Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Standardising innovation will deliver disruption at scale

I joined in a conversation on Linkedin triggered by one innovator positing a view on what disruption really is - and a dozen more piling in to place their version of the truth on record.
My point of view was/is this:
A technology trend has the potential to be disruptive
The response to it is a business model built on the co-evolution of practice which that trend prompts. If that response is a new model creating value in a new way, it will disrupt the existing landscape.

I felt the lack of clarity/consistency/agreement about a pivotal term like disruption revealed how far from being truly disruptive the innovation industry currently is. This comes as small surprise given that it is a core part of digital transformation (being the way-of-working How of digital transformation). And as I have previously pointed out - Digital Transformation faces its own lack of clarity on the supply side, at a time when demand is outstripping the industry's ability to supply it.

The nuts and bolts of innovation remain too often hand-wrought. We can not expect innovation to become the new way of working at a scale and regularity that the speed of digital demands, unless and until we bring a little more standardisation and certainty to it.

This was something I also referred to in: A Shared Language of Innovation recently. In that article I discuss the way in which terms such as MVP, POC, Pilot and Prototype get used in multiple ways. This speaks to the current lack of standardisation and uncertainty (when the client demand is for more standards and more certainty).

But that was just a start. Take a look at the terms I italicised in my initial POV above. We could have a lengthy debate on the meaning of all of them. Which would waste effort, time and intellect which would be better spent on creating the higher order complexity in which value actually resides.

Innovation - particularly where it relates to digital transformation - must agree and stick to making standard sized nuts and bolts. 

Until it gets close to ubiquity its impact will be limited.
There is little Disruption in making nuts and bolts - but there is next to none without them.

Friday, February 01, 2019

Minimum Learning Vehicles

Image via
One of the many problems with making stuff fast in organisations is the varying forms of language used to describe the same thing.
Park for a moment the regular confusion between efficiency and effectiveness, the one that can create mindblocks in rapid iteration is the Minimum Viable Product.
I have heard this used interchangeably for paper sketches in Design Thinking creative sessions, all the way through to the first product being taken to the actual market at production scale.
Mindblocks - well not having a clear view of this makes it very difficult to understand what each rapid iteration cycle is trying to achieve.
I have become used to using MVP as something that may better be called the Minimum Learning Vehicle (MLV). I say it may better be called that because I think it better reflects the learning discipline of the MVP:
1. Identify what it is you want to learn from this iteration.
2. Draw/make/build only that which will give you that learning.
3. Test with the end user.
By its nature, the use of MLVs keeps things lean - avoiding scope creep and maintaining focus on the value proposition (the value to the end user).
It's a critical thing for all parties to agree when they set out to iterate to value at speed.
What do you call your MLV?

Monday, January 21, 2019

Creating new value - or simply keeping up?

Photo by Fancycrave on Unsplash

Demand for digital transformation is at an all time high - according to a survey of 600 leading execs for a DXC report: 2019: The year of digital decisions. It provides timely evidence that supports my mapping of the situation facing industry right now - referred to in detail here.

Referencing that article (The Job Of Digital Strategy Consulting): Companies are testing the water, feeling their way with agile here, lean there, new-tools-but-same-ways -of-working almost everywhere... There is no certain way of doing or being digital yet. Not by some distance. But we must expect that there will be movement in that direction.

What the increased demand/desire tells us is that digital transformation is headed toward ubiquity and with it standarisation and the need for interoperability. There's an increasing realisation that companies must build themselves a new future and this is at such scale that trying to do this with hand wrought nuts and bolts is too bespoke - too slow and too expensive.

What this also reminds us is that digital transformation is not the end product. It is a process of creating the nuts and bolts on which higher-order complexity - the novel stuff that creates greatest value - gets built.

When you have all the nuts and bolts, and power supplies and gears and pulleys and all those things you need to make stuff, it doesn't magically self-assemble. into things of value.

How you are able to use what you have brought together - the pile of 'what's' your grand 'why' of digital transformation may have provided you - that is where the magic happens.

The insight, the imagination, the ideation, the design, the rapid iteration, the testing and scaling - without these your digital investments are simply 'efficiency' spends. They won't even reduce your IT budgett. When we make stuff more efficiently we tend to use more of it (as Simon Wardley points out. Think how many more nuts and bolts got used as a result of standardising them.

What is needed is a way in which you can standardise and make repeatable the insight, the imagination, the ideation, the design, the rapid iteration, the testing and scaling. What is needed is a new way of working.

This is the 'How' of digital transformation and it is where the fight for market mastery gets won and lost.

In 2019 this is the most pressing challenge for creating new value vs simply keeping up.

Friday, January 04, 2019

How to make the extraordinary, normal

Digital strategy consulting has a simple task to carry out.  A little situational analysis reveals that the job of digital strategy consulting is to turn the extraordinary into the everyday.

When we fail to do this we force customers into a chasm of uncertainty which they resort to filling with often inappropriate products. They look for magic.

