Ask your digital transformation provider…

Would you choose to receive dental treatment from a dentist with bad teeth? Fitness coaching from a coach that is unfit? Change management consulting from an organisation resistant to change?

At the First International Innovation 4.0 Forum this week, we took in multiple vendor presentations about the digital transformation of entire industries, including the services those vendors offer their clients, which, of course, begged the question:

how far along are those vendors themselves in their own digital transformation?

For instance, the conference was opened by Eric Schaeffer, leader of Accenture’s Digital Industry X.0 program, who argued confidently that “business as usual is not an option anymore”, a statement we agree applies to companies across industries. He went on to argue that transformation is a continuous process rather than simply a discrete step:

“Like the tide, it keeps rolling. You have to live with it. That’s the bottom line.”

It would therefore be interesting to understand to what extent Accenture—and their peers—themselves have, internally, embraced a culture of continuous change and ongoing transformation. We wonder because we ourselves at reelyActive, despite having a small and highly motivated team who believe we should practice what we preach, nonetheless find this to be a challenging and demanding endeavour.

Earlier this year we asked Are we selling discomfort? The answer is yes: data from our platform indeed highlights that business as usual is no longer an option for our clients—far from a comfortable proposition. Said differently, vendors selling comfort are selling something other than transformation. Those leading the business of transformation are effectively selling discomfort, both externally and internally. And how many companies are actually comfortable with that?

So, for those advancing toward Industry 4.0, or X.0, or [insert buzzword here], we offer as advice to ask your digital transformation provider how they themselves realised their own digital transformation. There is, quite literally, much to be learned from their answer.

Are we selling discomfort?

What’s your product? “It’s a real-time data stream of who/what is where/how in any physical space” anyone at reelyActive might answer today. Okay. But what are you really selling?

Curiously, what we’re really selling today may very well be discomfort.

Really.

Take for instance our client who is measuring attendance and zone occupancy at a festival right now. Will the data comfort the festival and its sponsors by telling the story they want to hear about record numbers?   No.   The data will tell the story of what really happened, inevitably raising uncomfortable questions.

Take for instance our client who uses our data to help brick-and-mortar retailers compete on in-store client experience. Will the customer journey data comfort the retailer about how well they’re doing?   No.   The data will reveal their failures to meet their clients where they are, again, raising uncomfortable questions.

Take for instance our client who uses our data to observe occupancy and space utilisation in their offices. Will the data comfort them by showing that every space is just right and delivering outstanding employee experience?   No.   The data will tell the story of what spaces are under and over-utilised. They can expect an uncomfortable discussion about why they spent X on a space that nobody is using while there’s a shortage of some other type of space.

Why are our clients buying discomfort?

Our clients are buying discomfort because it motivates them to improve. Their competitors may be buying comfort: products and services that make the stakeholders and the status quo look good. And while that may still be an effective short-term strategy, our clients are embracing continuous improvement, and the associated discomfort, as they recognise this as the winning long-term strategy.

A festival that addresses what isn’t driving attendance, delivers a better sponsor and attendee experience the following year. A retailer that meets its customers at the right time and place earns and retains their loyalty. A business that regularly adapts its offices to the needs of its employees enjoys the highest productivity.

So, are we selling discomfort?   Yes, in effect.   But our clients are more than comfortable with that.