15 Rules for Winning During the Age of Digital Transformation

Competitors can’t compete, and leaders can’t lead if they don’t know the rules of the game.  Understanding how points are scored, and what is required to win is key to any competition.  In the age of digital transformation these are the key rules to learn:

  1. Data is the modern commercial battlefield
  2. Information dominance is the strategic goal
  3. It takes an “Optimized Information Logistics Systems” (OILS) to compete
  4. Advantages in speed, analytics, operational tempos and information logistics - determine the winners
  5. Real-time operational tempos are required
  6. Businesses that can “analyze data and act and with speed” dominate those which are slower
  7. Advantages lead to more advantages (Ax2).  When you are out front, you see things first and can react faster.
  8. Situational awareness enables innovations and operations at a lower cost and with increased efficiencies
  9. Principal of API Acceleration & Mobility – As demand for mobile apps increases, an even greater demand for new APIs and changes across the business and IT will arise
  10. Mobile apps provide only as much value as the systems behind them
  11. The more data that is collected, analyzed and used, the greater the economic value and innovation opportunities it produces
  12. Data has a shelf life, and the economic value of data diminishes quickly over time
  13. The economic value of information multiplies when combined with context and right time delivery
  14. The size of opponents are less representative of power today, than the quality of their sensor systems, mobile communication links and their ability to use information to their advantage
  15. Ultimately winners will dominate by automating decision-making and executing repetitive work using robotic process automation better and faster than competitors through the implementation of artificial intelligence and machine learning

These rules not only help you understand how to compete and win, but they should also guide enterprises in their development of a digital transformation doctrine. 

In a recent survey we conducted with over 2,000 executives in 18 countries, the majority of all survey participants agreed that developing a clear digital transformation strategy is a top priority.  Digital transformation strategies, however, grow out of, and are shaped and guided by a digital transformation doctrine (DTD).  We define doctrine as a documented way of thinking, a common frame of reference across an organization, which provides an authoritative body of statements on how the business should approach digital transformation.  It provides a common lexicon for use and a framework for developing strategies. The DTD is a necessary first step before digital transformation strategies and tactics can be developed and implemented.

Digital technologies do not just enhance and extend existing processes and models, but they open doors to all kinds of new innovations, opportunities, 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 found most companies recognize digital transformation is happening, but few have a guiding doctrine to lead them on this chaotic journey.  Without a DTD, organizations lack a unified understanding of why they are engaged in digital transformation and the role transformation plays in helping them compete successfully.

Executive teams must define how their organization should think about digital transformation.  The DTD should be obvious in every program, project, campaign, product and service within the company.  A sample of a DTD follows:

The digital transformation of our marketplace is changing the behaviors of our customers and the nature of our competition.  We must anticipate and embrace permanent flux by employing digital technologies and strategies, and by creating a digitally agile business and a digitally transformed enterprise. We will achieve information dominance by investing appropriately to develop and maintain an optimized information logistics system. We will restructure our organizations for business agility, speed and real-time decision-making.  We will develop a culture that encourages collaboration, innovation and creativity.

  1. Digital Transformation and the Ignorance Penalty
  2. Surviving the Three Ages of Digital Transformation
  3. From Digital to Hyper-Transformation
  4. Believers, Non-Believers and Digital Transformation
  5. Forces Driving the Digital Transformation Era
  6. Digital Transformation Requires Agility and Energy Measurement
  7. A Doctrine for Digital Transformation is Required
  8. The Advantages of Advantage in Digital Transformation
  9. Digital Transformation and Its Role in Mobility and Competition
  10. Digital Transformation - A Revolution in Precision Through IoT, Analytics and Mobility
  11. Competing in Digital Transformation and Mobility
  12. Ambiguity and Digital Transformation
  13. Digital Transformation and Mobility - Macro-Forces and Timing
  14. Mobile and IoT Technologies are Inside the Curve of Human Time


