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Digital Transformation: Strategy Push or Technology Pull?

Digital Transformation: Strategy Push or Technology Pull?

 

“If we understand what the technology is capable of, we will be in a better place to tell you how our organisation can leverage it” - says one business leader.

“This is what we want the business to achieve and how we’re going to get there.  Go find technology that helps make this happen” - says another.

So which comes first?

Do we start with understanding what technology is capable of and devising a strategy to leverage it? Or do we define our strategy and then use technology to deliver it? Should leadership strategy push the business or should the rapid adoption of new technologies pull the business? Perhaps it’s a hybrid of strategy push and technology pull?

CIO.co.uk (an online magazine for Chief Innovation Officers) suggests that IT supports the business strategy. They argue that organisations should have an agile IT function capable of exploiting new technologies that facilitate delivery of the organisation’s strategic vision.

Harvard Business Review, as far back as 1980 have been suggesting that strategy pushes the business and technology is required as a support function.  MIT Sloan don’t sit on the fence either.  They suggest that Strategy - not Technology Drives Digital Transformation.

Times however are changing.  Most of these thought leadership articles were written pre-Artificial Intelligence - an advancement that has the potential to radically alter how organisations operate and compete.  The explosion of new technologies and their rapid adoption by industry and consumers, is creating massive opportunities for businesses that are technically informed, agile, opportunistic and innovative. Few modern businesses can claim to be all four unless their leadership has at least studied formal frameworks for digital transformation and upgraded their leadership thinking in new data driven decision making strategy planning and leadership techniques. A leader's challenge is what to do with these emerging technologies and artificial intelligence ie. how to extract business value from them without necessarily understanding how they work.

My own experience would suggest that the most advantaged leaders create strategy influenced by what is possible. They leverage new technologies as well as the assets that have always delivered competitive advantage to their business. They don’t abandon what makes them great, they augment it, enhance it, upgrade it.  Transformation however is where they aim for step change not marginal gain. If I were to put a number on it, the most successfully transformed businesses are 80% strategy-pushed and 20% opportunistically technology-pulled.

Article first published by Prof Niall McKeown on ionology.com

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