The Technopreneur Framework

The new startups as well as existing organizations are creating new innovative products, solutions and services using hackathons, innovation bootcamps and innovation hubs and innovation competitions to support innovators of all types. These innovative startups are run by Technopreneurs. 

Technopreneurs can be any age group of people from diverse background with radical ideas that can, create new solutions to existing problems, create new solutions for addressing future needs, create innovative products, solutions & services that can disrupt the existing industry, sector and market segments.

The process of becoming a technopreneur requires technopreneurs to know about what problem they are trying to solve, what is their value proposition, who are their primary customers, what assets and resources will be required, how will the funding and investments be taken care as well as what will be the time to market and product roadmap. 

There are several other important areas to check (e.g., competitors, regulatory compliance etc.) for a successful technopreneurship. It is easier said than done as often the devil is in the details and you require a lot of time to think through all the details.

The technopreneur’s journey starts with the following framework,

Technopreneur Framework
Technopreneur Framework

1.     Create a Lean Value Proposition Canvas – Detailing out each area and segment of the business and answering the most important questions that matter most to start.

2.     Refine Value Proposition – The value proposition can then be refined by presenting it to various stakeholders and taking their point of views in account.

3.     Apply Design Thinking – The next stage is to use an ideation workshop to initiate design thinking steps and execution for creating ideas, validating them and creating rapid paper prototypes, brainstorming and seeing the product from the best and worst customer’s point of views using surveys and interviews. This stage could take some time unless it is planned and timeboxed in a manner that will work well.

4.     Update Value Proposition – The outputs and feedbacks received from Design Thinking stage can be fed back to further strengthen the value proposition and making it more crisp with every round of updates. Finalize the Mission, Vision, Purpose and end to end value chain.

5.     Build Roadmap, Blueprint and Secure Stakeholder Buy In – Next the idea and solutions have to be presented to the board or angel investors to get their buy in to initiate the execution process. This must include the detailed roadmap and blueprint.

6.     Initiate and Engage Resources – Again, execution requires a proper organization setup with right resources of each type which could take some time unless those are pre-identified in parallel which is normally not the case and might not be possible as well.

7.     Start Execution (Design, Prototype, Build, Test cycles) – The real work starts from this step when the organization starts working and must adapt Lean and Agile processes which can be flexible yet solid as a foundation to get things done.

8.     Apply Lean and Agile methods – The cycle of daily, weekly and monthly progress reviews using online dashboards and decision meetings with stakeholders begin to ensure we make progress as per the plan and report issues and risks requiring action and attention from stakeholders and board members.

9.     Prepare Go to Market Strategy and Plan Execution – While all this is in progress, the team needs to prepare for go-to-market strategy for launch and how to handle competition and regulations in the market. Next releases and speed to market along with desired quality are very important to make it successful.

10.  Measure Results and Do Continuous Improvement – Ensure results are measured to track what works and what needs to improve. Apply tracking, monitoring and continuous improvement cycles.

Technopreneurs are all around us, some of them are very big brands while others are in the process of becoming one and some others are just starting up. There are many examples of successful technopreneurs who started and achieved great success. Here are some examples,

1.     Amazon – Leader in cloud computing

2.     Apple – Disrupted the mobile phone, apps and entertainment market

3.     Netflix – Disrupted the DVDs, Cinema and Entertainment market

4.     Google – Disrupted the internet search and browser market as well as the leader in cloud computing

5.     Microsoft – Leader in enterprise computers, software and cloud computing

6.     Uber and Grab – Disrupted the taxi and private care market

7.     Facebook (Meta) – Leading Social media platform

If we would add entrepreneurs to the list then there will be many more names in the list.

Important to note that while there are several examples of successful technopreneurs, there are also many more examples of failures where technopreneurs are either ahead of time or behind time or addressing wrong market segment or having bad user experience etc.

The technopreneurship journey requires thorough checks and solid commitment to keep on going in toughest of times to make it. There is a lot from technopreneurs that went ahead of us and how they have survived the journey as it requires long term commitment and lots of trial and errors to get it right.

The technopreneur and entrepreneur lifecycles are almost similar except that technopreneur innovations, solutions and services are fully technology based and they change and transform with much larger speed then other innovations, solutions and services.


The New Tech Paradigm of Blockchain

Blockchain in simple terms is a very long and distributed chain of blocks of transaction information. It uses the distributed ledger technology (DLT) which consists of continuously growing (endless) list of transaction records which are called Blocks (blocks of information).

Blockchain first came to existence in 2008, to make it secure the blocks were interlinked with a unique identification include date/time stamps and a trusted party digital signature/stamp. The blocks were also distributed across worldwide large pool of computers to ensure it is impossible to erase or alter any recorded block of information. The conceptual model was then introduced for use for crypto currency bitcoin from year 2009 and since then it served as public DLT for all bitcoin transaction records.

