A bit in the stream

Something alerted me towards events this morning in LinkedIn of all places. There was a reference towards an article titled ‘New Accenture boss Bob Easton throws down gauntlet to big four on digital’ (at http://www.afr.com/business/accounting/new-accenture-boss-bob-easton-lays-down-gauntlet-to-big-four-on-digital-20160829-gr3huj ).

The initial quote is “The trouble is there is a lot of people running around talking about digital“, which is true. Bob Easton is right that there is a lot of talk about digital. Yet, when we look at the definitions, I wonder how many have a true grasp of digital. Even I myself wonder when the use ‘digital’ is warranted. You see, when it is media, my photography is digital, so is my filming. Advertisement is digital as it goes through AdWords and not trough the newspapers. Here is the issue. When is something digital? Bob Easton states in the article “they are confusing the market by misunderstanding digital strategy and lacking the global capabilities of his firm“, the fact that IBM took a massive hit is not a surprise because they are confused on the best of times. They still present the 14 managers and 2 technicians approach. I cannot speak for either PricewaterhouseCoopers in this instance, or for EY, but my last encounter with Deloitte gave a much better view on them and they seem to know it (to some extent). So where does this leave Accenture?

The term “moving to aggressively compete for work in the consulting, digital and business transformation space” is only a concern if they do not meet customers’ expectations. So where should they be?

So where should you be? You see Dave Aron from Gartner (at that time) gives me: “A digital strategy is a form of strategic management and a business answer or response to a digital question, often best addressed as part of an overall business strategy“, what I liked was “Every business and public sector agency needs both an IT Strategy and a Digital Business Strategy. They must be highly aligned with each other, but they are not the same thing“, which gives part of the goods, yet when we consider his claim “All aspects of the business strategy should be informed by digital considerations“, we tend to get confused here, because different elements have the same word (read: digital), but in that the setting is not the same.

We can see it as advancements in digital technologies such as computers, data, telecommunications and Internet, which is still true, but how to go about it?

A digital media manager looks at how to get the solutions towards their ROI, which in many turns means to get it all electronically solved, whilst keeping costs to a minimum. Here we see the first failing from IBM as they are about revenue and about getting the business onto their solutions. Even in a step by step solution it is about getting one foot into the door and upsell from there. That is not a solution for the client, it is merely a solution for the sales person’s target.

And in some cases there is no digital path, but to a lot of people that does not exist so they will feign a solution. As an example I have my old dentist, he had a card system so perfect that no IT solution could bring the goods. I saw yuppies in all sizes try to sell him a solution between 1983 and 1995, one failure after another. The mere realisation that not all solutions fit and that some solutions will drive down the ROI in unacceptable ways is why several of these players will never succeed. Because what the client truly needs is never addressed. If we take the approach from Macala Wright (at http://mashable.com/2012/09/05/how-to-digital-strategy/#oc3qMBqfF8qC)

We see a decently clear path. I can quote all the steps again, but the article has them down to a nice clean size, so reading it is a recommendation.

I am downgrading it to these four steps for comfort (read: mine).

  1. Identifying the opportunities and challenges in a business where online assets can provide a solution or a difference.
  2. Identifying the unmet needs and goals of the external stakeholders that most closely align with those key business opportunities and challenges, and especially if there are threats there.
  3. Developing a vision around how the online assets will fulfil those business and external stakeholder needs, goals, opportunities, challenges and threats.
  4. Prioritizing a set of online initiatives which can deliver on this vision.

These steps also include the views Cisco had in step 3, yet it is a watered down list. I am emphasising this as the entire ‘going digital’ is larger and more complex than most realise. When I look at what can be done and what can be achieved we need to realise that this all needs the decision makers to be aligned and in that both IT and business needs must be addressed. Most people going digital seem that it is a cheaper solution towards a better ROI. Yes, it is a path towards a better ROI, which will not make it cheaper. It requires serious investments and not tinkering around with half a dozen people working from home, sending in some finished element. Whilst the Australian Financial Review gives us a chart with Revenue versus margin and adds a little hype by adding AirBnB and Uber in the new business models, we see a forgotten element. You see, these new business models come with a little hook, one was highlighted by Bell Partners, where we see “Some critics argue that Uber drivers are not subject to the same premiums for compulsory third-party (CTP) insurance as taxis, as it is harder to identify an Uber car in an accident“. Is that so? So how does this impact the passenger? Until you are in an accident you might not care, but when the hospital bills come and the Uber player does not have the coverage, you will soon learn that hospitals are very expensive.

