Last week was Connexion, the first ever digital transformation fair hosted by Les Affaires. I had the opportunity to give a talk entitled, “Is your business model ready?” This post will highlight the main ideas presented during that talk.
With the arrival of digital disruptors in every industry, whether or not they come from the same vertical market, companies are being forced to rethink their value proposition.
Those who’ve had the chance to work with us are familiar with our leitmotif: digital’s greatest potential comes from profound transformations that exploit opportunities across every sector of the organization. These opportunities change everything from the product and services offering, to customer relations, choice of channels, operations and finance; in short, the entire business model.
Does the reality aim too low?
However, in reality we’re seeing something else altogether:
We use hyper-effective programmatic media tools to create a drive-to-store campaign, but towards stores that are unconnected.
We do multivariate testing on shopping cart pages, while the shipping policy is preventing users from completing their transactions.
We put our money behind personalization based on CRM data, even though transactions are processed on a whole other system.
A large number of existing companies are evolving in a reality that reflects more of a patchwork than an overarching vision, even when that patchwork is carried out according to digital best practices.
By adopting best practices, we do nothing to stand out.
Essentially, when we say “best practices” what we mean is methods that have already been tested, proven, improved, etc. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t adopt them. But you should be looking at them more as a solid base from which to build something innovative. You have to move from tactical to strategic thinking, and take a step back to ask the big questions:
What does our company really contribute to society? Its mission.
How do we see its future? Its vision.
What does it really represent? Its values.
So, digital transformation doesn’t just consist of adopting best practices, or rebuilding a traditional model that’s not adapted to digital.
Very often, companies are looking for market share, efficiency, rapid growth, etc. In other words, they want tactical measures to accomplish their mission. On the other end, market demand rests more on concrete actions, economies of scale and short-term results, in short, on certain parameters of the mission. The business model nevertheless involves certain elements which are truly immovable. The key is to figure out which those are, then use digital to exploit their full potential.
To successfully effect a digital transformation, we first and foremost need to understand this paradigm and define our actions (intentions are not enough) based on a concrete, long-term vision. Google didn’t develop its empire by saying it was going to disrupt the journalism sector. It had a very clear idea in mind: get the right answers to the right person.
Find your unicorn
If you asked me to “sell” digital transformation internally, my answer would be simple, even if the issues are complex: it involves finding the unicorn that will allow a company to stand out in a concrete and sustainable way. Every company that’s been able to get funding (externally or internally) has been able to present and defend its unicorn.
In the end, it’s the unicorn that will motivate investors, boards of directors, etc. It’s the unicorn that will give you growth rates of 25, 50, 200% — not adopting of best practices, which might only generate 10% growth, and certainly not making small-scale tactical moves, which translate to growth of 2-3%.
Incidentally, the unicorn also promotes employee and partner engagement: people inherently want to contribute to projects that align with a larger vision, which also helps with efficiency, motivation, partnerships — I could go on.
The start-ups with a clear, mobilizing mission are the ones that get the funding that established companies aren’t bold enough to go after. And when we see that, we have no other choice but to help our clients fish what they need out of their business models to bring their unicorns to life.