Brought to you by VANTIQ
Episode 20
Accelerating Through Change
Join VANTIQ CMO, Blaine Mathieu, and Isaac Sacolic, President of Star CIO, as they discuss the keys to a successful digital transformation initiative based on his book, Driving Digital, The Leader's Guide to Business Transformation Through Technology.
Blaine
Mathieu
Chief Marketing +

Product Officer, VANTIQ
Isaac
Sacolick
President of StarCIO

Blaine: Joining me today is Isaac Sacolick, President of consulting firm StarCIO. Isaac is also an advisory board member of numerous companies, former CIO at McGraw-Hill and BusinessWeek, and the author of Driving Digital: the Leaders Guide to Business Transformation through Technology.

Thanks for the time, Isaac.

Isaac: Thank you for having me! I’m excited to be talking with you today.

Blaine: You bet. I know we’re going to have a great discussion because the topic of your book is core to the theme of the VANTIQ TV series so this is going to be great.

Isaac: Awesome.

Blaine: So, let’s dive right in. Obviously, everybody is talking about digital transformation these days. You wrote the book on it. So, what does digital transformation really mean to you and why are companies talking about it so much?

Isaac: Yes. Most companies have to start thinking about what their future is going to look like 3, 5, 7 years from now. You can feel it very quickly in terms of how startups might be moving into your space. You can look at it from the impact of new technologies and new capabilities, how they bring a new competitive atmosphere. You can think about it from consumer experience perspective, new ways consumers have choices, new ways that they’re being presented products and services that are highly contextual.

These are the new ways. Not only consumers, but businesses are making purchase decisions and how they’re spending their time and how they’re allocating resources. Businesses that aren’t keeping up with that and thinking about how to shed how they ran in a legacy mode where there was less competition (maybe more traditional competitors), and get into a more data-oriented, even more real-time world. They tend to fall back and left behind.

In the book, I talk about one of the industries that I helped out with in the 90s, the media industry that got hit with digital very quickly. What you found there is from the time of the bust in 2001 through today, they’ve been on a downward spiral in terms of revenue, readership, advertising, every metric important to them.

You’re seeing that same thing happen in other industries, whether it’s banking and how they have to think about a digital experience and move off of what they currently serve customers in their branches. You have to think about healthcare in terms of taking costs out, providing better experiences to patients.

Literally, every industry is going through a rethinking of how they serve the customer and how to leverage new technologies for competitive advantage and how to use data. If you’re not moving fast enough, not thinking about that, not operationalizing it, you’re going to fall behind. That’s really what the transformation is about going across industries today.

Blaine: Interesting you talked about the media industry and how, for many if not most of the legacy media companies, the digital transformation hasn’t happened fast enough or been successful enough. They’ve been getting their lunch eaten by the new media companies: the Facebooks and all these guys.

In general, are so-called legacy companies being successful with their digital transformation initiatives or is it mostly just talk and not a lot of actual success in the market? What do you perceive as going on in the real world?

Isaac: Real world, in between those two extremes. I think we know about some companies that we probably can put in the failed bucket or “missed the window bucket”, the Kodaks of the world that could have been right there and then for a digital camera experience and left that behind too early. I think media is in a very troubled spot because of the nature of their product and the competitive places to get news, information, and media.

It becomes a little bit more difficult as you go into other industries, but the reality is it’s something that is not going to be a complete hit and success. It’s not going to be a complete fail. It’s going to be part of how businesses are transforming. I mean, look, Microsoft is transforming. They could not be a Windows Office company. They need to be a cloud and a services-based company. They’re doing the things internally to try to play in that space and compete with Google and compete with Amazon.

Literally, the same thing is happening in other industries. You can look at Capital One in the banking industry and how they’re making lots of inroads in digital. You can look in one of the other industries that I service in construction: going from paper-based processes for managing a construction project to construction projects that are 3D, 4D, 5D using real-time information from the field to feedback the models, to take out change orders, to make things safer for the construction workers, to collect data from the foreman; lots of opportunities there for companies to do what they need to do which is experiment.

