The 10 pitfalls of digital transformation #10: Own it!

The 10 pitfalls of digital transformation #10: Own it!

“There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance.” (Steve Ballmer, 2007)

In 2007, Steve Ballmer was famously quoted for saying that the iPhone would in no way gain any market share and that it wouldn’t appeal to business customers because there is no keypad. And in November 2016, he admitted he was wrong.

Why was Steve Ballmer wrong? First, he didn’t factor in Steve Jobs’ ability to “own it”, and by this I mean own not only the concept of the iPhone, but the ability to disrupt markets and create new ones. However, he couldn’t do this on his own. The entire Apple team also had to “own it” and believe in the transformation the product could enable, not just in the product itself. This is an important lesson for any leader to learn. Second, Steve Ballmer judged the iPhone as a phone, shackled by the current needs and expectations of the market. Steve Jobs “owned” a concept that shattered those expectations and met needs we, as consumers and business people, didn’t realize we had.

So when you are starting your digital transformation journey, or if you have already set sail, I ask you to ignore Steve Ballmer’s words and take Steve Job’s attitude – really “own it”. Be confident in what you want to achieve and the outcomes you desire for your organization, then align all the parties and infiltrate, modify and adapt your current technology systems to meet the objectives.

Also, just as Steve Jobs and the iPhone shattered the telecommunications market, ensure that your digital transformation strategy isn’t hindered by the norm, that it is focused on making the changes which enable you to disrupt your market place and be prepared for a different future. And, if you are still reliant on legacy applications and infrastructure and have not begun the journey towards migrating systems to enhance the experience of your employees and customers, then now is the time to start, so that it is fit for the future you want your organization to have. Imagine making changes so significant to your current norm that they make your employees and customers have that initial “Oh I can get email on my mobile phone” feeling once again!

The transformation journey does not have to be frightening. As outlined within my blog posts in this series, taking things in steps and avoiding silos are essential to building a strategy that is flexible to your digital needs and it also does not have to be costly. When you realize what you want to accomplish, getting every single person on board to “own it” is essential to making the transformation successful. It is not a project for one individual as the digital agenda has to be intrinsically part of the organization’s DNA, and the messages have to make people feel that they are working towards something that is equivalent to the impact the iPhone had, even if the context is different.

Let’s take Tesla as an example. No one thought they’d be an automotive company because their cash cow was (and is) manufacturing batteries. And look how the company has disrupted the market with its digital agenda to develop state of the art vehicles. Needless to say that now both Google and Apple are amidst developing cars too because Tesla motivated them.

So when I say ‘own it’ I truly mean that each individual in the organization has to understand the journey that is being undertaken to help achieve success. Transformation isn’t something that happens alone – not with companies that are trying to innovate. To stay ahead of the curve, it is vital for everyone in the organization to believe in the future that the transformation enables. Do not fall into the HMV, Woolworths or Blockbuster traps and always remember that it takes a team to build an organization, but vision to keep it on track.

Have you missed some of my blog series on avoiding the 10 pitfalls of digital transformation? If so please read the full series here:

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