In this episode of this podcast, me, Anders and Stellan discuss digital readiness - what is it, what companies are digitally ready, and what stands in the way of companies trying to achieve it?
The term 'digital readiness' gets bandied about a lot, but as we learned during our discussion, there's very few businesses that have actually achieved it - and when you look at companies that are trying to achieve it, most of them are going about it the wrong way. If you're trying to make your business more digital, you'll learn something from this episode.
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Alexander Evjenth: [00:00:09] Hi and welcome to The Onlinification Pod, a podcast produced by Zooma. I'm Alex, your host, and if you have listened to this podcast before, you're going to recognise our guests today - it's Anders and Stellan. For you who are new to this podcast, Anders is the CEO of Zooma and Stellan and works as a strategist. In this episode, we're going to talk about digital readiness. I want to talk about what it is and how your company can improve your digital readiness. Enjoy.
AE: [00:00:47] So, Anders, what is digital readiness?
Anders Björklund: [00:00:50] Digital readiness is the ease with which you, your colleagues and your organisation can transition, although it is that you can transition from analog to digital, making a digitalisation of your company and the fantastic expression - "contributing to the digital transformation of your organisation or your company."
AE: [00:01:20] Stellan, do you agree with that definition?
Stellan Björnesjö: [00:01:23] Yeah, yeah. I back it up. I was thinking whether I had any other perspectives to bring on that, but I think it's a good summary of of the term itself.
AB: [00:01:36] I'm very proud now Stellan, thank you.
AE: [00:01:41] So do you have any examples of companies that have achieved digital readiness?
AB: [00:01:49] I think depending on how honest you are, and to be a bit, I don't know, provocative, I think absolutely zero companies had digital readiness in March 2020, to sort of make it very black and white. I'm not aware of any company in the whole world who had digital readiness, if that is how easy it was to transition to a more digital behaviour. Of course, there are examples, but let's say not.
AE: [00:02:20] So is there a difference if you're a company which are transforming into the digital and online, compared to a company that was born in digital and online - what's the difference?
AB: [00:02:37] I hope so. Although the schools that we go to teach us the same type of expressions when you're working with finance organisation, how to structure things. So, yes, I hope so. And I'm certain that the companies that had to transform before March 2020, could have been '96 or 2001´, yes, they they had a slight advantage. But still, there's a challenge with that we do things exactly the same way and we go to the same schools with the same education as we did before digital and online was the main track.
AE: [00:03:19] Yeah. Ok, so online to schools and education is one challenge to achieve digital readiness. Do you have any other examples Stellan on what's preventing companies to achieve digital readiness?
SB: [00:03:36] I think it's this battle between current operations and some sort of imagined future state. So if you live in, especially if you live in a sort of quarter by quarter pressure environment, if you're in a listed company, the long term investments versus the short term optimisation is two very different things. So Amazon often comes up in our discussions, that the critique that they have received for the past 20 years is that, you know, they can't make a profit and then eventually they've made quite substantial profit. But it's been a thought-through process to sort of invest in growth. But you could also argue that it's been prioritisation of the long term over the short term to make it sort of simpler. And so I think that's a very difficult balance to make for many and therefore that hampers people. It takes the individuals with a willingness and a mandate to make change.
AB: [00:04:55] And I also, to add to that thing based on your question, Alexander, which I think is a really interesting question, I think leadership, culture and as Stellan is close to, how you reward people, renumeration models, bonus models, and that doesn't only go for listed companies. I sat in another pod, we had that, I think if you are listed company, you have an advantage if the CEO is the founder and still the main owner. And I do believe that private owned companies have an advantage, they can decide themselves what a successful year is.
AB: [00:05:41] No one else is involved outside the company. As I said, leadership, educations, those models and also connected to the leadership - how willing are you to lead by example?
AE: [00:05:56] Yeah. So, interesting. The long term and short term discussion is often mentioned in, for example, investing in sustainable initiatives and solutions and so on and many others. But Stellan, if you worked for a B2B, a larger company, what would you prioritise?