You need to have a vision of what your five to seven year plan is, but you need to experiment along the way, you need to pivot along the way. You need to drop things that are in your legacy environment that are no longer relevant. You need to change things that are too costly or too cumbersome. I think we’re going to be looking at an evolving landscape over the next decade, some industries faster and some slower. It’s certainly going to be become more competitive. That’s what I see.

Blaine: Interesting. Do you happen to have your book handy?

Isaac: I do! This is the book: Driving Digital. People ask me when I started the book and I started it probably about 10 years ago and I started blogging and speaking and realizing that I enjoyed it and it was important for me to explain and teach people what I knew. The book is really a culmination of that. I felt that I had lived transformation industry-wise twenty years ago when I started in media.

My roles as a CIO have always been in transformation, taking companies that never had a strong capability and technology, turned them around, build digital-oriented consumer products, build products for data and analytics, transform to subscription-oriented businesses. What I found was even though I work in different industries and they had different problems and the speed by which transformation was a little bit different, I was applying relatively-similar processes across them; around data, agile, dev ops, how to manage portfolio to take costs out, really building a customer experience and product development program and about changing the culture. That’s essentially what you get out of the book.

Blaine: From the book or from your own experience, is there a standard process that you recommend or a set of steps that a company would follow to try to work through their digital transformation? You just mentioned a bunch of possibilities of things you could do, but what does a company do? Where do they start? Is there an order to it?

Isaac: The real order really starts with looking at, from a strategic view, what are the burning opportunities and what are the burning fires. It needs to have some semblance of strategy, some semblance of priority when you go into this. As you evolve a transformation program, it almost always grows in terms of the number of initiatives in and gets more and more people involved.

But, because it’s a change program at its heart, you really want it to start with people, processes, and products, starting with products and end customers that are going to really make the most impact. Ideally, things where you have growth opportunity. It’s really hard to do a digital transformation when you’re just trying to take cost out or revitalize old operations. You really want to go after someplace where there’s growth and opportunity in markets that you want to be in.

Once you have that strategy, then I do find some common themes. How you apply them isn’t necessarily the same in every organization. Every organization needs some form of agile process. I think it needs to be iterative. I think the feedback is very important. I think it breaks organizational silos in terms of how technologists, business people, operations, marketing, finance all work together.

I think that’s really the heart of most transformation programs. That’s Chapter 2 of the book because I think without a real agile mindset and culture, it’s really hard to get things to change. Then, there’s a lot of things that fall out after that. At some of my businesses that are very data-oriented, we go right into becoming a data-driven organization. So, how do you take analytic capabilities and provide that to the organization?

For those that have very large legacy systems and maybe some high costs around their legacy systems or they’re just not performing well, we go right into cloud migrations and dev ops programs to really stabilize how the organization is running.

Almost all organizations need some form of portfolio management. They don’t have a complete runway of cash to go invest into these programs. They need to find ways to prioritize, figure out where to take costs out, figure out the resource levels. Those are the foundation programs that I think every organization is putting into their programs.

There are some other underlying capabilities. I think every organization that’s doing this is investing more in technology than they were three to five years ago. That’s where I think cloud becomes very important. I also think low-code platforms become very important in there as well because we never have enough scale or staff to go build everything that we need to do. We still have to maintain applications that were developed five years ago while we’re building the new world for us.

We have to find ways to do this more efficiently, whether it’s putting an MVP, minimal viable product, out very quickly and testing it in market, all the way up to how do I make incremental improvements based on how the feedback comes back. So, lots of different tools and techniques to do that in a competitive way and that’s a lot of the topics that I do in my blog and also in the book.

Blaine: Excellent. Well, you’ve given me a whole laundry list of topics to dive further into here in the next few minutes. Before we do that, I’m interested, do you have any real-world examples of companies or organizations that are doing a successful digital transformation that you can talk about?

Yeah. I run a company today called StarCIO and our entire platform is about helping companies implement their digital transformation program. All the things I just talked about: agile, data-driven organization, portfolio management, dev ops, those are the things that we do and we do it in the form of advisory consulting and workshops.