I'm In With the Linked-In Crowd

The $26bn acquisition of Linked-In by Microsoft last week is a bit of a digital Rorschach test. To some folks I’ve talked to it’s a visionary master stroke that opens up all sorts of new possibilities in “social selling” and cements the role of email in an increasingly Slacky world. To others, for whom Linked-In is still something of a mystery, it’s a bit of a head-scratcher. And then to some it’s a colossal waste of money. $26bn! For what? A web-site where people put their resume and scratch your back in the hope that you’ll scratch theirs! Man, the sell-side bankers did an outstanding job!!! $26bn for a company on the brink of implosion! http://nyti.ms/25Uawxk. Take a bow, Frank Quattrone.

Personally, I see in the ink-splatter all sorts of upside for Microsoft. Consider this;

Linked-In is the de-facto corporate directory for business nowadays; talking to someone on the phone you don’t know? You’re probably looking at their Linked-In profile as you chat. Even if it’s someone in your own company. Listening to someone talk at a conference? You’re probably checking them out on Linked-In (and Twitter) as they blabber on. Before you head back to SI.com.

  • Linked-In is becoming the de-facto thought leadership platform; why have your own website or blog nowadays? Go where the fish are and put your stuff up on Linked-In. Hey, look! You’re reading this on Linked-In!!!
  • Linked-in is the de-facto way of connecting with people you don’t know but would like to know; sure, you probably still meet folks at the golf club or the Rotary or the gym or the resort bar or the Opera but if you want to get connected with someone nowadays a direct call seems hopelessly crude and old-fashioned. And nobody answers their phone anyway if you call them.
  • Not having a presence on Linked-In marks you out as an eccentric or a dinosaur. Even if you’re not in the market for a new gig, don’t want to buy anything, or don’t want to sell something. And if you’re not in any one of those three categories then what are you doing at work all day?

In short, Linked-In is close to becoming a utility in the 21st century digital economy. When you’ve got $100bn parked in banks around the world collecting 0.5% interest spending some of it (even a quarter of it) to buy your way into the next form of business infrastructure seems Bellicheckian (i.e. a good play). (BTW: if you still don’t care for the deal, tell me, what would you do with all that money???!!!)

And in reality the $26bn isn’t buying today’s Linked-In; it’s buying what Linked-In will become. Three years ago, I wrote this piece outlining how HR processes would look in a world of Code Halos. http://bit.ly/1Myr2VR. Far be it from me to tell you “I told you so”, but I told you so.

Fast forward to mid-2016 and this is how HR, and selling, and working with other people is beginning to change and shift into an always-on, mobile, social, intelligent network based experience. Fast forward to 2020 and this type of experience will be ubiquitous and unremarkable.

Of course for Microsoft the ability to migrate the best elements of Office (no sniggering at the back of the room please) into this, not particularly brave, new world gives the Office franchise a post desktop future and sends a shot across lots of bows; the aforementioned Slack, the new BFFs at Salesforce.com, and the folks down south with a Mountain View. Microsoft will integrate the tools we use to work with the utility we use to connect and collaborate, throw AI based analytics, recommendation engines and best next action platforms into the mix, stir in a little advertising, light the blue touch paper, stand back, and hope the resulting explosion produces commercial propulsion, not reputational disaster.

$26bn to have a shot at being relevant to people who’ve never ever heard of Clippy? http://theatln.tc/1GHTL90. Like.

Like also because it prompted me to go and play this again http://bit.ly/1Fye23P. Really Like.

In a world of weak ties, not club ties, Linked-In is increasingly how the world works. Expect your Microsoft rep to start talking about social graphs and digital assistants and just in time social learning before the quarter’s out.

$26bn? Ok, hardly chump change. But not a chump move.

Every click, swipe, "like," buy, comment, deposit, jog and search produces information that creates a unique virtual identity - something we call

Code Halo

Code Halo TM
Learn more »

Fahrenheit A.I.

There’s something about fire. Crackling, feeding, inviting, meditative, consuming, unpredictable, destructive. We need it, we love it -- but it can harm.