Let’s understand how blockchains work,

Blockchain Process Overview

1.     As Blockchains use the distributed ledger technology (DLT), they are managed using peer-to-peer (P2P) network of computers spread across the world.

2.     The computers called as nodes are generally running the digital ledger of transaction records called as blocks.

3.     Each node (computer) uses the consensus algorithm protocol for adding and validating new transactions records called as blocks.

4.     Every block is distributed across the world involving many computer systems. Each block has the previous blocks unique identification information for validation and integrity of blocks.

5.     Blocks hold information of transactions records in an encoded Hash Tree format where each leaf of the hash tree (in this case the block) has the encoded cryptographic hash of pervious block.

6.     The information on the blocks is interlinked to each other using this unique cryptographic hash and other relevant information about the transaction, date and time when the block was created and recorded.

7.     The blocks once recorded can’t be deleted or altered in any way. They permanently remain on the chain of records and remain retrievable.

8.     Blocks can be created but only the longest forming blockchain confirms the reliability of the block. In additions the entire network of computers can validate and confirm if the block and block chain is valid as per their records or not.

9.     As each block is replicated across the entire blockchain network of computers and each computer stores all the blocks information, it takes a lot of time for the blocks to be created and validated across the network. 

10.  As the size of the DLT (distributed ledger network) increases the speed of the block creation and validation reduces. E.g., a block creation for bitcoin having very huge network and extra-large size ledger could take up to 15 minutes while for the new bitcoins it can be done within 30 to 60 seconds as the ledger and size of network is limited.

11.  The blockchains can’t be altered so incase of new regulations or rules introduction from a specific date and time, will result in a New Hard Fork creation to identify and use the blockchains under that specific fork.

Now that we understand what blockchains are, let’s move to the types of blockchains. Here are the types of blockchain,

1.     Public Blockchain – Public blockchains are open to all decentralized blockchains. All people with internet access can use such blockchains to send their transaction records as well as become the node using consensus protocol to be able to validate records for their authenticity. Such blockchains work based on incentive mechanism where each node gets some incentives for the storage and validations done. E.g., Bitcoin and Ethereum are examples of public blockchain.

2.     Private Blockchain – As the name suggests, the private blockchain is restricted access blockchain. The access is strictly restricted for both creator and validator nodes. Such blockchains use distributed ledger technology (DLT) and can called as centralized blockchain to a large extent. E.g., Banking organizations can use Private Blockchain

3.     Hybrid Blockchain – A combi of Public and Private can be called as hybrid blockchain were certain areas of the blockchain can be kept public with open access and remaining areas private with restricted access. E.g., Healthcare organizations can use Hybrid Blockchain

4.     Consortium or Side Blockchain – These are blockchain where a ledger of blockchain transaction records (blocks) run parallel to primary blockchain. Entries from primary blockchain are linked to the side blockchain. Consortiums and Groups or even group of countries, companies etc. can use this type of blockchain. E.g., Monetary authority can run consortium blockchain with all banks and financial institutions, allowing banks to have their separate side blockchain with links to the primary consortium blockchain.

Here are some pros and cons of blockchain technology,

Pros for Blockchain include,

1.     Increased transparency and authenticity – Blockchain verify information across worldwide nodes to ensure transaction is authentic. The ledger in public blockchain is open to all for easy access and full transparency.

2.     Permanent Ledger of blocks – Blocks of transactions records never get old or archived. They always remain available in the blockchain across the world. So there is no chance of having any lost transaction records on the blockchain unless all nodes (computers) in the blockchain are altered.

3.     Easy Track and Trace – All blocks in the blockchain are always interlinked in such a way that entire chain of blocks remain fully intact. This makes tracking and tracing easier.

4.     Cost Savings – This depends on how the blockchain is used. E.g., if blockchain is used for smart contracts of real estate ownerships in a country. It will ensure the entire process is digitalized and contracts are put in blocks with all relevant information making them always available. Savings come from paper, archive stores and people.

Cons for Blockchain include,

1.     Implementation Challenges – Blockchain functions using distributed and often decentralized network of nodes spread across the world. It is difficult to trace, monitor and maintain the nodes efficiency and effectiveness. In addition, the adoption and usage itself could be also challenging depending on the area of use.

2.     Regulatory Compliance – Blockchain are still not widely accepted technology by major institutions. Although it functions well for crypto currencies and several other trails. For crypto currency itself regulatory compliance issues exist across the world.

3.     Technology complexity – Blockchain upgrades, maintenance and support as well as patching and security upgrades for nodes across the world can be very complex to achieve.

4.     Future Technology – While blockchain is one of the newest technologies but its adaption has been slow due to unforeseen future of what next and how the entire ecosystem can evolve.

