It’s kinda funny. You don’t realize how behind the times you may be until you reflect on the past. I can remember reading "1984" by George Orwell – before 1984 — which made me think twice about the future date within my lifetime. I remember seeing “2001: A Space Odyssey” – a movie about the future in space when machine learning crossed into maniacal machine behavior, also before 2001 — and needing to see it again as there were a lot of futuristic themes in that sci-fi plot-line. [This movie was one of many that set the stage that terrorized the general population into thinking that machines would take over the world!]
I’m currently reading "Ready Player One" by Ernest Cline (also a movie by Steven Spielberg,) which takes place in the future, 2045, and features a virtual universe, The Oasis. Strangely, within the storyline, there are all kinds of references to songs from the 1980s, old arcade games and the early video games, like Pac-Man – all of which I remember. It actually is funny to conjure up those situational thoughts of yesteryear, and then pause and think about today, only to realize how much has changed.
For instance, the high school students of today are incredibly savvy with technology – using it fast, updating it now, adopting it without a thought and embedding it into their lives and, eventually, into their future jobs. As employers, we need to recognize our future workforce and understand the kind of company they will seek: those who innovate, adopt new technologies and embrace change.
It is within this context that I see customers who have already transformed their operations to embrace digital information management and enhanced their operations to improve productivity. Their workers are already on the path to spend their time more productively, with more automation — (dare I say) robotic process automation (RPA) – taking care of the mundane, but necessary, tasks to keep a business operating smoothly.
Then, there is everyone else.
"The biggest challenge to moving forward on anything is the transition to working on it. It almost always represents a shift from doing something comfortable … to doing something uncomfortable … ." — Peter Bregman, “How to Actually Start the Task You’ve Been Avoiding.” Harvard Business Review, 5.30.18
We see varying degrees of companies who should be actively engaged with digital transformation, but have not made the commitment:
- Thinkers - Companies thinking about reducing their paper-based operations and automating processes, not only for their own future success, but to show future workers that they are innovators.
- Planners - Companies who have researched some options so they understand what it means to embrace digital transformation, but they have not moved forward yet.
- Historians - Companies relying on the status quo to get them to their next growth milestone because they perceive a history of fine performance with limited change.
All of these groups have yet to move forward, and each day they fail to make a change, while their competitors get an advantage. Why hesitate?
- It may be budgetary constraints.
- It may be a lack of understanding of the process; e.g., the benefits, etc.
- It may be concern about the transition – how will all workers adapt for me to be successful?
- It may be sheer lack of knowing how to start – where can I find help?
"We tend to think that getting traction on our most important work requires that we be skilled and proficient at that work — but that’s not quite right. The real thing we need to be skilled and proficient in is moving through the moment before the work." — Peter Bregman
As we see from Peter Bregman, it’s the push to begin that is the key step for making things happen. If you learned how to drive in a manual transmission car, you know it’s easy to shift gears when the car is already moving, but it is a challenge to get into first gear from a standstill!
This is an apt metaphor for all the late adopters of digital transformation. While some are trying to get into first gear, others are not even trying. Bergman says that we put off the hard stuff and go for the easy tasks first. Gather up the low hanging fruit so we can focus on the hard stuff later – if we ever get there.
Perhaps you never get to that important but hard thing, accomplishing all sorts of smaller tasks but avoiding this one. Or perhaps you’re simply sluggish getting to it, wasting valuable time in the process.
I don’t think it is procrastination or avoidance, but lack of desire to change buried so deep in a company’s culture that someone needs to come along and help: the new hire with technology in his/her DNA; the trusted advisor to show you the roadmap, or the current staff who sees what their competitors are doing.
As I said at the start, reflecting on the past can be a funny thing. In business, a serious look-back on company milestones to show the value of change can help to illustrate why technological change is important.
- Where would you have been if you did not upgrade your servers (or are you in the cloud now?)
- Where would you have been if you were not using VoIP for your phones (instead of paying the phone company for all those landlines?)
- Where would you have been if you did not offer sales tools, like Salesforce, to help your team manage their sales process (instead of doing EVERYTHING on personal spreadsheets – no database, no file sharing, and no collaboration?)
- Where would you have been if you did not continuously improve your healthcare plan (as costs go out of control?)
One of the top issues facing companies trying to improve their operations is realizing that their legacy systems are too antiquated to be updated. Fix after fix after fix has made these systems unique to your organization and you no longer benefit from universal updates. You’ve built a monster of a system that is not easy to use or fix, and impossible to update – because it is not flexible – like newer technology. The reluctance to change is in not weighing the value of the change, as measured against the process of making the change. That transition will be a big, at times disruptive, move for the organization – but a necessary one.
"Which means that the skill we really need to develop — and it is a skill — is transitioning. Remember, that the transition is short lived. It is not the new normal — it’s the movement to the new normal." — Peter Bregman
Important: You want a new normal that brings you effectively into the future.
So, where will you be in 2045? What will you be doing differently then? Maybe attending not just teleconference meetings, but VR meetings – from your home – where you can see your group and sit beside them in your “Business Oasis” and move about the room to see new products and meet new employees. Your information is secure in the cloud and accessible to all authorized employees. Your staff can easily work off their mobile devices, and you use RPA to build workflows and automate repetitive processes. You look for new ways to enhance your content management system – with Augmented Intelligence because machine learning is good for business.
Back in 2018, it’s time to be serious about implementing change. Push that car down the hill and get it started. Don’t be the “Pac-Man” of 2018 for all eyes to see when they look back from 2045. Understand the need and embrace the transition so you can arrive at a new and better, digital content — after all, it’s only normal. Ready?