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To transform an organisation, focus on its digital core

For organisations today, a “digital core” is crucial, ready to take on agile start-ups and traditional competitors alike.

There are plenty of good reasons why physiotherapists and fitness instructors obsess about the body’s core muscles. Sure, it may be more showy – more instantly gratifying – to tone biceps and triceps but the torso is what really matters.

Building up the core resolves back pain and prevents future injuries. It’s the root of inner and outer strength and growing physical capabilities and mental confidence. And, for sportsmen and women, it is the root of competitive edge.

As it is with the human body, so it is with the modern organisation. Neglect the core and the business becomes flabby.

It requires that the business operates in real time and that it has the cultural courage to bring business and it together – to think cloud first while underwriting security and develop a single-minded methodology to ensure people, processes and systems are digitally ready.

Only once the digital core has been strengthened can an organisation take the next two steps in its transformation. Namely, to become an intelligent and social enterprise – able to harness and exploit data – and an organisation that puts user experience first. Only by getting the strategy right, can execution follow.

Nurturing the digital core means acknowledging the lessons of the last decade of which four stand out:
1. Firstly, it means appreciating that it’s not just digital that is default today. Disruption is default too. Disruption requires that enterprises have a tactical and strategic response to the start-up.

Should you partner? Should you create your own start-ups? Should you create an incubation hub? Only by accepting the ubiquity of disruption can organisations hope to come up with the right answers.

In asking these questions, it’s worth remembering that the technology available to the start-up is available to the enterprise too. It’s all too easy to believe that all the advantages lie with the start-up – that it has access to cheaper technologies based around an operational expense (opex) model while the enterprise is encumbered by expensive, capex technologies. While legacy remains an undoubted challenge, access to newer services and solutions is not the preserve of the start-up alone and when the enterprise couples this systems approach with its own inherent advantages – a running business, future business model.

2. Lesson two is that not every technology trend that hits the peak of the hype cycle will inevitably fade away.

Many do – becoming soon-to-be-forgotten buzzwords – but what is remarkable about recent times is that the reality of new technology has lived up to the hype. Think mobile, cloud, analytics and social media. All have seen broad adoption. These technologies are complementary, their true efficacy evident only when they are blended together.

3. Lesson three: as we have moved from the information age to the digital consumer age so technology has become an integral part of business.

Technology is no longer simply an adjunct to business, no longer just a solution to a problem. Today’s agile, entrepreneurial businesses – those that have strengthened their digital core – don’t alight at a business model and then try to make the technology work around it. Rather, they appreciate that the power of technology – in defining the access to capital, a customer base and a successful mindset – has a compelling response to the new.

4. The fourth lesson is about understanding the expectations of today’s customer, what might be termed the ‘selfie’ customer.

The selfie customer expects 24/7 access and engagement to products and services. The selfie customer expects personalisation regardless of channel. The selfie customer expects instant gratification and convenience.

And here’s the paradox: as the customer seeks simplicity so the technological and business challenges become ever more complicated. The challenge? To simplify this technological complexity. Or, to put it more starkly, the mission is to apply method to the madness. That’s why a holistic approach to large scale transformation is required. It requires a willingness to overhaul systems, talent and culture.

Without a strong digital core none of this is possible.