There are many blockchain platforms in use across the world. Here some of the top ones,

1.     IBM Blockchain – IBM platform offers a fully managed blockchain-as-a-service solution which can be configured, developed and deployed by organizations for their own use.

2.     Ethereum – Ethereum is a decentralized blockchain platform that can be used for smart contracts and in many ways, it operates similar to the bitcoin blockchain platform.

3.     Ripple, Tron and Stellar – These are three different blockchain providers but they have similar capabilities as Ethereum.

4.     Chainalysis KYT (Know Your Transaction) – KYT blockchain platform is one of the latest and easy to use platforms with latest technology gaining a lot of popularity.

5.     Hyper Ledger – Fabric and Sawtooth – These are two different blockchain platforms that offer application creation ability. Sawtooth is an opensource version while fabric is not.

6.     Multichain – It is an open source blockchain platform for use by organizations with ability to create both public and private blockchains.

7.     Kakao Klaytn Blockchain – It is a blockchain platform by Kakao, its modular network design and architecture makes it easy to use for businesses to configure, customize and operate service-oriented blockchains based on the proprietary Klaytn framework.

8.     Amazon, Azure Quorum and Google Blockchain – The top 3 cloud providers also offer blockchain as a service platform for quick configuration and use by organizations. Here a simple overview of AWS Blockchain architecture as a reference.

Amazon Blockchain aș a service architecture overview

Over the years the acceptance and use of various types of bitcoins increased and still continuing to increase. This resulted in financial institutions, monetary authorities and governments to start thinking in the direction of how to control and add good governance model around bitcoins. Many countries are thinking of bringing digital currency (similar to bitcoin) but under governance and control of respective monetary authorities and governments. It is very likely that the underlying technology and ecosystem to be similar or enhanced version of Blockchain making them universally accepted and usable across the world.

For the year 2019 Gartner reported that only 5% of CIOs believed blockchain technology was a ‘game-changer’ for their business as blockchain usage is largely recognized for use only for FinTech organizations, the likes of banks, investment firms, credit card companies and finance divisions.

As we are now in 2022, Blockchain is used in various shapes and forms by almost all the major industries and sectors. Confirmed usage and use cases can be found for Automotive, Banking, Financial services, Government, Healthcare, HealthTech, life sciences, Insurance, Media, Entertainment, Retail, Consumer goods, Logistics and Telecommunications.

Everything you need know about ChatBots

The word chatbot is made up of “Chat” and “Bot”, it means chat powered and executed by bot (computer system). ChatBot actually emerged from “Chatterbots” back in 1990s. As it was too early to use them, the usage didn’t come to life until last decade. ChatBots were started to get used by organizations more effectively from 2015 onwards. In past 7 years the usage and industry for chatbots have grown by leaps and bounds.

A ChatBot is a computer software which helps organizations handle their customer queries automatically ay anytime (7×24 hours) anywhere (across the globe) using any device (mobile, tablet, laptop, PC, smart tv etc.) connected to the internet. 

ChatBots interact with diverse customer groups using messaging platforms which are designed to work and act as if a human customer service assistant is answering the queries based on keywords identified in the question and their model answers.

ChatBots require continuous update and learning as they are meant to answer customer queries related to product, organization, compliant, enquiry for information etc. There is also a need of having active human customer service agents behind the ChatBot to step in for situations where it is difficult for the ChatBot to answer further questions.

ChatBots are of many types, they can be very simple keyword based, rule-based Bots as well as sophisticated self-learning artificially intelligent (AI) Bots with built in natural language processing (NLP) capabilities as well as machine learning and deep learning abilities.

Here is a brief overview of Chatbot process and architecture,

ChatBot Process Overview and Logical Architecture

1.     The user generally opens a website or app to search for their need or to get support and guidance.

2.     The ChatBot popups with welcome greetings and either it starts by giving standard options that the user can choose to decide which area he needs help on or it allows the user to ask the query.

3.     User places the query which the ChatBot receives and processes. The processing is done through NLP (natural language processing) service consisting of NLU (natural language understanding) that helps understand users intent of the query based on keywords and phrases asked. The query is processed by the dialog manager and the response is given by Dialog manager to NLU (Natural Language Generation) which answers users query either in written or voice response.

4.     The user can see the response and ask further questions or after a waiting time of 1 minute the ChatBot can do the Thanks greeting to ask further questions and close the chat.

5.     In the background there are multiple technical architecture blocks and systems that operate to make the ChatBot work including storage systems, Knowledge base, API message Interfaces, Business Process Interfaces, IoT interfaces and ChatBot front end as well as back end conversational query engine.

