements and make planning to support the digital transformation.

There is more research on the internet, where it is stipulated that moving forward with digital transformation, the best companies combine the [inventing] New Business Models with the Outer Game, simply to combine digital activity with strong leadership to turn technology into transformation then to future revenue streams. Other companies are less market focused, typically public service sector companies, which will then prioritize the Inner Game  on [Improving] Process Excellence. Unless protected by regulations, borders or legal fence, companies that are more mature will eventually outperform those that are not. So, if you want to lead the digital change, choose the Game, Theme and digital elements that meet your need.

We help to align long-term planning with short-term planning, which is an ongoing process – and a digital process of information management. Long-live the digital planning. If you have questions, please make contact. We are a consulting house with senior profiles and business solutions; we provide deep expertise in digital planning, digital governance and process automation. We power your digital mood!


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Digital Transformation – The Cultural shift is paramount

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Last month we met with CIO’s and EA’s to discuss the most important elements of succeeding with Digital Transformation. The first thing we discussed was the definition of a ‘digital transformation’ – to discuss and facilitate the discussion of how to differentiate it from ‘digitalization’. In essence, the following focuses on the transformation, not to mix up the two terms.

As ‘digital transformation’ at the heart it is about data and enabling a new business model, it is also about establishing a new culture. If ‘digital’ loosely means data, and ‘transformation’ means changing shape; then ‘digital transformation’ is about transforming the shape of the business model to use data smarter, i.e. it is about moving the organisation to a new paradigm where existing processes are ‘split’ rather than fitted and optimized to become data-driven.

This also brings us to the main take-away. We can enable a digital transformation faster with proper technology and roadmaps, but at the heart, it is about people and changing culture. To succeed with the transformation, time and space should be challenged, which will impact the culture in different ways  – and it will challenge managers in todays business operations.

This brought us to the second observation, if people are not freed-up to work with the new shapes, they typically drown in day-to-day activities focusing more on lean and continuous improvement. This is why many organisations decide to move transforming development to new sites or do acquisitions, as it seems too hard to change the prevalent culture.  

It brings to the surface the dialog of Schein versus Porter – is it the culture or the strategy that drives the change – What drives what? They main take-away seems to be that the culture shift is paramount to the change, if not, the transformation effort may dilute. If we want to change the culture, we need to consider how this should be ignited, proven and collectively accepted. Hence, the organization may have to challenge itself to step outside the comfort zone and challenge the type of earnings and offerings. A research by Warren Ritchie indicates, that innovation does not take-off by size of the company. On the contrary, most innovation comes from either smaller or very large corporations as they both manage the working culture with slack and innovation focus. But be aware, most large corporations may tell you they have an innovation culture, but they may mix-up the words of a culture of continuous improvement versus that of transforming the paradigm!

To example this, e.g. Spotify and other music streaming services decided not to invent a larger CD; and likewise, Philips who introduced the CD did get royalties from the former music cassette – they both changed the way services could be delivered – challenging the media, space and time. Is it likely that the organisation and culture of Spotify is different from that of the labs building hardware devices in the 90’s? – absolutely.

In a nutshell, different shapes of the business model, offering different services by use of new technology, time and space is the driver of the digital transformation. This will not circumvent continuous improvement of the existing processes of today’s operations, but it is not the same approach and success factors, see post. To succeed with a larger change, the shift of culture is paramount, needs to be addressed, but proper technology and approach may accelerate the pace in which your organisation can succeed. 

We can help you to plan the change, and may with our digital transformation suite accelerate the pace.

We power your digital MooD.