I recently wondered whether accelerating innovations in artificial intelligence could be as game-changing as the discovery of fire by Homo erectus. There is no question that fire catalyzed the development of early humans. But there were massive risks too; and many likely burned, maimed, harmed or otherwise killed resources, friends, families, enemies – or themselves – in the process of figuring it out. But ultimately – fire allowed great leaps forward.

Yet one of the overarching storylines we hear in the media around artificial intelligence is: “What happens if it gets out of control and kills us all?” Elon Musk talks of “summoning the demon” of artificial intelligence, “our biggest existential threat.” Extraordinary theoretical thinkers like Stephen Hawking warn that automation and artificial intelligence could potentially be “the worst mistake in history.”

One can imagine (literally) less-brainy folk than Hawking and Musk 125,000 years ago wringing their hands over the innovative members of the tribe, the pyromaniacs among them: “Don’t touch that! It’ll kill us all! It’s already burned half of the savannah and all the animals in it! It came from a thunderbolt IN THE SKY!”

Fast-forward to modern times and consider little and big examples of “fire gone out of control moments”:

  • THE ACCIDENTAL: A kid playing with matches
  • THE DELIBERATE: Wild-eyed, crazy arsonist
  • THE METEOROLOGICAL: Thor and his thunderbolts, touching off wildfires
  • THE SEISMIC: San Francisco 1906, burning to the ground
  • THE BELLICOSE: Coventry, Dresden, Hiroshima, the World Trade Center...

But the march of human progress always entails some risk. Without it, we don’t evolve. And how do you “de-risk” AI? Well, how did we – humans – de-risk fire?

There’s an obvious answer staring us right in the face, in every community, whether it’s big, small, or in-between, that helps us all “not wring our hands” over fire and sleep safely at night.

Your local fire department.

Yes, that good, old-fashioned-with-new-equipment bastion of bell-ringing, helmet wearing, siren-blasting, axe-wielding, oxygen-mask wearing, pole-sliding heroes that you probably don’t think too much about in the day-to-day, but that gets the biggest cheer from the community at the Fourth of July Parade.

Think about it: most of the time, today’s firefighters stand guard, at the ready, but the actual time they spend battling blazes is rather small. Yet there they are, and society sleeps soundly knowing they are there, waiting for the alarm. One need only look at your tax bill to understand – even decades of predictive, preventative measures like sprinkler systems, smoke detectors, GFCI breakers, and the unfortunate tightening noose of fireplace no-burn days – it’s the price we all pay to ensure they’re “on the wall” when all other safety measures fail.

A New Role: Digital First-Responders in the Future of Work

The advent of modern firefighting may be instructive to today’s digital shiftpoint. It was when humanity started to get really “civilized”, industrial and mechanized that the fire department as we know it became a key fixture in every town, village, city, and state. While there were some rudimentary efforts in ancient Rome, It started in France in the early 18th century, and was catalyzed later by Napoleon, who originated "professional" firefighters, known as Sapeurs-Pompiers culled from the French Army. Across the channel, London suffered great fires in 798, 982, 989, 1212 and above all the Great Fire of London in 1666 – which finally, ahem “lit a fire under” the City Council to craft the first fire insurance company.

So that’s why I’m calling for the creation of a new profession in the Future of Work: FAIrefighters. Or, perhaps to coin a less-clunky term, let’s call them “Bot Busters”. Who you gonna call...?

I Ain’t Afraid of No `Bot

Imagine this: FAIrefighters (or Bot Busters) could be something like your friendly neighborhood fire department; brigades of technological specialist teams -- first responders, if you will – ready at a moment’s notice to sweep down virtual Internet poles, erect network ladders, and hack through roofs in the Cloud and douse scary situations where misbehaving AI starts to veer into the direction of unintended consequences.

Our modern fire brigades (and how to pay for them) offer a template: FAIrefighters/Bot Busters could be organized by successively higher orders of classification within the community, local or state/national governments to deal with the physical, as well as virtual, perils of misbehaving AI, and could be something all of society pays for (just like today for firefighters, you’ll find them as a line-item on your property-tax bill).