A look at this Wardley map of evolution, (below) applicable to most products or services, gives us a way of exploring the digital strategy landscape.

Digital is maturing from novel toward common along the Ubiquity axis.  We will return to how far it has actually moved along that axis to help explain the tensions we may otherwise miss. But what we can be certain of is that demand is increasing and that means the movement is toward Common.

On the Certainty axis it is harder to see movement away from the Genesis zone. Companies are testing the water, feeling their way with agile here, lean there, new tools but same ways of working almost everywhere... There is no certain way of doing or being digital yet. Not by some distance.

Strategy is on the whole built from experiment. And while productisation is a mantra within most consulting houses, the reality is customisation built upon rapid-iteration experiments. Making those rapid iteration cycles more effective is state of the art in digital strategy right now. And that's because certainty remains low.

To summarise to this point: There is a greater demand for ubiquity than there is market capability to productise its response. Referring to the map below, it feels to me like we are high enough up the Ubiquity axes for products to be the norm, but on the Certainty axis, we have hardly got out of Genesis.

From Simon Wardley: via

Understanding this situation helps us better plan our response. My (badly drawn) map below illustrates both where it feels to me we are (X), and offers a response to what the evolutionary drivers suggest is the direction our customers will want us to take. Note, the product and custom boxes have contorted offering a much larger overlap than ordinarily expected (compared to the original, above). This is my take on responding to the distortion of current high demand vs current low supply.

X marks where we are now - market trend indicates the direction of evolution we must respond to 

It suggests that we have to respond with products which help take our customers further along the Certainty axis. 
To do this we should offer and embrace
  • A clear role for digital consulting - Responding to the need of moving the customer to greater certainty, enabling them to take advantage of genuine productisation as it emerges (essential to the value-building activities of creating higher-order outputs - just as custom nuts and bolts enabled the building of higher order products customers could actually use and value).
  • Hybrids of custom build and productisation (applicable to each nut and bolt - eg managed innovation, human insight-centred design, customer experience design, product lifecycle, eco-system build etc)
  • Greatest customisation where the customer has least certainty.
  • Active strategy teams combining diverse cultures; disruptive creatives (Wardley's Pioneers who will create the new) alongside those who will grow the market (Wardley's Settlers). 
That's just a start list. But it is at least one against which we can start a sensible discussion about what we supply versus what the customer needs, and, as always, I welcome your builds.

For more on Warldey Mapping start here:

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Consulting faces a digital reset

Disruption creates opportunity. In the challenges to our cherished business models and organisational norms there is the requirement to act.
The burning bridge beneath our feet prompts us to make significant and often rapid movement. Just such a moment has arrived for the consulting world.
Platforms enhanced by AI are making application development, business process engineering and customer management all things a business can now do for itself - shifting the role of technology consulting. (in large part out of the door).
New ways of working are giving everyone in the business (and from IT) access to human insight, ideation and rapid innovation - blurring roles and delivering organisational adaptability to align with the needs of the digital world.
And these two drivers alone would be significant enough to force a change in perspective.
But add to the plans in the UK to overhaul regulations in respect of the big four accountancy firms and business as normal faces an existential threat.
KPMG has already announced is will no longer offer consultancy to businesses it audits. It, like the others, has been down this road before.
The Enron scandal in the US prompted a break-up and realignment that resulted in Atos, BearingPoint, Cap Gemini. and a merry go round of acquisitions, rebrands and bankruptcy. Accenture while moving first, was born out of the same climate of concern over  operating models.
So we can expect to see great change in the market.
And with this comes the opportunity to reconfigure consulting for the digital world.
In many ways the industry is late to the party. Digital has wrought its disruption to media, retail, travel, utilities, even government.  Now the consulting business has the opportunity to press its reset.
I believe that means becoming genuinely digital. Digital first. Because all business is becoming digital.  Business is changing/has changed the way it thinks about value, about customer, about experience, about responsiveness (to market mastery).
That means consulting must identify its own a clear value proposition that makes sense in a digital world - understanding its place in what are no longer supply chains or value chains, but eco-systems.
  • It means setting a strategic position as a value hypothesis to be tested through rapid iteration with customer insight at the heart.
  • It means embracing new ways of working and making them the way to work from pitch to delivery - emphasising customer-led design, agility and market responsiveness
  • It means changing KPIs to deliver the open, collaborative, trust-building behaviours required of organisational vs individual performance.
  • It means addressing digital capabiltity and capacity short-falls in creative and scalable ways (see also blurry people)
  • It means establishing the legal and commercial frameworks to support rapid partnership models and value-led billing models
  • It means organising around product/service design, development and life-cycle management
  • It means tackling ambiguity head on - with minimum viable organisations from which to scale out fast, enabled by blurry people and responsive products and services
Make no mistake - when disruption comes knocking at this scale, incremental change will only delay the inevitable. The start-up mentality IS the digital mentality.

The rate of change is so rapid it's difficult for one person to keep up to speed. Let's pool our thoughts, share our reactions and, who knows, even reach some shared conclusions worth arriving at?