One of our clients is a company called Charity Navigator. It’s a nonprofit. It’s a very small company. They came to me with a proposition of, “We used to be the watchdog in the charity space. We used to look at accounting files day in, day out to make sure that charities were legitimate and spending their money wisely. We’re doing it today for about 9,000 charities and we want to multiply that out by tenfold. We want to be rating 90 to 100,000 charities over the next couple of years. We want to be able to rate them on more data than we do today. We want to rate them more frequently and we need to do this at scale and at a reasonable cost because we’re a nonprofit ourselves.”.

We’ve been working on taking what is a fundamentally sound process for how they rate charities and looking at not only how to scale it in terms of volume, but also look at how to scale in terms of the data that they look at and that they analyze. It’s a true transformation program because, as they get more versatile, they’ll be able to rate more charities. There’s very high donor activity on their websites, so they’re going to serve more donors with more places that they can go do their charitable giving and be more than just a watchdog, be a consultant to a donor in terms of places they might be interested in and helping out. It’s a very interesting, very different type of organization.

We’re in the midst of doing things like putting dataflow technologies in so we can process more data, expanding their databases so that it can handle lots more different types of data, building APIs out so that there’s more and different ways others can consume their data. We’re building dashboards out internally and externally so you can see more of this data.

So, all the things I talked about earlier are exactly what this company is doing. Like I said, it’s a small charity. It’s a small number of people. They still have the same challenges with legacy systems. They have the same challenges getting people to think differently. They have to change. They have to do more and different things and they’ve been doing in the last 10 years.

Blaine: Really interesting. Great example. Very cool. To touch on some of those themes (and some of them you mentioned earlier), one thing you brought up was the notion of becoming more real time. How do you feel the notion of becoming a real-time business relates to digital transformation initiatives?Obviously, the topic is close to the theme of this series, which is called “The Real-Time Enterprise”. So, since you brought it up, I’m interested in the notion of the relationship between these two.

Isaac: You have to look at every industry a little bit different[ly] and interpret real time appropriate for where that industry is. I think there are some that are inherently real time already, financial services being one of them. Very competitive in terms of how fast they put information out where people can make financial decisions, particularly in markets. I think the entire IoT landscape is a game changer when it comes to real time. Thousands of sensors in a construction operation to tell management how things are operating and how to make improvements: providing improved safety, maintaining a building or bridge more safely than they’ve ever done before.

In healthcare, there is life and death decisions. There’s delays. There’s costs that can be impacted by the data that they’re collecting and presenting in such a way that people – again people have to make decisions around these things. In advertising, I think the entire robo advertising is a very competitive space in terms of what’s the best advertisement to show people.

Even in news, if you take news going back to the original example, newspapers delivering news daily to delivering news hourly on their website to better compete with Twitter when the crowd can find news better than they can. What’s newsworthy and what do my readers want to see faster through my channel than other than through other channels.

I think the pace of going to real time is different in every industry. I think the competitive nature and the opportunity is a little bit different. I think the first thing is organizations have to think about what’s the speed that they have to be able to make decisions to present information? What’s the competitive landscape around that? And, change their orientation from things that we naturally thought of as batch processing: “I’m going to wait until the paper is ready to go out in the morning and then send it out.” to “How do I stream more information to my end users.”.

Blaine: Right on. I couldn’t agree more. Related to speed, another topic that you write and blog a lot about and is agility. How can companies increase their agility overall? What’s the thought process there?

Isaac: Agile has been around as a process for over a decade. Technology organizations have increasingly adopted that process to be able to go from longer-term development cycles that were prone with delays and poor performance in terms of project execution and getting it down to a process that’s delivering new capabilities every sprint, every couple of weeks, and using feedback to readjust priorities.

I think the big opportunity for most organizations is to stop thinking of it as a technology process. It’s a collaborative process. It’s a business process. I ran my entire IT organization as a CIO using agile principles. I think many organizations are starting to think about how to have marketing sit on a scrum team. How does finance sit with the sales team and think about their sales funnel in a more agile process in terms of making decisions and priorities around leads and selling?

