That (digital) vision thing..

Vision. What is that exactly? Possibly one of the most overused and least understood words in the management lexicon. It’s one of those tricky-to-pin-down concepts that leaves people feeling a little uncomfortable in it’s emotional right-brainy presence. The title of this blog references the famous George Bush quote, signalling his own difficulties in articulating his vision during his presidency. He’s probably not the only one who has struggled with the challenge.

And yet, according to the research available, it’s that vision thing and how it is shared in an organisation, that has the biggest impact on the success of a digital transformation project. In which case it pays to take a look at what are the components of a digital vision.

Last year I had the opportunity to speak at length to 8 businesses were all going through a period of very significant digital change. Some of them were Desynit clients, and moving onto the Salesforce platform, but not all. Talking to these senior people, despite the fact that they were all engaged in very complex situations which were entirely unique to their own workplace technology and culture, some overarching themes emerged with regard to their vision for digital.

“I think hearts and minds is crucial in terms of motivating and bringing people along with you.”

The quote above from one of our Salesforce Best Start clients, sums up the first point really very neatly. A vision for digital is not just something that engages people’s brains with fact and figures, it really needs to stir their hearts, and be inspirational.

So, heads first. What should in included in your digital vision in order to engage people’s minds? It seems there are four main questions for digital vision needs to answer:-

  1. Where are we now and where are we going?

Sets the context (present and future) – Show people the big picture, tell them where you are now and where you want to get to.

  1. What will it mean?

Provides a customer focus – What is the digital transformation going to mean for your customers? Your vision should incorporate specific information on how customers will benefit from and experience your move to digital platforms.

  1. What are we going to deliver?

Acts as a KPI  – This is the measurable bit in terms of timing, financial performance, short terms wins & deliverables.

  1. How will we do it?

Outlines details for execution – “If we are choosing between two investments, where to spend the money, then digital will always win,” is the way one senior team member of a large financial institution put it. This are the nuts and bolts details on how you are going to do it.

Secondly the tricky, soft bit: how do you build a digital vision that engages the heart. In so much as this can ever be pinned down into a simple list of bullet points, here is the sum of what I heard a well crafted vision needs to do, in three points:-

  1. Gets everyone on the same page

A good vision for a digital future needs to be “a lot cleverer than just getting people to drink the Kool­​Aid, they’ve got to get with the plan.” It was unanimous – getting people truly aligned was a key function of the digital vision.

  1. Inspires people

Passionate, emotional and inspirational.. Does your vision for digital excite people, does it stir the soul? (No one said this was going to be easy…)

  1. Create a sense of urgency

“When you share your plan with the whole organisation, there is definitely a feeling of, we have to do this now.” Change is difficult and without a burning platform, then you will struggle to get the momentum.

So that’s a very brief and broad overview of how your digital vision can engage the hearts and the minds of your team. There was one more essential ingredient to the formulation of a good vision for a digital organisation however: a recurring theme repeated throughout each of the 8 interviews, just as vital for the right-brainy emotional ‘soft’ stuff as the left-brainy KPI driven ‘hard’ stuff too. It was clarity. Make your vision for digital clear: clear in the language used, frequently repeated, consistent, simple and clearly being put into practice by the top team and throughout the organisation.

How many of these essential elements can you tick off in your organisation’s vision for digital transformation? Hopefully some, if not all. Of course the real test would be to ask a number of people in the business what they understood the digital future of their organisation to be. If they can pretty much summarise it accurately, then full marks for clarity.

If however, no one seems to know what you are talking about, then you’ve got a problem with your vision communication strategy, but that’s another story. 


Robot Vision
By Amy Grenham
23 January 2017
BusinessThe Good Systems Blog

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