Age of Digital Darwinism: Will You Evolve or Die?

Apr 5 2017
By Joseph Knecht in Insights

When you mention technology to just about any business leader, you’ll see one of two reactions on their faces: glassy-eyed fear or warrior-like determination. For most businesses, digital transformation hasn’t quite reached a level of maturity that elicits serene confidence. But any company that wants to survive the inevitable evolution is going to have to figure it out soon, because technology — and the world in general — is moving ahead fast.

In my experience, businesses that successfully pivot to digital transformation possess a willingness and ability to switch focus from technology to people (customers and employees). We still have a tendency to be mesmerized by the bones of technology, whether it’s in the form of clever software or impressive gadgets. While we play with our “toys”, our competitors may be figuring out better ways to use them. When your technologically successful competitors ask themselves, “Why do we need technology?”, the answer has less to do with software, or even business processes, and more to do with where technology makes an impact — on people.

I suggest you should take it even one step deeper and ask yourself, “What do people need?” As you can see, all of a sudden we’re not thinking about technology at all. It creates somewhat of a conundrum. We know we need to digitally transform to compete in this world, but technology is not an end in itself. I find myself repeating this mantra at least a hundred times a day.

Digital transformation requires profound changes in operation

In any business, this degree of a change in focus means we need a new kind of leadership. Heck, we may need completely new business models! We have to totally rethink how we strategize our businesses. It follows that we need to reconstruct resource management systems and realign budget allocations — and pretty much everything else. That can become sticky, because we have to sustain the old way of doing things while we’re in the process of changing. And we can’t take our eye off of monumental changes in the way the market and potential customers are behaving.

Source: MIT Sloan Management, Capgemini Consulting, Report March 30, 2017

The first step in ensuring your company is one that evolves successfully is understanding where you are now in the process. I ran across a very enlightening report in the MIT Sloan Management series that puts this very simply.

The report presents a simple matrix that juxtaposes “Digital Intensity” with “Transformation Management Intensity.” I’m guessing you can figure out with a glance where your company belongs.

The point of the matrix is that companies need to nurture an intensity in both technology (managing digital resources) and people (managing a transformation). The goal is to become a “digerati” (upper right quadrant). These are businesses that, in the words of the report, “truly understand how to drive value with digital transformation.”

They combine a transformative vision, careful governance and engagement, with sufficient investment in new opportunities. Through vision and engagement, they develop a digital culture that can envision further changes and implement them wisely. By investing in and carefully coordinating digital initiatives, they continuously advance their digital competitive advantage.

Figure 2: Source: MIT Sloan Management, Capgemini Consulting, Report March 30, 2017 

What’s your path to digital transformation?

You’ll notice in the matrix, those who focus too much on technology become “fashionistas”. I love that. Fashionistas are all about sexy digital applications, but, as the report explains, “not founded on real knowledge of how to maximize business benefits.”

What I don’t love is that companies that don’t get it won’t evolve. They’ll die. That’s why I’m in this business. I want to keep that from happening. At Proteus, our entire organization is founded on a passion for helping enterprises survive and thrive through responsible, victorious digital transformation.

Right this moment, I’ll bet you are asking yourself, “How can we use technology to make us better?” Does your answer point your business toward the doomed digital reality of the fashionista or the enlightened vision of the digerati? It’s time to get real, folks. When it comes to digital transformation, will you evolve or die?

Figure 2: “The Digital Advantage: How Digital Leaders Outperform Their Peers in Every Industry,” The MIT Center for Digital Business and Capgemini Consulting. Accessed March 30, 2017:

Joseph Knecht
Post by Joseph Knecht

Joseph Knecht is the CEO at Proteus and loves to cover the topics of entrepreneurship, digital transformation, and web product commercialization.

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