I think it’s just a completely different way of thinking. It takes you out of the mindset that I have to know where I’m going to be three to six months from now and puts you in the mindset of, “What do I need to focus on in the next couple of weeks? How do I forecast better so I know where I’m going to be over the next six weeks and then, ultimately, how to build roadmaps out?” It takes people who have more projects or initiatives that sometimes have to go across organizational silos to get something done.

I’m going to bring a new product to market. I need somebody from legal and finance to help me with that. I need somebody from marketing to help with the go-to-market strategy. I need some technologists to build some technology around that. Those are four different groups. Put them on a team or multiple teams to work together through this, let them all understand the objectives, have a shared understanding what the next set of things that they need to work on. What you see is it becomes more market-driven than hypothesis-driven.

I think today I want to build a product out and it looks like these eight screens. You start building them out and then you find out that’s not what your end users want. Instead, you’re going to build one screen out, maybe show it to five percent of your population, and say, “Am I on track with this?”

Blaine: Interesting. It sounds like you’re not talking just generically about how to become a more agile business in the general sense, but you’re literally recommending companies implement a scrum agile process, an actual process that began with the rapid development of applications but then, as now being extended across marketing and through other parts of an organization.

Isaac: There’s different processes inside of agile. We think in terms of scrum which is this notion of sign up and commit at the beginning of a sprint and deliver at the end of the sprint. But, operating teams tend to look at conbon which is more of a queue of activities. I’ve implemented conbon in marketing. It usually has a funnel of activities coming and it must constantly prioritize their different resources to go and execute against that.

There’s different processes that you can build underneath agile, but at the heart of it is getting multidisciplinary teams to collaborate, think through execution on short-term increments, and use that as a building block to think through how to execute on a longer-term roadmap.

Blaine: Makes perfect sense.

Another topic you brought up earlier and I know you also write and blog about a fair bit is the notion of dev ops and the relationship between dev ops and digital transformation. Maybe, since not all listeners are technical, explain the concept of dev ops a bit and then talk about its relationship to digital transformation from your perspective.

Isaac: I guarantee everybody on this call knows the problems that dev ops has tried to solve for in IT. We think about long cycle times in terms of things that are required. I put a ticket in, it’s taking IT forever to resolve it. We’re being plagued by lots of issues, uptime issues or performance issues. We have a great dev team. They’re starting to build products out, but they can’t get them deployed into our data center or into the cloud.

These are the types of problems that people have recognized that need a different way of working and a different mindset. What you don’t see is what was happening underneath the hood. You have two different organizations: a development group that’s trying to do things really quickly, be agile, do changes, run things really quickly. Then, you had an operating team that with a charter that was completely different. It was keep the lights on, keep things super stable. We all know the way we keep things stable is we don’t change things. Make it harder to change things.

What dev ops tries to do is to bring those two teams together with a common set of processes that say, “Number one, both are important. We can have agility without stability. Stability without agility also doesn’t work.” It brings a new mindset in terms of how an engineer is going to help a developer be successful with their changes. Those are things like, “How do I build monitoring into the application and security into the application up front and not wait until the end of the process to think through those things. What kinds of infrastructure do you need upfront to make this project successful.”.

It also takes the developers helping the operating team at the same time. How do we automate the delivery. This is no longer 10 people and 30 steps to go push an application from somebody’s laptop onto a server. This is an automated set of steps governed by an application that’s going to say, “Here’s when and how when somebody checks code into an environment and there’s a good change there and it passes all of our testing protocols, we can go push this out to testing environments so our testers can look at it. Our internal users can test it, eventually shrinking the delivery times in terms of how fast we push changes out to the environment.”.

Again, getting back to that real time, I want to build something quick. I want to test it with users. I want to get it out to market fast. That’s what dev ops attempts to accomplish for organizations.

Blaine: Interesting. Do you think this is something that enterprises have embraced aggressively or is this still relatively early days?