SB: [00:06:17] It's often the small steps, the many small steps that are important. And Jeff Bezos is credited for saying that if you have to bet the company, you're too late. And so what he means by that is that Amazon prioritises making many small bets instead of sort of optimising, optimising and then, "shit, the world has moved in another direction. We need to make this huge bet and invest billions in order to transform the company." So I think that is an important notion for many and that more companies should adhere to. So the first steps are related to this. What I was saying before, it's really why you're doing the transformation and then it comes down to how prioritised is it compared to other things. And one of the most important ones, I think, is how much resources are we willing to invest in this in parallel to what we're doing with other things, or what are we willing to sacrifice? That's where many companies fail, is that they say a simple thing, like "maybe we should do 10 webinars this year because that's probably a good way to reach customers in 2021, given where we are." And then everyone says, "great". And then when it comes to actually doing it, it's like, "well, you can do it or you can do it," and then it's like everything is done off the cuff on the side and it should be done on top of your normal workload and then nothing happens. So, yeah, it's not that difficult. What's difficult is actually doing it.
AE: [00:08:25] It turns out, Anders, I know that you recently published a poll on LinkedIn asking: "when it comes to digital behaviour, how ready are you?", and got answers: "I embrace digital, I'm ready to become digital, I'm still skeptic to digital." Do you have any conclusions on the answers you got so far?
AB: [00:08:47] A while ago we started asking questions like that in workshops and especially the more decision makers that were in the workshops or the webinars or so forth. And people tend to want to answer "I embrace digital." I believe that that should be the one where very few answer that. I think. And again, up until March 2020, no one was allowed to answer that. And when I look at people answering that, I get interested in how do you think when you put your name there? I can also look at the second alternative where I would be very happy if most people actually put their names there and two of our colleagues put their names there.
AB: [00:09:44] And I think it was at the point that when I looked at the poll the last time, four people were there and I asked one of those colleagues, "did you put your name as 'I am now ready?'" "Yes. I cannot put my name in the other one." "Why?" "I don't run my life through voice. I don't order everything possible to order through online," and so forth. And I understood why he put his name there. Then yesterday, another colleague: "Have you seen who's been putting that he is now ready? Where should I put my name?" "Depending on how you think. What do you want to put your name?" "I want to put my name that I embrace digital. How the hell can he put his name on 'I am now ready'?" So it depends on what you compare with and how you think. I would love if more people would be honest and actually put it under the third alternative, "I'm sceptical," and I think it's healthy that people are sceptical to digital. It's a broad question from us, but I think it's very healthy to be sceptical. And it doesn't matter if you go to the sort of reference of the social dilemma or if you're a decision maker in the company, in a company saying, "of course, I'm skeptic, we've been investing lots of money and never seen any actual result of it." So so I just think it's an interesting thing to look what what people answer. Doug and Stellan, have you seen the poll? Have you answered it?
SB: [00:11:24] Yes.
AB: [00:11:25] And you, Doug, have you answered it?
Doug Bolton: [00:11:27] I haven't answered yet. I think I'll have to think a bit more about my response now based on what you just said.
AB: [00:11:33] So let us hear, Doug, when when you're about to answer the digital question, do you embrace, are you ready or are you sceptical?
DB: [00:11:45] Yeah, well, before I would maybe say I embrace, but based on what you just said about, you know, ordering online and voice and stuff, you know, I don't have any Alexa here in my home or anything like that. So maybe I would say I'm ready. And I think that says something, you know, if I give that answer just concerning my own private life, then I suppose, when we're talking about giant companies that are maybe publicly owned that, you know, maybe the correct answer for them is perhaps a little bit further back than where they actually think they are.
AB: [00:12:15] That was a very nice way of putting it. Stellan, what about you? Did you answer?
