[Podcast Transcript] Digital Transformation Starts with ‘No’
Land of Digital Opportunities is a podcast series for business leaders driven by innovation and productivity, and keen on growing an idea, team, or a company! Every week, MediaAgility sits down with someone with strong innovation acumen and who has achieved a remarkable business presence in the digital industry, and together we unfold ‘Why’.
Goldy Arora: Welcome to the second episode of land of digital opportunities podcast by MediaAgility – a global digital consulting company. In this episode we are going to speak with Rajesh, co-founder and CEO of MediaAgility about ‘Digital Transformation Starts with No’.
Hi Rajesh, welcome to the land of digital opportunities podcast. In my role here to build an innovation practice when I speak with many business leaders our conversations are usually geared not about whether or not to go to digital path and help your business take competitive advantage but rather where and how to start?.. And especially in case of large corporates, so what is your advice on where and how to start?
Rajesh Abhyankar: I have had similar conversation with many leaders in large businesses in US, Asia, and Europe, and this is a common theme. It can be overwhelming when every other day there’s an announcement and every major vendor pitch it as a next paradigm and the fear is if I don’t do it and if my competitor does it, then what does it mean for me? That’s exactly how the digital disruption stories play out right now. Every time there’s an announcement, that’s where thinking begins – whole conversation canvas style of connecting with customers or what do we do with virtual and augmented reality is now coming up. How does it affect my business there is so much of data that businesses are generating, how do I analyze it? What insights do I generate from it? There are days when these leaders tell me that it can be truly overwhelming!
There’s a pressure to, as they say, keep trains running on time, and then there’s pressure to keep upgrading your tracks without disrupting the timetable. So my advice is- Start with a deep breath.. Don’t be overwhelmed. Yes, we live in times when things are changing so fast…so rapidly, that the fear is genuine – that there might be group of people in a garage somewhere trying to create a company that can potentially disrupt a hundred years old business model. That fear is real. I’m not trying to underestimate or undermine that. What is important though is the advice that I heard twenty years ago, internet was just getting started, before the rise of smartphones and AI and cloud that was from none other than Steve Jobs in I guess it was world wide developer conference in 1997 when he started coming back to apple and it was an open mic session, what really stayed with me since then, is his answer to one of the question, which was strikingly in simple, that is focussing is about saying no, focussing is not about saying yes to everything that comes along the way, it’s other way round, while there are days when you when you are overwhelmed, it’s important to go back, go back to your team go back to your business model and look at what are we really good at? Where are we focused at right now and then take an informed decision which is more of an action rather than reaction to that just happened, somebody just announced something, there are probably 15 20 diff innovation projects that are on list of any CIO that has pressure to bring about digital transformation right now, but the key is to look back at what your true strengths are as an organization, and many times that may be perceived as weakness that can be turned around as your strength and just heed to the advice that was given 20 yrs ago – That focus is about saying no.
When we start the conversation this way we are in the land of opportunity rather than land of fear, rather than being driven by a defensive posture that tends more about how do we lean out, can we be the one who invent that future? It’s truly rewarding from that point to really help our customers. As a digital consulting company our role is to be there to help our customers see things more clearly, and be their thought partner and provide those innovative solution and be there all along and develop, implement those ideas and be there as they take those ideas to market and transform themselves from within.
Goldy Arora: We are a digital consulting company helping organizations understand the digital revolution and then respond to that and we do this with an integrated approach of strategy, design thinking, technology expertise and agile implementation, so with that let us speak with Rajesh….
I really like the way you said focus on saying no and I agree that first step should be to narrow down on multiple things and pick only those which are really going to strengthen our value proposition what would be your advice on how to start from there?
Rajesh Abhyankar: I’m sure you’ve heard about this, that every company in future is going to be a software company no matter what you do. Hotel industry transformed by airbnb, and uber – what it has done for car sharing, and self driving cars- that’s again forcing the tradition auto companies to be software company and there are numerous projects to bring fully automated self driving cars, and making that the reality you pick any industry apply software to it and see how it can be transformed. Start formulating strategy – lean out into future – what does it mean to live in a world.. 5…10…20 yrs from now when software has transformed your industry?
We had a recent engagement with a large automobile manufacturer in Asia where the Chief Strategy Officer was tasked with the job of thinking through what does a world look like beyond car ownership, where car has become a service rather than something that you own, and what does surface transportation look like? and the Strategy Office had been looking at research companies and pouring reports. They leaned out and looked at what can be done now? Why sit back and be in reactive mode, when you know your company will be software company eventually?
