Why Thought Leadership Strategy Is So Important to Digital Transformation

The digital transformation space is full of opportunity and potential upside, but it is also severely flawed. Despite leapfrog advancements in technology (blockchain, artificial intelligence, internet of things, etc.), the industry seems to be repeating the same mistakes of past decades.

Key challenges with the digital transformation industry

Over the last two decades of being a digital transformation advisor, I have found that the industry seems to be stuck in an echo chamber of biased and myopic approaches to digital transformation. No matter how technology seems to improve or evolve, it seems that software vendors, systems integrators, industry analysts, and other industry players tend to repeat the tired old ways of the industry.

This phenomenon is demonstrated by the fact that so many projects fail. If you look at the top ERP failures of all time, you will find that most problems stem from something other than the technology. In other words, it doesn’t matter how advanced or robust technology becomes. People and process issues tend to derail those efforts.

The culprit of the problem is that the industry is designed to sell as much software and related services as possible. The primary focus is not necessarily to do what’s best for organizations implementing technology. It often seems that vendors and systems integrators are simply trying to do no harm – and sometimes they can’t even accomplish that goal – rather than maximizing business value for their customers.

As this video outlines, the industry has created an effective sales and marketing machine designed to convince you to drink the Kool-Aid:

YouTube player

How innovative and technology-agnostic thought leadership can help digital transformations

In order to succeed organizations (and the industry as a whole) need to think outside the box by challenging the status quo. The first step is to recognize how common industry hoaxes create misinformation, blind spots, and false expectations. The next step is to avoid those common mistakes.

There are three primary ways that effective and technology-agnostic thought leadership can help mitigate risks and optimize your chances for success:

Innovation. Rather than focusing solely on technology innovation, it is more important to focus on finding innovative (yet proven) ways of rethinking your transformation. For example, SAP’s Activate and Microsoft’s Sure Step methodologies are designed to implement software rather than transform your business. What if you were to instead take the best of your vendor or system integrator’s methodology and couple it with highly effective tools and methodologies to address the people and process side of the equation?

Disruption. Since vendors and systems integrators are hard-wired to sell more software, they aren’t interested in disrupting the industry’s status quo. After all, their approach works when it comes to selling more software, but not necessarily when it comes to improving their customers’ businesses. Industry disruption and new ways of thinking are required to break the continuous cycle of vendor/systems integrator failures.

Transparency. Honesty and transparency are severely lacking in this industry. Customers are generally told what they want to hear or what the vendors want to tell them – not necessarily what the customers need to hear. For example, software demos generally focus on cool bells and whistles, but we also need to clearly understand the deficiencies of the software in order to be successful.

Here’s another example: vendors and systems integrators are notorious for forcing cookie-cutter approaches down customer throats and for mismanaging implementation expectations. Both of these tactics may help sell software, but they don’t help make customers successful. Only with transparency and honesty can customers be successful.

Thought leadership helps reach the Third Stage of digital transformation

Most digital transformations get stuck in one of the first two stages of their journeys, while relatively few ever reach the third stage of digital transformation success. Effective thought leadership can help break the pull of gravity to ensure that your transformation launches into the stratosphere.

This is a core reason why we started Third Stage. We know from experience that bias, lack of transparency, and old school thinking are just a few of the self-inflicted wounds that the industry has been perpetrating for decades. As independent digital transformation consultants, our mission is to help you overcome these challenges and break the cycle of the past. This is a core part of our culture and values as an organization.

Please feel free to contact me to discuss your digital transformation and brainstorm ideas on how to make yours more successful. I am happy to be a sounding board as you continue your transformation journey!

Eric Kimberling
Eric is known globally as a thought leader in the ERP consulting space. He has helped hundreds of high-profile enterprises worldwide with their technology initiatives, including Nucor Steel, Fisher and Paykel Healthcare, Kodak, Coors, Boeing, and Duke Energy. He has helped manage ERP implementations and reengineer global supply chains across the world.
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