Isaac: I think this is something quite frankly startups have embraced aggressively and growing SaaS companies and technology companies have embraced. Agile is adopted at startups 10, 12 years ago. It took the enterprises a little bit longer to figure out whether, why, and how to adopt it.

I think the same thing is happening in dev ops. They might have cloud and they might be open to cloud. They might be open to automation, which is a key theme of dev ops programs. But, It going to take them a little bit longer to figure out how to align their organization, how to realign resources, what new skill sets they need to be able to run dev ops programs. I think that’s actually an early transition.

I also think that the vendors out there are starting to help with that. I’m not talking just about the Jenkins and the Travis’ of the world. These are technologies that actually help implement aspects of dev ops. But, a lot of new capabilities are coming in and saying, “We’re building dev ops inside.” And so, you get a new platform, a new application, you can do all the things that you need to do within that application and then bundled in is how do you deploy this into an environment, scale it, and manage it.

Blaine: Interesting. Very interesting. Speaking of building things quickly, I know you also talk and read a lot about low-code, no-code so-called high-productivity application platforms. What’s your thought on that? Is that really the trend? Is this the future of application development?

Isaac: It’s definitely a future part of it. I started with low code about 20 years ago. My organization was building customer-facing software. What that really meant was IT had almost no time to focus on internal enterprise needs, workflow needs. I was frightened by the number of spreadsheets and e-mails people were using and sending around to solve a problem. So, I found some early-stage, low-code platforms to actually go out and build end-to-end applications that allow doing these workflows.

That industry has evolved significantly, particularly over the last five years. Forrester covers it. Gartner covers it. There’s a good number of different types of platforms that enable you to build and support applications faster and cheaper. The key word is not just building them but also supporting them.

[For example], I need to maybe build an internal mobile experience that’s going to connect to eight different enterprise systems, a relatively difficult thing to do all the different connections there are platforms out there to do those things. You might have a lot of reporting that you want to consolidate and you want to offer a self-service reporting capability. There are platforms to go out and do those things with low code and in real time. There’s event-processing technologies out there; streams of data coming in, processing that in real time. There’s platforms to go out and do those things.

As a business and an IT organization, there’s going to be places where you have to build more applications and you can actually handle with your staff. You’re not going to go higher 30 percent more people. Not every organization has the ability to go higher the top great engineers that can go build things from the ground up. These low-code platforms aim to make development groups and business teams more productive by building and supporting these applications.

Blaine: Is there any business in the world that doesn’t have twice as many applications they want to build than they actually have the capacity to do? That’s the way of the world these days, right?

Isaac: That’s the question I normally ask CIOs when I talk to them and say, “Look, do you have more demand in your pipeline than what you can support?” And all the hands raise. And I said, “Well, how are we going to fix that as an industry? What are some of the things?” Agile can go a certain distance and dev ops can go a certain distance. We can put portfolio in place to make better decisions on what to invest in. But, at some point, we have to invest our throughput to be able to put more technology out and reduce the cost to be able to support these things.

We have to also change our business mindset a little bit in that not everything needs a complete proprietary implementation. When I could take advantage of best practices embedded into a platform and put an application out quickly and get feedback on it, that’s a lot more palatable than letting someone think through what they think is the optimal experience that might take them three or four months of research and three or four months of design before they even start getting pens down and building something out. By the time they do that, they’ve built something that’s so proprietary, [they’ve] got to go custom build this thing.

A lot of low-code platforms help bridge that collaboration. Look at what the capability is. Look what it does easily. Review the vendor. Have they done a good job building best practices into their platform and is it applicable to the types of applications that you need to build? And if it is, go and do POCs and pilots to prove it out. Prove to yourself that you can move faster, building experiences that people want, and go and run to the races with it.

Blaine: Really interesting. Couldn’t agree more.

Your background is from what I’d call the CIO perspective. You write a lot about digital transformation and speak on that topic. I presume that means you feel that the CIO and the IT side should own digital transformation initiatives in the business? What about the operations side or the business side?