Lean out and look at what does future look like and ask what’s stopping you to be the company that invents the future? Why not regardless of your size, small or large, or you may be just one department in large company…everything starts with that idea and the intrapreneurial skills if you are inside the large company or entrepreneurial spirit if you are a startup – that’s where everything starts, so I would say lean out , focus on what you are good at, and imagine what your industry would look like when it has been transformed and can you be the one that brings about that future? Can you be the one that invents that future? And going back to that example, working with the auto manufacturer we created a strategy working with them and implemented it as a marketplace for Moving Cargo pretty much like Uber helps moving people around. To address the problem of moving cargo in a short distance of 10-20 miles can a market place be created? it was an experiment, we built it from the ground up within less than 3 months, it is now up and running, and tons of data is being generated that is helping them understand whether they should go down that path and how do they adopt it across the board.
Goldy Arora: Our customers tell us that we are their thought partners during these times of digital disruption, where innovation today is the key to success. Unlocking the potential from the tremendous data that your business generates can connect you to your customers and help you improve your operations, and your employees expect similar technologies at work that they use in personal lives, and with our partnership with innovative companies like Google and Amazon we can meet you wherever you are and accelerate your journey into the land of digital opportunities, and now back to the conversation with Rajesh about ‘Digital Transformation Starts with No’.
It is critical today not to just keep the trains on tracks but upgrade the tracks without disrupting timetables. Transformation is leaning out, and somehow I feel it’s not just vision or mission, you should feel the transformation from within yourself before being on this transformation journey. What do you think, how important is it to transform from within before beginning on this transformation path?
Rajesh Abhyankar: That’s a good segue, what we were just talking about earlier that you can’t isolate transformation to a small group and hope that it will bring about the transformation. It is important to start thinking big and broad across the board , start thinking about the legal implications of innovations, how to bring about the change across all departments of the company. More importantly, only way in which you can be authoritative in transforming your customer’s business is to first look at how you are running your own business, for us, for eg, a digital consulting company, we can’t be running on desktop software, on tools that were created with last architecture of computing so we had to transform ourselves from within, we now have so many different offices in different countries…and we live that lifestyle, we use Google apps that helps us to collaborate using any device at any place. We run our entire business on cloud, in fact we wrote an article, whitepaper about how we were able to run our business by spending less than $1 per employee per day. You need to start looking at transformation from inside out. It reminds me of one conference I was in, the discussion was around an automotive company trying to think how can to bring android into the cars, and one of the Google executive I remember said, “Your employees first need to start using android themselves”. The people who are going to build it need to first live it themselves, understand the pros and cons of living that way, rather than just going with the flow. We strongly believe in simplicity of the advice – just build the great product or service that you can, saying no to things that are not in your focus area, operating out of opportunities and abundance mindset rather than fear, leaning out and asking yourself why not us? why are we not the one meant to transform future in our industry?
The mindset of 10X thinking- going back to drawing board trying to design things that are 10 times better is surprisingly simpler and cheaper rather than the incremental 10% improvement. Tesla is one of the classic example – Rather than operating out of fear and trying to put a traditional gasoline engine in the car just in case you run out of battery, as opposed to taking the bold step and saying we are going to build an electric only car , yes we don’t have network of charging station as we have for gas stations, someone has to take that view that this can be the future of clean energy of automobile, why can we be the one who bring about the change?
10X thinking over incremental improvement is again easier said than done, there are genuine concerns about disrupting your own line of business – this topic has been already well researched and documented as innovator’s dilemma.
We have fantastic teams of people who understand these technologies, who can build all these things for you in record time, but our approach has always been not to jump into an engagement and start building stuff, but encourage customer to take a step back and see if this is a bold enough move , can this be looked at in a different way. Use some of our offerings that we have created around innovation workshop called Braintrust, or risk-free sure start program where you can start playing around with these ideas and our efforts in doing all of this is to genuinely live the vision that we painted for ourselves which is to bring productivity, creativity to everyone’s jobs, where it stops being just a job and people find meaning in their work, we want to create that environment and those opportunities where everyone finds meaning in their work and we have done that for ourselves and we continue to find ways in which we can come up with more solutions and where we can work with our customers where we can show our value.