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I love the Olympics. I don’t just watch, I participate. I swing my arms wildly around to help skiers get to the finish line. I pirouette on the floor helping skaters land jumps. I cry watching stories about determination, perseverance, sacrifices of athletes determined to get to the Olympics. Your digital transformation journey is like preparing for the Olympics; you have to be ALL IN. Just like winning one championship won’t qualify you for the Olympics, launching one successful project doesn’t mean your business can continuously reinvent itself and survive. For every unicorn marketplace, sharing-economy, or razor-supplying company worth billions, there are hundreds of enterprises grappling with how to compete in the Digital Era.

Anya headshotI’m Anya Minbiole, and I run programs supporting Microsoft Digital Advisory Services. Digital Advisors bring their expertise, as well as Microsoft’s resources, experience and innovation, to empower organizations to reach their digital aspirations. We partner to drive a program of change to build our customers’ digital business, and our website can be found here: Microsoft Digital Advisory Services.

What we’ve found from working with thousands of customers is that the key to successfully turning an existing enterprise into a digital business comes from consistently working towards the goal of rapid innovation – and it all begins with culture.

1. On your mark – strengthen your digital culture

Athletes striving for Olympic gold have a culture of practicing so consistently that on race day, they reach peak performance.  

meeting illustrationFor companies, culture matters too. In fact, it’s everything. One way to reach peak performance in innovation is to turn your perception of your company on its head. If you were a venture capital firm, how would you approach nurturing your first investment (your current business), while keeping an eye out and growing your portfolio of new businesses? How would you recognize, manage and tap the value of new ideas? How would you ensure cash and talent were available to fund and staff promising new ideas before it’s too late? What infrastructure would you need to fail fast or double down? Can you innovate in sprints instead of single monolithic projects? Below are a few strategies that mature organizations have taken to drive change and have the agility to innovate and to respond to threats of disruptions from digital natives:

  • The Nedbank leadership built a Digital Fast Lane, a team that gathers experts from the company and beyond to envision the future and continuously turn that vision into reality.
  • at Microsoft, “…I have come to understand that my primary job is to curate our culture so that one hundred thousand inspired minds—Microsoft’s employees—can better shape our future.” Writing Hit Refresh by Satya Nadella

2. Get set – launch from your digital platform

data illustrationThe platform of the athlete is their body; it enables them to perform, adapt to new conditions, and compete for the Olympic gold medal. Companies use their digital platforms to leverage the power of technology to adapt their business before somebody else reinvents it for them. They develop and scale out customer experiences that span devices, timeframes and locations, adapt and grow to accommodate for technology breakthroughs just around the corner, and access digital era services such as the Internet of Things (IoT), AI, and existing systems. These organizations are developing their digital platforms to meet their goals:

3. Go – use a digital approach to continuously deliver

runner illustrationLike Olympic gold medalists, companies that have developed a digital approach will continuously re-imagine where they want to be and set out a plan to get there. They dream, design, and deliver… and start again. A company dreams to envision its desired future, consider value and alternatives, and create the initial roadmap. My colleague Robert Hanegraaff describes this process in his blog – Dream Big, Start Small, and Choose Wisely.  As we design, we create a joint team and refine the ideas, identify dependencies, and eliminate roadblocks. You’ll find an example of this in my colleague Bill Hubbell’s Organizing to create business innovation in the digital era. The team then continuously delivers innovation as this process, supported by the culture and platform, goes from its first success to an embedded, systemic approach. 

These three elements are necessary to reach Olympic-level business performance. Microsoft Digital Advisory Services can help you create a program of change to build your digital business. Because let’s face it; today Digital is Business.

And you bet if I had a magic wand I would be standing on the biathlon podium, holding my Olympic gold medal as I wave at the crowd. In the meantime, I am your loudest cheerleader in the sport of digital transformation. 

About the artist:
These images were created by Christopher DeFelippo, Creative Architect, Microsoft