FAIrefighters could run the gamut from everyday generalists to crack teams of highly compensated, highly trained, highly skilled set of “first responders” should trouble strike. From a small flare-up in the connected home (connected fridge over-spilling with too much milk?), or a glitch in a self-driving car, the FAIrefighters are there. A rogue platoon of micro-bots that’s taking care of nuisance rodents (without pesticides) suddenly going amok and massing around the baby’s crib? Call the FAIrefighters with neutralizing code, algorithms and magnetized traps to rein in the mayhem. They know how to handle it. To quote Bill Murray’s Ghostbusters character Dr. Peter Venkman: “We came, we saw, we kicked its [rump]...”

That’s the “easy” stuff.

Just like for real five-alarm emergencies, you could imagine small strike teams might have to burgeon to coordinate hundreds, perhaps thousands, of other forces – technological or physical – much like fighting a massive “real” fire takes today. You see them every time a major wildfire in California blows up: tanker planes, bombers, elite paratroops (smoke jumpers), armies of back-country ground troops (often convict teams from prisons, and the real unsung heroes that scale forces to keep things under control) to get the upper hand.

A future grid meltdown in 30 years causes Friday afternoon LA driverless cars to logjam into levels of crazy not seen since 2016? Imagine that a five-alarm LAF(AI)D city-wide response is there for remediation, rescue and back-up restoration.

Lessons Learned from Our Bravest

Let’s put even our most fantastical worries about AI in some perspective. A good friend of mine is a Battalion Chief for the Oakland Fire Department. I heard him give a talk about the catastrophic 2013 Rim Fire near Yosemite, the largest wildfire on record in the Sierra Nevada mountain range, which burned from August to October, and cost $127 million to put out.

At one point the heat was so intense, it blew up a massive pyro-cumulus cloud into the stratosphere. The moisture in the cloud at that altitude resulted in a crystalline ice-cap that could no longer hold its weight, which came plummeting back to earth, creating a hurricane force wind, effectively turning the Tuolumne River canyon into a blast furnace the size of a small mountain range. And honestly, looking at this photo, the scale of destruction is almost as if several hydrogen bombs (minus the fallout) detonated over the top of the forest. Honestly, does the spectre of AI-gone-wild even compare?

My friend was also a veteran of the catastrophic 1991 Oakland Hills fire, which killed 25 and burned nearly 3,000 homes. And his lesson learned is that sometimes they can’t stop it, but they are THERE to control the damage. In the case of Oakland (like San Francisco in 1906 and London in 1666), they rebuilt. In the case of Yosemite, it will be a couple hundred years (my great-great-great-great grandchildren) to see that forest as I had prior to 2013.

In an era where AI – like fire – has all the potential to make society better in all the right ways (healthier, smarter, more connected, empathic, etc.), it just makes plain sense to look at this through a Future of Work lens; that any problems are confronted just as we’ve always done -- as a civic endeavor. The first fire departments happened because of modernization of things like insurance, coupled with advances in military organization. Yes they were crude, and probably very ineffectual against the biggest of disasters (much like the combined might of all of Cal Fire was against the Rim Fire). But that doesn’t make the preparedness, readiness, and heroism inherent in the profession any less admirable (think of the pictures of firefighters going up the World Trade Center stairs in 2001, or those heading into the Fukushima Daiichi reactor core). Even though the circumstances were horrible, that’s something everyone in society can agree on as “a good thing”.

Just like the fire brigades of old, we can expect tomorrow’s FAIrefighters (yes, let’s call them that – less goofy than Bot Busters) to grow in number, to get better, and feature full-time, volunteer, part time, small scale, large scale, and situational professionals ready at a moment’s notice to “respond to the call”. Come 2100, we may deservedly call our FAIrefighters a pillar of our community – they’re always there for us, bot battlin’, code hacking, AI stiflin’ corps that we’ll be proud to call our finest.