/ The Top 5 Insights of Transformational Leaders for 2020

Hear “2020” and what comes to mind? The ability to see the world through a clear lens? The next year on the calendar? The start of a new decade?

As someone who works in the insights business, I think of all three. I picture a significant point in time that will likely require sharp vision in order to navigate it successfully.

If I had to pick the biggest business topic of the 2010s, it would have to be digital transformation. But as the sun sets on this decade, we’re faced with a common narrative: that companies around the world are still struggling with digital transformation.

Despite all the money organisations have spent, many are getting little—if anything—out of their investments. In 2018, only 16% of companies rated their digital transformations as successful on the McKinsey Global Survey, compared to nearly 30% in prior years.

As we head into the 2020s, organisational leaders who have made progress in digital transformation (or, DX) will be hot in demand and their experience and insights coveted. Having had the privilege of meeting and working with many of them, I’ve observed some common traits and trends—the things that I see transformational leaders doing differently, and what they have in sight for 2020 and beyond. Here are my top 5:

1 – They replace ‘digital’ with ‘business’ in transformation

Transformational leaders lead their transformation strategy with an enhanced customer value proposition, and leverage digital technologies to enable that vision. Transformational organisations invest in reorganising their businesses to “sense and respond” to continuous change and opportunity, and harness the power of data to alert and navigate their people.

Mumford Sole Partners, a New York-based firm that specialises in digital transformation, sums this concept up well:

Companies today are organisational systems designed for a world where it made sense to discover a value proposition once and then build a product or service or company around it. But to deliver on the potential of a digital world, you need something elsean organisational system that allows for constant recalibration and rediscovery. That is what digital transformation is all about. 

This approach advocates that we consider DX as a series of use cases that gather momentum, gradually changing processes, systems, and culture as they evolve, which helps to dissipate the idea that DX is a long-term and expensive, technology-led initiative. 

I expect that over time we will hear less “digital” and more “business” in the transformation conversation as leaders begin to view digital transformation not a destination, but as a capability, even eventually dropping “digital” altogether as we dropped the “e” in e-commerce once it became an established term.

2 – They enable continuous data-driven transformation

In order to restructure an organisation to be able to “sense and respond,” data must be front and centre and accessible to everyone in the value chain. In preparation for this, more and more organisations are evolving their approach to business intelligence (BI) practices and layering their existing infrastructure with a data fabric that helps to surface actionable insights in a more agile manner.

Rather than wait for weekly or monthly reports, the most agile businesses are accessing data every minute of the day, and using that data to continuously get feedback, evaluate, and improve DX initiatives. Quite aptly, Gartner calls this “continuous intelligence,” which is basically the ability to tap into and harness the never-ending flow of information that courses through most modern organisations.

Leaders who follow this approach also approach data in a “fit for purpose” way, not waiting until data is clean and perfectly organised, but rather leveraging it to identify trends and then inspect and rearchitect it as needed, in an agile manner.

3 – They enable the data sharing economy

Business is all about trying to extract the greatest amount of value out of our value chain, but in the digital era, our value chains are significantly different. Whereas they once followed a more linear model, most organisations today resemble more of an ecosystem made up of internal and external teams that need to work closely in order to service their shared customers. And data is at every link in that value chain.

Not only are companies having to rethink the way they structure their internal workings to uncover and act on evolving customer requirements and opportunities, they are now forced to consider how they do the same in that broader ecosystem.

Transformational leaders understand the increasing value of data in their supply chain and are able to connect relevant internal and external parties in many different kinds of ways, including rapidly sharing governed data across the supply chain in a way that allows them to better serve their customers and respond quickly to opportunity.

4 – They aren’t distracted by ‘shiny new toys’

Data-driven organisations are already integrating next-generation technologies like AI and machine learning to their data and analytics strategy to identify and surface correlations and insights that have never been detected before from existing datasets in a “Did You Know?” fashion.  

Augmented analytics will continue to develop and bring exciting technologies that will be dynamic enough to process data from different sources—like unstructured data or voice and IoT devices—broadening the depth and clarity of insights that can be used to identify opportunities, improve processes or guide the development of future offerings.

The catch is in the adoption of these technologies. 

“When digital transformation is done right, it’s like a caterpillar turning into a butterfly,” said George Westerman, Principal Research Scientist with the MIT Sloan Initiative on the Digital Economy, “but when done wrong, all you have is a really fast caterpillar.” 

Transformational leaders exhibit great discipline in keeping the business impact front and centre and then building the required capability to deliver on that.

5 – They deliver data in the language of the consumer

There has been much talk on building the data-driven enterprise, and yet, organisations are still failing to turn their data into actionable insights.

For some, it’s because that data is held captive within parts of the organisation, only available on-request and with a wait list. Others may have started their journey to democratise data and begin a self-service culture but are still seeing their expensive and resource-intensive dashboards under-consumed and under-actioned. 

The key here is in understanding who your audience is and knowing how they best consume and action information. Whilst finance and analyst teams are adept at looking at charts and tables and knowing what action to take, the average consumer outside of that organisational demographic is not.

We’ve worked with transformational leaders to extend their delivery options, including building custom apps that they can put in the hands of their less data-savvy teams, providing insights and even direction on the action to take.

If you’re interested in learning more about what successful companies are doing differently when it comes to DX, head to domo.com/tune-into-domo to watch video interviews with transformational leaders, access whitepapers, and even map the progress of your organisation’s DX journey using the Domo DX Journey Map.

You can also connect with me on LinkedIn and start a conversation on ideas for how you can leverage data to lead your 2020 strategy and develop a clear DX vision for the year ahead.