We are told in life that we can’t have everything. The saying goes in America, “You can’t have your cake and eat it too.” In Albania, they say, “You can’t take a swim and not get wet,” while Bulgarians, Croatians, and others talk about the inability to have a well-fed wolf and all your sheep accounted for.
Whatever the proverb of choice, the idea is that we can either have one thing or the other, not both. This is a mindset that permeates into the business world as well.
In a webinar about Digital Disruption, MIT Sloan Executive Education’s Jeanne Ross conducted a poll of the business people listening in on whether they believe their digital strategy would benefit from digitized solutions, customer engagement, both, or neither. Her response to finding out that the majority of listeners place importance on both was that it was a “disaster.” She went on to say that a successful strategy relies on focusing on one or the other.
With all respect to Ms. Ross and her research, I disagree with her conclusion.
To her credit, Ross does acknowledge that this focus should not be to the total exclusion of the other strategy, but her language nevertheless has that connotation. I maintain that in our modern world, with all its glorious digital tools readily available at our fingertips, we can and should adopt these various strategies simultaneously.
To illustrate why I think this, I’ll use an example for the world of basketball. (Fair warning…this probably won’t be the last time you see a sports analogy on this site. With two sons with exceptional basketball talent–one already a pro and another high schooler well on his way, my life outside of business is pretty much all basketball, all the time.)
My “tiny baby boy”, Ben, all 6’6″ of him, is a phenomenal basketball player. His basketball talent paid for college, has allowed him to travel expenses paid all over the world, and (every baller’s dream), he cashes checks to do what he loves.
He didn’t become this good by merely focusing on one skill set. His physical and instinctual gifts make him naturally dominant on defense, but just because that aspect of his game comes easier to him doesn’t mean he puts no effort into it. Sure, he puts more attention into his offense training, but he never neglects his defense.
As even a non-aficionado of basketball can understand, to do that would be Madness, in March or any other month.
In your digital strategy, you must also consider what comes most naturally. Perhaps your customer engagement is on point. Your CRM gives you the analytics and trends that keep you up to date on what your customers care about. You have digital initiatives that enhance customer service. So if all that is in place, you have more time and energy to put into transforming your business model with digitized solutions.
The same idea applies if you are more adept with your digitized solutions. If you already have digital products and global operations in place and doing well, you have the freedom to focus on more meaningful customer engagement.
If you’re new or don’t have much going on in either category, there will be more work involved, but you can still do well with both strategies. With so much technology available to automate and synergize tasks, setting up a successful business is more attainable than ever.
Flexibility and open-mindedness are key in digital transformation. Knowing your strengths and recognizing areas of improvement will help in creating a well-rounded strategy.
Every step in the transformation won’t be a slam dunk, but you don’t want to be the type of company that only knows how to dunk the ball. In service to your clients (and the world), you want to be the MVP, and MVPs are the full package.
Usually with some impressive dunking included in the deal.