The CTO Digital Transformation Coach

May 1, 2020

How many Olympic athletes make it to the Games without a coach? Can you name a pro football, baseball, or hockey team that doesn’t have one? Perhaps you know of a company that recently went public without a trusted advisor? If the answer is “No” on all accounts, there’s a reason for that. Sports pros want to take advantage of the limited time they have; corporate pros should, too. Why?

The world is changing, and FAST.
In our fast-moving digital age, the average tech startup barely lives longer than the average pro football player’s career. A company’s tenure on the S&P 500 now lasts only 15-20 years. Due to the ever-increasing momentum of digital change, both in terms of technologies and user behaviors, companies who fail to move quickly and stay on the cutting edge of tech are rapidly getting left behind.

At this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, experts and economists from all over the world discussed how we have officially hit the 4th Industrial Revolution, in which disruptive technologies are changing the way humans work and live. The gap between our digital and physical worlds is shrinking, and technology is changing faster than ever. How fast? Think about the adoption of something as integral to our lives as the telephone. It took 75 years before 100 million people had access to a telephone. In contrast, the app “Pokemon Go” hit that target in under a month.

Failure to keep up means certain death for an organization. But those who react and respond well can win.
Don’t believe it? Stop and ask yourself one simple question: If your company ceased to exist tomorrow, could your customer’s needs be met by someone else at the same or better price with the same or better service? If the answer is “probably” or even “possibly” (I’m looking at you, distributors), you’ve got work to do.

In all honesty, no CTO is sitting around and twiddling thumbs pretending that the digital age isn’t upon us. But the unfortunate reality is that the majority of strategic initiatives tend to fail, usually because companies have trouble translating exactly how digital fits into their specific business success story, or because the companies have underestimated the speed and scale at which they need to transform. Many execs feel that doing “something” digital is better than doing nothing at all, but that’s like doing yoga and lifting weights but wondering why your free throws aren’t improving. Instead of rapid and iterative development in a specific and targeted direction, software projects routinely turn into laundry lists of business requests; the strategic value gets lost. But the hard truth is that companies who react first are often lightyears ahead of their competition when the others finally react at all.

Athletes with coaches break records, take championships, and win gold. Coaches use their experience to point out pitfalls, map out a strategy and offer essential guidance so their athletes can focus on the most important task at hand – chasing success.
Highly gifted athletes don’t leave their Olympic records to chance – they find enormous value in having a trusted coach, nutritionist, counselor, or advisor who helps them to break barriers and win medals. Accomplished and capable executives do the same.

Companies who invest in digital advisory services are more likely to have a strategy that clearly maps out the best way to improve the company’s value proposition or utilize digital improvements to enhance existing capabilities. These are the companies who become differentiators and disruptors.

Our new digital economy is improving value for customers rather than companies, allowing greater price transparency, speedier shipping or delivery, and seemingly limitless choice. Corporate winners are partnering with advisors in order to build integrated networks, marketplaces, and enterprise platforms that can rapidly expand and improve over time. Together, consulting agencies can help you plot out how to compete, creating outstanding value for your customers in an iterative way that doesn’t endanger your business.

Ultimately, winning companies end up with a roadmap that ties strategic projects back to important business goals, clearly showing how their technology investments will save money, earn money, or protect money.

Zaelab’s digital advisory expertise helps companies to succeed and overcome. Our partners are putting their best foot forward in adapting strategies to be fully successful in the changing economy.
To win in the future economy, digital strategies need to be broad and executives need to look for opportunities across multiple industries, platforms, and even competitors. Zaelab helps by bringing an array of strategic capabilities like market context research and insights analysis, the voice of the customer activities, and competitive benchmarking data. Just as coaches work to bring out the best in their athletes through planning and support, digital advisors work to share recommendations around user experience or process improvements that will enable the best solution architecture or the fastest ROI.

There are plenty of online articles and Harvard Business Review case studies that list out the pitfalls and problems that various corporations have suffered as they attempt to ramp up their strategic digital projects; everything from siloed teams, short-sighted planning, and failure to tie software investments back to business goals. But they all fail to mention one glaring problem that can be easily addressed: the pros find value in having a trusted coach, trainer, or advisor. If you care about the future success of your business, you should, too.

Elise Nolan is a project management ninja and certified agile coach at Zaelab who brings over 17 years of coaching, speaking, and real-life business experience in the realm of digital, ecommerce, software, AI, and mobile app development. She has helped with multiple ecommerce replatforms, integrations, portals, apps, and digital launches for multinational brands and Fortune 500 companies.

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