The first stages of digital maturity

Understanding where your company is in its transformation journey makes the change process easier to cope with. For some, we have already accepted that change can be messy. Still, for others, there's the hope that through some extraordinary occurrence, we won't experience the challenges that change often brings.

Alas, when we're able to make peace with the level of maturity, the reality of some of the challenges is manageable. Note, I said manageable, not acceptable. That's caution because becoming complacent with the typical issues that ensue during any organisational transition can be detrimental to the culture and strategy of a company. While it's essential to be practical, we don't want that to become the norm for the people who are going through their maturing. So let's take a closer look at how this maturity shows up through the lens of typical human development. It is, after all, humans who are creating, implementing and managing change. When you read most of the digital maturity model articles, the scholarly ones, there are typically five stages. Here's how they occur to me.

The Babies

We all love babies. There's something very opportunistic about being new to the playing field of transformation with wonder and awe about everything. At this stage, the people don't know what they're doing, and there's no money allocated to figure it out. There's a recognition that digital change is imperative, but there's no strategy in place and no clear vision of where they want to take the company. Like babies, there's a lot more laying around and staring at the wonder of tech rather than active leadership and "efforting". If you're lucky, you may get some money for website hosting and a little social media.

Nonetheless, we have all been at this stage. Whether you're new to digital transformation or in an organisation with a lot of talk about technology but more wonder and awe rather than active planning and strategy building, it's safe to say you shouldn't expect much in the way of progressive, agile change. There are still quite a few babies out there — large and small, especially in the Caribbean, where I have a keen interest. If you're at this stage, you have lots of company. Use the awe and wonder to get clear on ideas that you like and start working on a vision that can leapfrog you ahead.

The Toddlers & Young Children

We're finding our legs. Have you heard about or experienced the terrible twos? If you're a parent, you probably identify with this immediately. I recall the first experience of taking my son to Walmart and going down the toy aisle. He wanted more than the one thing I had strategically placed in my cart, so he decided to throw a tantrum — loud kicking and screaming and swimming on the floor in the middle of the store. Now, if you've spent time with management teams or boards who have decided to take on digital in an intentional way, you may have witnessed a few of these, albeit with nicely dressed adults. While activities are still primarily tactical, there's stuff happening. For instance, some vision is formulated, ad hoc innovation is now a thing, a little money for current IT projects is at play, teams are hearing about automation, and everyone finally has something to complain about!

This can be considered the formative stage and is most important because this is also where the formulation of resilience, digital culture, and agility is best put in place. Building a solid foundation is best tackled here. Leadership is now assigned to the transformation effort, and teams are rallying around projects tackling critical process gaps. Although there isn't organisation-wide knowledge of new opportunities with technology, there is evidence of the desire to learn and grow. It's a great time to create a clear vision that everyone can buy into and ensure that the promises made via the plans are managed well. What I mean by that is to share successes and don't keep failures or pivots a secret.

More of the stages of digital maturity in the next edition of Digital Life.

Contributed by Stacey Hines, immediate past president, JTDA, founder and CEO of Epic Transformation, business leadership and transformation expert, and group strategic planner — ICD Group Holdings

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