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Digital Transformation: 5 Simple Things Successful People Do

Dan Fiehn


Digital Transformation

Dan Fiehn, the Group IT Director of Markerstudy Group and a noted expert on digital transformation explores the  five simple fundamentals that successful people – and projects get right.

We live in truly exciting times!

Technology is radically transforming business and it’s only just started. Digital advancements such as Robotic Process Automation (RPA), the Internet of Things (IoT), Blockchain, 3D printing, and Artificial Intelligence (AI), will all have a seismic impact on the markets, your people, and are set to introduce unprecedented levels of operational efficiency.

Those who are nimble, and who take calculated risks, will find new ways to transform, create value, and exploit fresh opportunities.

Gartner has estimated that there will soon be over 6 billion connected devices, and this is set to treble by 2020. It is safe to say that most of us will see changes in our lifetime which are completely beyond our current comprehension.

Whilst the promise of this autonomous future seems incredible, the true reality is that today your business faces a large technology gap and is likely to be struggling with the harsh realities of maintaining ageing systems to run your operation.

This raises a critical question; how to transform whilst keeping the operation running?

At a recent conference, I was recounting my experience as a student back in the 80’s studying Computer Science. As I spoke, I realised that whilst the technology has changed markedly, many of the core attributes of delivering successful technology transformation remain the same.

Digital Transformation 2018

Below are 5 BASIC things which I believe successful people do exceptionally well when delivering digital transformation:

1. Boldness

“~ willingness to take risks and act innovatively; confidence or courage”

There is a constant tension between doing things right and meeting deadlines. (

Organisations spend considerable energy trying to avoid errors. Left unchecked, avoiding mistakes can become the primary objective. This leads to a vicious cycle of diminishing returns, and it is very easy to lose sight of the activities that add true value to your business.

The reality is that nobody gets it right all of the time. It takes bold leadership to see opportunities for adding new value and to act upon them. Successful people establish mechanisms to regularly review what went right. They mentally correct what went wrong, make the necessary adjustments and push on.

We should never be doing something just for the sake of it. It is important that any digital transformation has a profound significance on your business.

In Eric Ries’ excellent book The Lean Startup, he describes a methodology for implementing continuous change which looks to produce a minimal viable product (MVP). This simply means adding something worthwhile and of value.

A great example of boldly pushing the boundaries can be found by looking at Hoxton Analytics video analytics platform.

Be inspired, push the boundaries, challenge the status quo, and most importantly be bold.

2. Astuteness

“~having or showing an ability to accurately assess situations or people and turn this to one’s advantage

Question: How do you decide what the most important things to work on are? Put another way, how do you decide what not to do?

I was lucky to have seen Chris Hadfield speak recently, the first Canadian astronaut and Commander of the Space Station. One couldn’t help but be truly inspired and motivated. One of his key messages that I took away was how they prioritise tasks when preparing the Space Shuttle.

“What is going to kill us next?

I found this an excellent way of thinking; what business tasks are important, and which are less so. It is possible to do everything, but only by not doing everything!

Lessons learned from previous experiences can be the richest source of information to guide you. Innovate how you innovate. Put in place a mechanism to Recognise, Prioritise, and Respond

Build a boat and ride the waves!

3. Simplicity

“~the quality or condition of being easy to understand or do”

It is more than reasonable to expect that technology will become increasingly more intelligent in the future. A great example is the simple umbrella. Now this has become a connected smart device which can advise when you needed it. It can even help you find itself!

This doesn’t mean solutions need to become overly complex. In fact, quite the opposite is happening, as technology becomes seamlessly integrated and invisible.

Successful people are able to clearly articulate a solution, and tell a clear compelling picture of the final destination.

Look to remove unnecessary duplication & complexity.

4. Intensity

“~the quality of being felt strongly or having a very strong effect”

Warren Buffet once said, “Intensity is the price of excellence”

Routine business operational tasks are often cited as a reason for not doing stuff. There never seems enough hours in the day. However, if you want something badly enough there will always be a way to succeed.

Successful people have a positive mindset and the drive to make a lasting difference. In fact, having less time available is often just the positive catalyst needed to take calculated risks in order to achieve extraordinary results.

Below are five reasons why people give up:

  1. TIME – It takes longer than we initially thought;
  2. OWNERSHIP – We’re not bought into the idea;
  3. DIFFICULTY – Much harder than we initially thought;
  4. DISTRACTIONS – Too many other things to do;
  5. MAINTENANCE – We believe we have to support it forever

Intensity is not just a mindset, it’s a form of behaviour. Be the optimist in the room driving the change. There is always a way, you just need to find it.

5. Curiosity

“~a strong desire to know or learn something”

Have you ever thought that the key to your businesses future may be hiding in the past?

Finding new insights, previously unseen patterns, behavioural inefficiencies could all unlock new gains however marginal.

There are limits to how much we can learn through verbal instruction. The most effective way to learn is by example and by direct experience. This may require unlearning old practices and learning new ones (Alvin Toffler)

As the 19th century academic Ralph Emerson once said,

Nothing great was ever created without enthusiasm.

Curiosity is a form of enthusiasm. Successful people who exhibit this trait are typically not constrained by the limits of perceived boundaries.

Curiosity can be extremely contagious.

Ask yourself, could you change your company environment to encourage more curiosity? Are you working within perceived boundaries which are limiting the possibilities?

If you answer yes to either of these questions, maybe it’s time to become more curious.

For your business to survive, it is reasonable for you to expect that you’ll need to keep pace with technology to remain competitive. Whilst the rate change is undoubtedly moving at pace, I believe that the fundamental attributes which successful people exhibit whilst delivering digital transformation remain the same.

We can all make a positive lasting difference. Digital transformation doesn’t needs to be complex. Just think BASIC

  • Boldness
  • Astuteness
  • Simplicity
  • Intensity
  • Curiosity

Exciting times!

Digital Transformation 2018

Dan Fiehn, Group IT Director, MarkerStudy Group

Dan Fiehn

Group IT Director, Markerstudy Group

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