Book review – Leading Digital

Leading Digital : George Westerman   Didier Bonnet     Ndrew McAfee

The beginning: Are you ready?

And to add the conclusive words bring stark reality: we ain’t seen nothing yet. The barrage of technology will be so prolific that they will enter and reshape the business world.  Moore’s Law as central drumbeat of digital future says it all.

The authors focus on big companies, in industries from finance to manufacturing to pharmaceuticals. Succeeding companies are addressed by authors as Digital Masters who are 26 percent more profitable than average industry competitors, generate 9 percent more revenue with existing capacity and drive more efficiency in their existing products and processes.

The general prediction by inventor, entrepreneur and venture capitalist Marc Andreessen in a 2011 Wall Street Journal column sumps it all: Why Software Is Eating the World.”

And here are most comforting words that on the basis of their research and through the book authors hope to convince the reader that digital mastery is achievable goal for any enterprise. And their hope is supported by the handholding done from beginning to end, the end which covers self-assessment to map digital capacity and leadership capabilities of the organization for Digital Mastery.

As per the authors Digital Masters have global presence. Case studies cover Asian Paints, India’s largest paint company which has maintained 15 percent growth annually for a decade. Nike created new business unit Nike Digital Sport for engaging with customers across its categories. And then Codelco, the world’s largest copper producer looked inward to increase efficiency and innovativeness. This covered from working with number of stakeholders including sometimes even Codelco’s competitors to innovate operational processes to creating a more attractive business for new workers who don’t like working inside the mines and inside tunnels.

And then we have Burberry and Caesars’ prerequisites like strong operational capabilities for exceptional digitally powered customer experience. Though operational capabilities are far less visible to outsiders than changes in customer experience it is indeed valuable source of competitive advantage. The example brought forth is US car manufacturers who took many years to get good at Toyota’s lean manufacturing methods, even though Toyota willingly gave factory tours to its rivals’ executives.

Competition is global however digital technologies have provided sources to go after new opportunities. The shelf life of existing business models is becoming shorter thus questioning the very notion of lasting competitiveness.

Business Model Reinvention has become part of today’s management lexicon; it is still an emerging field with several interpretations and definitions. In Leading Digital authors have focused on how businesses conduct the digital transformation from the lenses of large global organizations. The book covers five broad archetypes of business model reinvention driven by digital technology namely: reinventing industries, substituting products or services, creating new digital businesses, reconfiguring value delivery models and rethinking value propositions.

And somewhere half way through the authors nudge the readers by a direction question: Have you translated your vision in action? That is vision translated into a focused set of goals and initiatives which is the key starting point for implementing the digital transformation.

Some cautions: No major change happens without someone in charge.  This brings out the new reality of Digital Leadership Roles and so just naming someone a chief digital officer (CDO) or an equivalent role won’t help. One needs to give teeth to digital role by appointing a senior executive.

Sustaining the digital transformation is like any other large transformation programs. Change fatigue sets in and new ways of working begin to give in to the old ways of working. This is a time where skills gaps become obvious. Quote from Joe Gross of insurer Allianz Group enforces the above thought that maintaining and accelerating the momentum would be a top challenge for the group.

Suggestion is to build organization Digital Platform, a coherent set of business processes, along with supporting infrastructure, applications, and data, intended to ensure the quality and predictability of the core transactions.

Reference to Additive manufacturing (also called 3 – D printing), Wearable technology conforms that Leading Digital is A job for Now!


– Madhuri Lele.

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