What’s the difference between a digital bolt-on and transformative digital disruption?
In the two years I’ve been on the road talking with executives around the world about digital business and delivering keynotes on digital transformation, I’ve been most frequently asked about bolt-on vs. transformation; what’s the difference?
A digital bolt-on is a digital project that is added to the existing business model that might improve the customer experience in a small way, but doesn’t fundamentally change how value is created for, and/or delivered to, the customer. For example, when a company updates a website and provides customers an electronic ordering platform, they are not changing the existing business model; they are simply providing an alternative channel through which the customer can buy products. The value proposition remains the same: buy and experience our product and you’ll gain value from the experience. Digital (in this case an online sales channel) has been bolted to the existing business model in much the same way a teenager bolts a spoiler onto an old car to make it "go faster".
Empowering a central team to set digital strategy, provide common platforms, and provide specialist resources can help business units develop their digital maturity by embracing a set of common standards while still tailoring their customer experience to their specific market needs. Yet many central teams run into difficulty. They fail to clearly communicate their purpose and remit, they struggle to navigate the realities of corporate politics, and they forget to demonstrate their successes through clear metrics. CIOs looking to accelerate their firm's digital journey by building a digital acceleration team should first assess their organization's readiness and appetite (see Figure).
In the age of the customer, your company must exploit digital assets in order to deliver world-class customer experiences and compete effectively. But moving the business from its traditional roots toward digital mastery requires the executive team to paint a compelling digital business vision.
1. Illustrate what customers will value in the future. The way your customers derive value from your products and services today will not be the same in the future. Your business will need to use digital technology to create new sources of value. Instead of simply designing a physical product or service to be used by a customer to satisfy a need, your firm must reimagine your products and services as digital services enhanced by physical products and people. Customer perceptions of value will be shaped by the digital experiences you create to help them achieve their desires. Your digital vision must help employees understand this shift.
What’s the top imperative at your company? If it’s not a transformation to make the company more customer-focused, you’re making a mistake. Technology and economic forces have changed the world so much that an obsession with winning, serving, and retaining customers is the only possible response.
We’re in an era of persistent economic imbalances defined by erratic economic growth, deflationary fears, an oversupply of labor, and surplus capital hunting returns in a sea of record-low interest rates. This abundance of capital and labor means that the path from good idea to customer-ready product has never been easier, and seamless access to all of the off-the-shelf components needed for a startup fuels the rise of weightless companies, which further intensify competition.
Chastened by a weak economy, presented with copious options, and empowered with technology, consumers have more market muscle than ever before. The information advantage tips to consumers with ratings and review sites. They claim pricing power by showrooming. And the only location that matters is the mobile phone in their hand from which they can buy anything from anyone and have it delivered anywhere.
This customer-driven change is remaking every industry. Cable and satellite operators lost almost 400,000 video subscribers in 2013 and 2014 as customers dropped them for the likes of Netflix. Lending Club, an alternative to commercial banks, has facilitated more than $6 billion in peer-to-peer loans. Now that most B2B buyers would rather buy from a website than a salesperson, we estimate that 1 million B2B sales jobs will disappear in the coming years.
Digital transformation is undeniably complex and often misunderstood. To look at why things go wrong for some firms, lets take a quick look at three high-profile examples of transformation - two failures and one new initiative. These highlight some common mistakes that senior executives make:
Have you seen the movie Birdman — the one that just won the Best Picture and Best Director Oscars? It’s about a middle-aged man who was once a popular movie star but has been criticized throughout his career and how he finally achieved a breakthrough performance and found great success in a Broadway production of the play What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.
The story of Microsoft Azure is similar. Microsoft was hugely popular in the age of the PC but has sailed into troubled waters in the cloud era. But now — a year after Azure’s commercial launch in China — CIOs and EA professionals must understand how and where Azure might impact their existing MSFT technology investments to achieve business transformation. Azure is one of the leading forces driving cloud adoption in China. We attribute this to the progress that Microsoft has made by:
Expanding product offerings.Microsoft Azure now has local products in four key categories: compute, network, data, and application. Beyond basic components like virtual machines, websites, storage, and content delivery networks, Azure also has advanced features that are important for Chinese customers to address their unique challenges, including mobile services for the rapid development of mobile apps to accommodate the massive shift to mobile; a service bus for integration to eliminate information silos in the cloud; and HDInsight for big data capabilities to gain the customer insights necessary to compete with digital disruption from local Internet companies.
Spring is finally here, and with that, a time for wild animals to emerge from their winter sleep. We humans don’t really hibernate, but we can find it difficult to get out of bed to face a rather frosty environment. This applies to companies, too.
As we researched our new report about trends in European digital insurance, it became clear that no one is really disputing the value of direct insurance. European insurers have suffered seven lean years, as premiums in property, casualty, and life insurance largely stagnated. Direct sales have often been an area that continued to deliver growth. Because of this, we expect most European insurers to step up their investments and efforts in this area.
Over the past year, there has certainly been plenty of press coverage surrounding the emergence of the new “Chief Digital Officer” (CDO). And the research we published in 2013 on the CDO role does identify how some firms can potentially benefit from a CDO role working alongside the CMO and CIO. But I’m beginning to see more business-savvy CIOs follow Starbucks' ex-CIO Stephen Gillett’s example and step up to lead digital strategy and digital initiatives.
In fact, CIOs with experience in marketing and/or business-unit leadership — especially eBusiness — are well equipped to lead the future digital transformation journey in many companies. They understand business strategy; they can relate to the outside-in customer view; and they already have an enterprise perspective.
OK, so there are not many CIOs out there today with this kind of experience (my estimate is around 20%) — but this is exactly the kind of CIO that CEOs need to hire in the future.
So let’s not get too hung up on titles — what really matters is the ability to combine a deep understanding of the customer with an understanding of how digital technology will drive new sources of customer value.
That’s the focus of a new series of reports we’ve just published (see below). The reports help digital-savvy CIOs work with business leaders to create a clear vision for what it means to be a digital business and start down the path toward digital business transformation.
It’s no secret that digital skills are in short supply. In fact, while some three quarters of executives tell us their firm now has some form of digital strategy (however rudimentary), a paltry 16% say they have the skills and capabilities necessary to deliver it. Even though the average eBusiness team’s staffing budget is growing year on year, finding the skills and capabilities to execute on a digital strategy is becoming harder and harder.
eBusiness Teams Have An Average Of 95 Employees. The average eBusiness team has 95 team members. As would be expected, the larger the worldwide revenue, online revenue, or total employee count is, the larger the eBusiness team is.
Technology And Customer Experience Are Still The Hardest Roles To Fill. Technology, customer experience, and business analytics are the hardest jobs to hire for. Additionally, technology and customer experience are the most outsourced, and technology is the most understaffed.
The Digital Skills Gap Continues To Widen. Digital transformation brings an increased level of responsibility for eBusiness employees who are often leading the charge for company-wide transformation in addition to handling day-to-day operations. As all business becomes digital business, eBusiness teams will have an increasingly difficult time sourcing talent.