Many people hear “digital transformation” and think about AI or other cutting-edge technology. Focusing too hard on whatever new technology is available is, however, a recipe for disaster in the long run. The reality is that digital transformation is not what you do, but how you do it, something Peerscale member Nick Van Weerdenburg knows well. As founder and CEO of digital transformation consultancy Rangle.io, Van Weerdenburg has seen and lead digital transformation projects first-hand, both inside Rangle and with their clients around the world.
Speaking to Peerscale, Van Weerdenburg explains getting started with digital transformation, leading a scaling team, and how his peer group at Peerscale helped him along the way.
When it comes to leading digital transformation, Van Weerdenburg said the key takeaways are:
- To create the right budgeting cycle so that innovative projects are well-resourced
- Change metrics to track progress, speed, and quality, not end-of-the-road “completion”
- All leaders must own the responsibility of breaking down communication silos so everyone in the company can march toward the same goal
- Sharing pain points and questions with peers who have been through a digital transformation project will give you insight into speeding up your own transformation process
How Any Company Can Get Started With Digital Transformation
Starting with digital transformation is simply a matter of trying something and then gaining momentum said Van Weerdenburg. Whether journey mapping, pin-pointing market touchpoints, or other customer feedback mechanisms, he said that any company has the ability to digitally transform.
“The most important thing is to start building high-value digital experiences in a way that allows you to scale and continue to move fast,” said Van Weerdenburg.
Trying something to gain momentum, though, is a matter of empowering the company to take action. In order to empower action, Van Weerdenburg said companies have to go to the planning cycle in their organization.
“This usually manifests in the budgeting cycle,” said Van Weerdenburg. “But budgeting is based upon a presumption of knowing the future… so [companies] take more of the same and safe bets. You need to move to a budgeting process where you measure traction, progress, and customer behavior.”
Team Communication For Digital Transformation
Once the budget mindset is shifted to allocate resources for steps of the “digital value stream” such as speed to market, customer behavior, and build times, then real digital transformation can begin.
“The simplest measure of an effective, future-facing digital transformation is ultimately speed and quality,” said Van Weerdenburg. “You can’t have sustainable speed without quality.”
The next goal, said Van Weerdenburg, is to remove obstacles to throughput and running a “continuous delivery” business. To him, that means breaking down communication silos in order to create high-performing cross-functional teams.
“Another huge aspect of a digital-first operating model is high-performing teams that have shared context,” said Van Weerdenburg. “I think anyone can be successful, you just have to find the right partners in the market… you need to be able to model your new way of working and bring the talent, frameworks, and processes to support it.”
This new communication funnel starts with the CEO, but his or her job is not to own the channel. Instead, they take responsibility for ensuring communication silos are taken down and don’t get put back up.
“The CEO ultimately has to own [communication] and drive it, otherwise it won’t succeed,” said Van Weerdenburg. “Everyone has to know the ultimate goal and what success can be measured by, otherwise different groups will be caught up in their own priorities and they won’t align effectively for end-to-end support.”
Without a clear focus from the CEO on keeping silos down, different departments “are going to optimize for their own functions,” said Van Weerdenburg. “And that’s going back into local optimization, creating silos with lots of hand-offs and complexity that now needs to be resolved through bureaucracy and a command hierarchy.”
The Importance of Peers in The Digital Transformation Journey
One thing that Van Weerdenburg continues to do as a leader is to take inspiration from those who have experienced a challenge before him. Even for new projects like implementing the latest technology and, the underlying challenges around scaling your team and process, Van Weerdenburg always finds insight from his peers.
“Anytime I go to a Peerscale event or meeting, I’m able to raise challenges and talk through situations with people who’ve invariably been through them before,” said Van Weerdenburg, speaking on the importance of finding peers when embarking on a digital transformation journey.
In being the CEO, Van Weerdenburg spends his time fostering effective communication across teams. As Rangle grows, that task increases in difficulty, demanding more of his time. But for the CEO, it’s a necessary task that allows both Rangle and its clients to better lead digital transformation.
“Digital transformation is ultimately about being able to deal with the unknowns of the future,” said Van Weerdenburg. “So your strategy is based upon unknowns because the digital world is so broad. It’s about being able to learn, create, and get the best of everybody involved in what you do.”
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