Isaac: That’s a great question. I think, first and foremost, the CEO really needs to own it. It’s really rebuilding the company. You’re going to have to change the mindset from the first person who you hired to the last person you just hired from the person at the top of the totem pole to the bottom. The CEO needs to help endorse the strategy, has to help get in the change process, particularly with laggards in the organization that might be dragging their feet. But also, becoming a hero to the ones that are really pushing the organization and helped to evolve what the incentive programs are and how to get more people involved with it.

Ultimately, I do think it starts with the CEO. But, if I had to pick the first person they look at to help execute on the vision, I believe it’s the CIO. They have a vantage point of how to discern what types of processes, skill sets, and technologies are going to be most required for it. If you haven’t had a CIO who’s got their chops in being able to execute projects with or without agile, you’re going to have a problem there anyway.

Chances are, if you’re doing a transformation program, you need a CIO who knows how to keep the lights on and change their programs but also accelerate and deliver programs on time and maintain the scope that people are looking for. I think in terms of breadth of how an organization operates through change, I think the CIO has the most visibility. They certainly need to bring new skill sets into the program. They certainly need some good lieutenants.

If you’re building a lot of user experience into the four fold, you’re going to need a head of product or head of digital to help you build out those experiences. If you have a lot of compliance or you’re building a lot of data oriented processes, you might think about a chief data officer that is part of this program. So, there’s certainly some new skills, new c-level roles that you need in there, but I think this is the place where CIOs have to step up and be that partner to the CEO and to the board and make that transformation happen.

Blaine: Really interesting. Thank you for that perspective. Let’s turn briefly to technology itself. Is there any particular area or field of technology (obviously companies are being hit from many directions now with new technologies) that interests or you think will have a bigger impact than others?

Isaac: I think the big three, AI, blockchain, and IoT are going to impact industries, some more than others. It’s hard to talk about digital without thinking through what at least one of those technologies might do in your industry. I think as a broad stroke which of the three probably has a more universal “this is probably going to affect everybody” is AI. AI is a catch term that actually captures lots of different algorithms and capabilities, some that are fairly mature, even in commercial uses, things like recommendation engines.

Go to Netflix and it tells you what movies you’re going to like or Amazon, what other books you want to read. Natural language processing is a technology that’s still evolving but has been around for a long time. Even deep learning where you’re getting a lot of the media’s coverage some of the amazing things that the technology companies are able to do with it. The basis of that is neural networks that were discovered in the 60s. The big game changer is really a combination of cloud computing as well as off-the-shelf algorithms, things like tensor flow, that allowed data scientists and engineers to program these things at scale.

The real heart of it is figuring out what problems to throw at it. How do you get your data organized in such a way that you can actually experiment with this? How do you evolve the responses? Those are the things that are challenging, but when you look at the underlying DNA, it’s really about how you leverage data. How do you leverage algorithms? How do you pair algorithms up with people?

You can put the word AI on it. Some of it is AI and some of it is really deep learning and real hardcore stuff, but it’s really about making algorithms work with people to get a competitive edge with your data.

Blaine: That last point you touched on I think is really important. A lot of the discussion around AI which drives people crazy is this notion of a computer systems replacing people and millions of jobs being lost. But, it sounds like your thesis is about these increasingly intelligent systems working with people. We talk a lot about human-machine collaboration. Does that resonate with you?

Isaac: Completely. We’ve been using technology to enhance, and in some case, replace jobs since the industrial age. That’s part of the function of technology. AI is another piece of that. It will be a game changer in terms of the types of jobs it’s going to replace.

But, if you’ve ever worked with an AI system, it’s not a perfect black box. It’s really something that needs to be paired with human judgment, thought of as a way to enhance and make a person smarter based on the machine’s ability to see patterns that a person or group of people can’t easily see.

When you think of it that way, what it’s really doing is it’s going to change how the organization operates and what skills it needs. If you go back to that charity navigator example that I gave earlier, it’s going to change how their analysts work. They’re going to be smarter about the charities that they cover. They’re going to be experts in the field in terms of helping donors make better donor decisions.