There is a lot of truth in the article and it is well worth reading, yet the lack of threats discussed is equally unsettling. The fact that Expenses in the digital world are up and very much so with Accenture is an element, and also a threat. You see, we all understand that there are a lot more expenses coming over (nearly all tax deductable), the matter of a shifting ROI remains and until the model is used to fuel growth the benefit will not be easily seen. For this path requires a globalising mindset. If you want to remain the big cheese in Darlinghurst and that is all you want, you need to consider what sides need the digital approach and what you want to grow. This for the mere reason that costs will come in the early days and if you are ready it is not an issue, if not, your ROI went straight into the basement, good luck enjoying that view!

Depending on your market, it will be about your customers and their experience, if that is not upgraded, then why byte into the digital apple? I truly worry about the bit you do not end up with, as you would limit your position and enable your competitor overnight. This is the part that is not addressed in many places, because everyone is in a sales hat thinking bonus and saying, we can get you onto the digital path! You see, the presentation in the AFR, regarding the digital disruption framework is aptly drawn as a spear point and it points towards you! The better the comprehension and implementation, the more it becomes a weapon of offense instead of a solution to suicide. In that regard, towards the offense we see that the spear could be the stepping stone that upgrades the customer experience and as such truly grow your business, which is exactly what it is, but it is not a cheap solution or an overnight solution, it is merely a new solution to grow towards places you never grew before, so you grow the options in getting a grown customer base, which is what many want.

The only question is how correctly the path has been drawn out and here we see the elements that Bob Easton sells on. Accenture seems to know this path through and through. We have seen how IBM scuttled their knowledge and for the most, the other players (read: self-proclaimed players) are not up to scrap, but their level of failure is not clearly shown, Bob Easton points at it, but there is clear doubt if that is a given, especially in the case of Deloitte.

Finally we see the mention of government contracts, which is of course fun to read. Especially as 20 years have shown me that the bulk of government is relatively clueless on any digital path, with Defence on a whole being close to the sole exception.

In all this I find one part slightly debatable, even as the chart makes perfect sense. The quote “Digitising the experience for your customers, digitising your internal operations and the creation of the capabilities to recognise and exploit new business models” is true, yet recognising new business models is always a non-given, because that requires the altered mindset of a board of directors, which tends to focus on the golf game and less on the balls they slice, which gives weight to the debate, not the issue with the model as shown. In that for Taxi’s the model makes perfect sense, because Uber is now forcing a different mindset on the taxi corporations. Yet consider the year before Uber started, how many Taxi companies were actively looking into new business models? That list is hugely close to zero!

I say that competitors and threats, the second more than the first is driving that element, which is why even in the digital move, a SWOT analyses tends to have more decisive impact on the decisions. When we know the elements strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, we can start to look at the options we have, and they do include the two Bob Easton axis scales namely Revenue and Margin. As stated, his view is not incorrect, I personally find it a little incomplete in this instance.

And to finalise this, the problem he states is on many levels, I am not even sure if America is the largest waster of options and resources here, yet when we see politicians go with (read: Donald Trump on CBS today) “you know cyber is becoming so big today. It’s becoming something that a number of years ago, short number of years ago, wasn’t even a word. And now the cyber is so big“, in this case Donald Trump for his elections. The fact that Cyber threats have been on the FBI agenda even before October 6th 1999, stating that the damage from those threats had surpassed 7 billion in Q1 and Q2 of 1999 gives us worry that Cyber and Digital are more than words and those who are aiming to be in a seat of power have not grasped it. The entire educational system is not ready for these changes, which is not their fault. The market that Bob Easton described has grown nearly exponentially and the next generation is not aware of what is what, that whilst the current generation is not up to scrap as to what the definitions are, how they should be seen and how they apply in a real time environment and the people in charge are not getting educated either, most they get is from trade shows dying for you to buy their solution, which is not much of an education and finally the previous generation that is hoping to make it to retirement before they have to learn it all.

That is the issue as it evolves. So we are all bits in the stream, bits of what? I am not sure if anyone can tell at present, but good luck trying to figure out where you are placed and where you stand, because resolving that will place you in a much stronger position than you were in this morning.



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