SB: [00:12:21] I dared to put myself in the 'embrace' category. So, and I think that's down to being an early adopter of many nerdy things, perhaps not as early as you are, but yes, we do, we do run voice, we do order a lot of stuff online, we order from all over the world online. The house, everything that could be smart is smart. And it's interesting how sort of slow things are moving, even though we think things are moving really fast. So, I mean, the smartest thing I can do with my smart home appliances, for example, is basically turn them on or off, set them to start at a certain point, I can remotely see if they're running or not. You know, I can see when the wash is ready, when I'm not home and stuff like that. But it's like it's not the use case that will cause an 80 percent share of the population to say, I have to have this enabled. It's for nerds.
AB: [00:13:36] My father was a traditional engineer and he once said that: "Anders, when people phrase or call their product smart, they're way behind where they should have been." You need to to refer to their products as smart. That was, that took another angle, Alexander, I was even calling for Doug, who today had the role of being the technician in this pod. Those things can happen.
AE: [00:14:09] Yeah, but it's very good, very good input. And I'm thinking like, if Stellan, you as an early adopter embrace digital, when do you think companies will achieve digital readiness and will they ever?
SB: [00:14:26] If you extend the time period, you can essentially say that the companies that are still around 30, 40 years out are the companies who will have embraced digital per definition, otherwise they will be out of business. But like the shorter horizon you take on this, the bigger the number of potential outcomes, or you can say. So I would say that a major hurdle for many is simply that you can't consider the business that you're in in a too narrow frame. To take an appliance manufacturer, it's like, "OK, we're in kitchen appliances." But if they instead would say, "well, we're in the business of of making sure that people get great meals," OK, that's a completely different take on what we're doing. So I think that's where a lot of sort of the possibilities also lie with embracing digital, is that if you can bring in a business model component in that you can see some very interesting shifts and opportunities for most companies. But unfortunately, most have too sort of narrow glasses on when they look at this problem.
SB: [00:15:47] I don't know if you want to want to bring your take on that Anders.
AB: [00:15:51] I love to throw out non-asked-for advices, and the main advice would be, you now have a unique possibility every day as an owner or decision maker to decide if you want to be fast or at some point get in a hurry. And for everyone, who any time has felt the pressure of getting in a hurry, that causes stress.
AB: [00:16:22] Stress causes bad decision. Be fast, do like Stellan said, start with the easy parts, and I'll give everyone one advice for free. Have you asked your customers if they prefer a digital invoice and digital offers, quotes yet? If you haven't asked them, show them what it means and the time they will save. And I can assure you, however global you claim that you are. It takes two days to do the pre-study of tools. It takes two days to do the pre-study of how to do it. And on the fifth day you're rolling. That's an easy step for all so-called global companies to do. Some customers, for some reasons will say, "no. We prefer that you both send it physically analog and we want to copy through a fax," and whatever they will say. And some will say, "does it really work?"
AB: [00:17:29] And some will say, "oh, finally, you do this." So that could be a thing to start with. Whether you are global or not doesn't matter. It's very easy to provide. Then there are a lot of other advices. But do things. Sometimes, spend 15 minutes, discussing, "could we do an experiment with something that would give us confidence?" And sometimes spend 30 minutes to actually plan what will happen the next week or the next month. Everything that takes a pre-study for six months to 12 months - stop it immediately. And everything that is not owned by someone who's a decision maker, forget it, stop the project. And thirdly, never run projects. Do it as a natural part of your organisation. Don't. Run. Projects. But that we can take in another pod, why you shouldn't run projects.
AE: [00:18:29] I think that was a great summary of today's topic and a good introduction for for a next episode.
AE: [00:18:37] So thank you both and thank you, Doug, for participating in this episode. You can say thank you back if you want to.
AE: [00:18:48] Thank you Alexander!
AE: [00:18:54] Well, I hope you enjoyed that episode, if you're interested in knowing more about digital readiness. I can really recommend an article written by Anders. You'll find it on zooma.se, under the Learn section, the name is 'What is digitisation, digitalisation, digital transformation and digital readiness?' In a world full of buzzwords, it's very easy that terms and and names get mixed up. But in this article, Anders really clarifies what digital readiness is. With that being said, thank you for listening to this episode. If you like the podcast, you can subscribe on Spotify, SoundCloud or at zooma.se. Thank you.