They’re not going to look at tax forms the same way they used to. We can have machines look at those things and derive different formulas and different analytics, be able to look at a mission statement or a privacy policy and derive what the actual meaning is behind that.

This is augmented technology. In some cases, yeah, there might be some whole listic replacement of an entire job function. I think about what trucking is going to be like in this country in 20 years. Are we going to have people driving trucks around? It’s hard for me to see that. I think that’s going to be a really interesting area for autonomous vehicles.

But will [there] be completely zero intervention? Pilots are still in airplanes and they’re doing a fraction of the flying that they used to. There’s a good example where there’s augmented algorithms and intelligence helping them do the things that they need to do.

Blaine: Absolutely. I know you you’ve tweeted recently about challenging the sacred cows. I’m interested, is there a particular area where you would like to challenge conventional wisdom, maybe call bullshit on some area where people tend to believe a certain direction?

Isaac: I wrote the post on challenging sacred cows really about the debate internally about, “This is the way we used to do things and this is how we used to do things and this is why it works.” It’s amazing. It shows up in different formats, at different levels in the organization. There’s pieces of your legacy in your history that are really important, but it’s really important to have that culture of asking: why? Is this relevant? What do customers want today? Really, those posts are around really changing the culture about asking questions and challenging how you used to do things with new ways of thinking.

On the other hand, all the technology that’s out there, all the capabilities that are out there, look at any single capability whether it’s AI, big data, or IoT, you’re going to find this massive vendor landscape of stuff out there. Everybody knows you need their help to implement these things.AI is pretty interesting in that area because what I’ve seen a lot of is you’re buying a product or service and they’re marketing the AI first. “We have AI inside. We’re smarter. We’re faster. We’re cheaper. Whatever it is, but we have AI inside. Therefore, you need to go out and buy us.”

It’s nice to have AI inside. I think, in some cases, it’s very relevant and important, but if you’re seeing organizations sell that before they’re telling you what problem they are solving, what impact it’s going to have, where they’ve had success, what the boundaries are of their particular approach, is it focused on a single industry, how clean the data needs to be to be able to do it, etc. There’s a half a dozen factors I just rattled off before AI inside really works. Think about whether that service is what you want and then learn about how to make AI effective in it.

Blaine: Well Isaac, let’s end with some thoughts or key takeaways or tips you have for a business leader who is trying to drive a real-time digital transformation in her business.

Isaac: I think the first step is get started. I’ve seen too many organizations step on their feet trying to think through the strategy. I think strategy is evolving. I think it’s just important to pick a starting point and a priority to work on and then get people started on it. Number two, I think the faster you can start adopting agile practices, mindsets, collaborations, finding the right people or getting some help from the outside that will coach your teams to adopt those frameworks I think is key to any organization being able to execute a transformation program.

We didn’t talk a ton about technology here, but I do think technology does matter. If you look at legacy technology that still does a pretty good job, the question is is it user experience? Is it productive? Is it smart? Is it collecting the right data for you? I think technology really is important in this matter.

The last thing is don’t under estimate the culture, what I said before. There’s going to be some people that are early adopters of what you’re trying to accomplish. You need to make them heroes in your organization. The harder part is getting the next wave of people to participate. You’ve got to address your incentive programs to make them feel like they’re gaining something as being part of that program and you need that CEO and that leadership to step in to handle people who are laggards. I think those are the four pillars that I would que off of at the end of this.

Blaine: Well, Isaac, you’re my hero! Thank you so much for joining us today for this great conversation. I really appreciate it.

Isaac: Thanks. Great conversation. And if you want to reach me, I’m NYIke on Twitter. Again, Driving Digital is the book. You can find it on Amazon. If you want to talk to me about how I can help you with your transformation programs, it’s StarCIO.com. Thank you.

Blaine: Absolutely. And your great blog at blogs.starcio.com. Again, his book Driving Digital: the Leader’s Guide to Business Transformation Through Technology at your favorite bookseller. Of course, you can reach out to me anytime at [email protected] Thanks so much, Isaac.

Isaac: Thank you!

Blaine: You’re welcome!

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