A Doctrine for Digital Transformation is Required


In my 30-years in the high tech industry I have often heard the business maxim, “Develop a business strategy first, and then find the technology to support it.” This well-worn business doctrine, I have come to believe in this age of digital transformation, is wrong and it is time to repudiate it.

Let me support my argument by first asking a few questions.  What came first e-commerce or the Internet?  What came first mobile commerce, or wireless mobile communications?  What came first the commercial airline industry or the airplane?  What came first armored knights being used as shock troops, or stirrups?  Stirrups of course!  Technology innovations have a long history of appearing first, and then doctrines evolving slowly later.  What we are learning, however, is if your outdated business doctrines are dictating the speed of your technology adoptions - you are in big trouble! The world is moving much too fast and organizations must now align the tempo of their business doctrine evolution with the pace of technology innovations and customer adoptions.

Strategy is the art of making use of time and space. I am less concerned about the latter than the former. Space we can recover, lost time never." -- Napoleon Bonaparte

Today digital transformations defined as, “Changes across an organization associated with the application of digital technologies,” are happening all around us as a result of technology innovations and fast changing consumer behaviors.  These digital transformations, welcomed or not, force new and updated business doctrines if companies are to successfully compete.

Before we move on, let’s define doctrine as, “Fundamental principles by which an organization guides their actions to accomplish their mission.”  It is a conceptual framework of knowledge and thought relevant to the environment and times.  It provides a common vocabulary for use across organizations.  It reflects an aggregated understanding of six key areas:

  1. Who am I?
  2. What are my objectives or missions?
  3. What are my strengths and weaknesses?
  4. What is the nature of my competition?
  5. How do I prepare to compete?
  6. What methods do I employ to compete and win?

I propose organizations today need a “digital transformation” doctrine, a DTD (digital transformation doctrine).  Without a DTD, organizations will lack a unified understanding of why they are transforming, and the role transformation plays in helping them compete successfully to achieve their overall objectives.  

Doctrine represents and codifies best practice, based on enduring principles, examples from history and validated lessons from experience and operations. An approved set of principles and methods, intended to provide organisations with a common outlook and a uniform basis for action. ~ Professor Richard Holmes, Army Doctrine Primer 

As we all know digital technologies do not just enhance and extend existing processes and models, but they open doors to all kinds of new innovations, competitors, businesses processes, strategies and even new industries.  An organization’s DTD must be capable of leading them successfully through these massive and accelerating changes.  An organization’s DTD should influence all of their strategies, how they operate and the tactics they employee to compete.  In our research, we find most companies are experiencing digital transformation, but few have a recognized doctrine to lead them on this digital transformation journey.

A useful example of a DTD is, "Ensure competitive advantages in your identified marketplaces through information dominance and by employing superior data collection, analysis and information logistics systems, which provide full situational awareness, support data-driven decision-making, automated algorithms and enable the delivery of real-time contextually relevant insights and personalized digital user experiences." ~ Kevin Benedict

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