Digital disruption: How to become a 21st century organisation

If digital disruption is inevitable, as I said in my last post, organizations can and must prepare for it. Here we can draw on a number of models and pieces of research. DXC Technology’s Leading Edge Forum (LEF) has identified six ways that 21st century organisations are different from past century models:

  • Sensing — Proactive, haptic or experience-based sensing; an organisation will invest in a broad range of technology, societal, competitive, ecosystem, regulatory and risk areas through experimental learning involving a large group of individuals, diffusing the learning and acting on it as opposed to having little to no R&D
  • Identity — Who we are, where we play and how we win, as opposed to short-, medium- and long-term plans (there are some very good examples here, of course, including Apple, Amazon and Tesla)
  • Assets and Capabilities — An outside in approach (outside-in mindset)
  • Portfolio — Continually reimagining the organisation’s value propositions, products and services based on evolution of the digital possibilities and customers’ needs and attitudes
  • Adaptivity — Ensuring structures and metrics never get in the way of information, collaboration, experimentation and value creation
  • Value — Improving the ways of choosing, executing and reaping the value of operations and investments in a complex, uncertain, evolving world

These are not just six random areas; we can draw a sequence uniting them. Sensing feeds strategy; strategy focuses capabilities; capabilities define products; execution creates and supports products; and leadership makes the whole thing work.  They are all mutually supportive and interacting. Improvements in any one area create new possibilities in the others.

Using this framework, LEF has created a 36-point capability model for winning in the 21st century. Companies and public sector agencies need to understand their strengths, weaknesses and needs to thrive in the next decade. Read more about winning as a 21st century organisation.

So if we assume our 21st organisation has embraced the six areas above, there are some further core reference points we can use.  There are the “three truths”:

  • The consumer is in charge and will define the next move — There could be some resistance to this message, as it does sound counterintuitive, but this all falls into how any organisation retains its customer base.
  • Asymmetric competitors (i.e., unexpected sources) continue to pose new threats — This falls back to looking at predictive models.
  • Winners maintain control whilst reducing their asset base — This has been one of the biggest phenomena in the current disruption phase; the lack of assets has become a positive differentiator.

It may seem an obvious statement, but a digital transformation strategy requires a cultural shift and typically will look at three core elements:

  • Business model innovation
  • Digital customer experience
  • Digital business process transformation

Quite often the typical digital enablers will be along the lines of a technology-centric list of areas to focus on: mobile, cloud, analytics, security, apps, robotics, automation, AI, augmented reality, network, IoT, 3D printing, etc. An organisation will then focus on each of these and create a strategy and execution plan.

However, this misses one very significant element: people.  No matter what model, strategy or plan an organisation is going to embark on, it will need people, and here there are some equally disruptive and interesting areas that are worthy of analysis. I’ll explore them in my final post.

This post is part 2 of a 3-part series. See part 1.

Neil Fagan is CTO of the UK Government Security and Intelligence Account in Global Infrastructure Services. He is an enterprise architecture expert, leading teams of architects who work on solutions from initial concept through delivery and support. @neilfagan



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  1. […] So, if digital disruption is inevitable, how can an organisation prepare for it and be there before it’s too late? How can the organisation thrive on change? I’ll discuss this in my next blog post. […]

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