Ten years ago I was 30, had been married for five of those years and was in a much earlier part of my career in Digital than I am now.
I answered emails, and still paid most of my bills with checks.
I had a desk phone.
Video conference calls were almost space-age-like promises.
I was coming off of the Nextel walkie talkie phase of life.
And when I heard about something I wanted to know more about, get this: I had to jot it down somewhere and look it up later.
And this coming from a guy who had an Apple Newton in high school…
I stood in line on Boylston Street in Boston, amidst hundreds of others, eager to get my hands on the device that would change nearly everything in our worlds - though, at that time, we had no idea just how much it would.
Don’t take this post as homage to Apple. I’m a fan, but I’m not blind. That said, I have to give credit where credit is due. And credit is due.
Today, I work with some of the smartest people I know, who are solving business problems related to how employees collaborate and remain productive in large complex organizations. I watch my peers dig into ridiculously complex challenges around digital transformation and customer experience, urging, often pleading with brands to evolve – or simply be left behind.
The iPhone is turning 10 this month, but the world seems older than that to me. I often have a hard time remembering what life was without the power of a computer in one of my jean pockets.
I haven’t signed a legal document in years, instead electing to electronically sign them with an app on my phone.
I can have food, booze, cars, clothes, office supplies and kitchen utensils delivered to me within hours.
Some of my clients prefer to communicate with me over SMS.
When I have a meeting, I often have several devices chirp at me at once.
I bring these points up because I repeatedly hear people at conferences, and even in audiences I get to speak with, not fully appreciate the importance of what digital transformation means or has the capacity to influence.
The iPhone isn’t the single catalyst for digital transformation, but rest assured it sits in a small list of foundational devices and services that brought it on. And even now, ten human years later, we struggle across the enterprise to determine what to do, when to do it and how much to focus on digital transformation. In actuality, the inflection point for transforming is likely behind us.
That means that everyday you do not work to change, it becomes harder and more expensive to do so. The rationale is simple: the older your business is, the more engrained antiquated systems, processes and behaviors are within your organization.
Take the graphic below, comparing industry leaders against their modern, disruptive counterparts.
Most modern companies have the luxury of not having an infrastructure to update. Tesla, Virgin America, Uber – they all entered the market when cloud, personal devices, user interface design and technical possibilities were booming. Coupled with a market that was constrained by ‘what is’ versus ‘what could be’, modern brands have the benefit of creating expectations, not reacting to them.
Older more established companies do not have that luxury. Infrastructure is a behemoth subject for most brands. And without considering the behavioral change needed to evolve the use of tools and platforms, these changes can cost millions, even billions of dollars.
But, then you look at the damage not updating those systems can cost. Many of the world’s top airlines have been crippled by aging infrastructure: United, Delta, American, Southwest and this last weekend British Airways, have all fallen victim to it, sometimes with a rationale like “a power surge occurred” (which sounds like someone kicked out a plug on a power strip to many of us).
Don’t think it costs real money? IAG (British Airway’s owner) lost £500m in valuation the morning after the failure.
Please don’t take these notes as suggesting major corporations are unfamiliar with the challenge. It would be ignorant to think British Airways doesn’t have work in place to address infrastructure and their adjacent issues, even before the most recent event.
But of course, it was too little too late, wasn’t it.
Digital Transformation is Business Transformation is Customer Experience is Employee Engagement.
These subjects are intertwined. The challenge is figuring out what’s worth untangling and when its right to just get a new ball of yarn.
So the soap box is simple on this one: the iPhone is ten years old - what have you done in the last ten years that makes you think you’re ready for the next ten? I imagine it’s a mixed bag of emotion and fact. Business analysis, customer experience strategy, employee engagement planning – these are the foundations of transformation, of evolution.
It needs to be an everyday conversation in most companies. It is in ours.
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