Bootstrapped digital transformation

Tomorrow delivered today is the tagline of Digital Sundai. At Digital Sundai we deeply believe that applying digital and AI technologies enables a far better performance of organizations. And we mean today’s digital technology, no need to wait on the even better technology of tomorrow. We also think few organizations and industries have already truly leveraged these benefits. 

At the moment the disruption of Covid-19 is accelerating the adoption of digital technology at unprecedented speed. Whether it is online shopping, remote digital education, call centres with all agents working from home, AI to detect Covid-19 from CT scans or apps to support governments to control the spread of the virus. Habits are changing and will not return fully to pre-Covid 19 days. At the same time the upcoming recession will make cost reduction a key theme for almost all organizations. This will severely limit the ability of organizations to invest in digital change. 

So here we have our dilemma. Society and markets will reward the digitally mature organizations more than ever, yet organizations will have less means to invest to become digitally mature. The answer in our view….bootstrapped digital transformation. 

Sounds good bootstrapped digital transformation but is it possible to realize digital change at low cost in existing organizations? Most research on why digital and AI are difficult to scale in organizations list several topics like strategic focus, lack of skilled resources, legacy technology, which will not change a lot in the coming period. The opportunity however lies in what most research list as key blockers;

  • Organizations are not bold enough when pursuing digital transformation
  • The way they are organized and their culture do not fit the digital age. 

Recently Covid-19 has forced organizations to be bold and to change ways-of-working to digital overnight, and in most cases successfully. The focus on the job to be done was clear, and the lack of resources nor legacy technology did stop organizations from realizing the changes. Also, compared to making these kinds of digital changes under normal business circumstances the costs were multiple times lower. 

Bootstrapped digital transformation keeps this momentum going, without the disruption that originally enabled it. Key for bootstrapped digital transformation:

    1. Top management has a clear focus for what areas to digitize. This directs the efforts of the organization.
    2. A little more action, a little less conversation please. Probably the most important and the hardest bit, especially without a disruptive event to drive it. Successful traditional organizations are in control at almost all times by a command-control way of organizing. Disadvantage is that this often requires a tremendous amount of alignment (i.e. conversation) between different silos to be able to make even small changes. A strong will to transform and the distribution of decision making authority to multi-disciplined agile digital teams will deliver digital change fast enough, good enough and cheap enough. 
    3. Use cloud technology unless. The only place where operations can be scaled fast without large CAPEX investments, access to all company data can be established, and innovative features are readily available. Probably more secure than homegrown solutions too.
    4. Mix own resources with external digital experts. When budgets are tight one cannot hire large external teams to do the job. This might be a blessing in disguise as digital requires a new way of working at organizations, which can only be sustained by its own employees. Gaps in expertise and methodology can be overcome by bringing in the right external digital experts and partners.      

Most organizations will have to accelerate their digital transformation capabilities, and most organizations will have less means to achieve this. Bootstrapped digital transformation might be a way out. This demanding fix combines a strong will to transform, distributed leadership, digital & AI technology, and the right team and right approach.