We all are very familiar of ChatBots and use them in our daily lives. Here are some everyday examples of ChatBots including their types,

NLP Based ChatBot Overview

1.     AI based ChatBots – These chatbots are advanced and have NLP (natural language processing) capabilities. Some of them also have built in self learning abilities attached with machine learning and deep learning neural network algorithms.

a.     Siri on Apple Devices – The simplest form of AI ChatBot is NLP based Siri on Apple devices meant to serve our voice commands and answer our queries. Other than answering our queries, it is able to do many of our tasks, remember important events and remind us at the right time.

b.     Amazon Echo and Alexa – Alexa and Echo are voice enabled AI ChatBots and are enabled using NLP (Natural Language Processing) and AI capabilities. Other than answering our queries, it is able to search and order food, groceries and other items we need. Able to recommend the best price and online site to buy from.

c.     Google Home – Google Home is also voice enabled AI ChatBots and are enabled using NLP (Natural Language Processing) and AI capabilities. Other than answering our queries, it is able to search and book flights, movie tickets, hotels as well as suggest what is the best places to visit, with best time and price.

2.     Online Virtual Agent ChatBots – The other simpler form is the virtual assistant popup window we get on most of the websites greeting us and asking how can it help us. These are most common and seen across all business websites. Every sector and industry have their own ChatBots. E.g., Banking, HealthCare, eCommerce, Government Services, Logistics, Retail, social media etc.

3.     SMS Based ChatBots – There are also chatbots that are SMS based which are basically rule-based ChatBots that answer queries based on our questions and answers.

4.     Phone Call Based ChatBots – Phone call based chatbots are similar to SMS based chatbots but with voice enablement for communicating and handling user queries. During Covid Pandemic we have seen the use of these for managing online enquiries. We can also see them in use largely by banking, credit card and government services enquiry lines.

5.     Offline ChatBots – These are ChatBots used within organizations boundaries (E.g., HR, IT) and in some case for educational purposes by schools and universities. These ChatBots operate within specific knowledge domain to help manage queries from employees and students.

Now that we understand the type of ChatBots, Let’s understand the Pros (Benefits) and Cons (Downsides) of using them. 

Here are the benefits of using ChatBots,

1.     Improved 7×24 Customer Service – saving time and efforts for customers to find answers to their queries anytime anywhere with any device connected to internet.

2.     Standardized and automated processes – ChatBots make the respective customer service or query handling process fully optimized and automated for all possible scenarios. The process also undergoes continuous improvements and ChatBots continue to learn and feedback for corrections. Eventually making the organization more efficient and effective.

3.     Cost Savings – ChatBots can handle 1000s of customer queries at once using the same standard mechanism. This results in cost savings for the organizations’ operational costs as they will not need so many customer service agents working in multiple shifts and locations.

4.     Ability to Gather Customer Needs and Information – ChatBots can help gather customer needs and information through the questions and answers. The information gathered can then be used by sales, marketing and customer service divisions to engage with respective customers.

5.     Ability to generate leads – ChatBots can also help in generating leads on campaign sites and company websites by collecting interests and information of customers.

6.     Ability to Upsell and even cross sell – ChatBots can be setup to identify customer needs for products and services. Based on the identification, they can upsell and even cross sell products and services that can complement and better fit for the customer.

7.     Ability to sell extended warranty, accessories and CRP (customer replaceable parts) – ChatBots can be setup to identify customer needs for products and accessories. Based on the identification, they can sell extended warranty, accessories and parts to increase sell.

8.     Improved Compliance – ChatBots unlike humans are always well behaved in their answers to customer queries and every step of the discussion is recorded and audit log can be easily emailed to customers and stored in company logs for compliance purposes.

Here are some downsides and limitations of ChatBots,

1.     Limited Knowledge base – ChatBots can only handle limited set of queries and questions, as they are setup with a fixed set of keywords and questions identification and answers.

2.     Handle One Query at a time – In most cases ChatBots can only handle one question at a time. So if a user asks multiple questions the ChatBot will be able to answer only 1 question impacting user experience.

3.     Limited number of instances – ChatBots efficiency depends on the load and number of instances running parallelly. So organization must be vigilant to ramp up computing capacity for ChatBots based on their usage threshold.

4.     Complex Scenarios – There are complex scenarios in customer chat which ChatBot won’t be able to understand, answer and resolve. For such case the human service agents must keep a check on ChatBot discussions and step in to takeover such discussions.

5.     Need for Human Agent – It is normal that most humans would like to speak to a human services agent instead of ChatBots as conversing with ChatBots could take longer time especially on SMS and Phone based conversations.

6.     Language and Slangs – ChatBots understand normal language with correct grammar and slangs. They would not recognize certain slangs and language shortcuts that we normally use as humans.

7.     Over Loading – ChatBots can be attacked and kept loaded by hacking bots putting a lot of load on system capacity by opening many instances and asking many types of questions. Eventually impacting efficiency and effectiveness of the system and in some cases even crashing the system.

8.     Hacking – ChatBot platforms can be prone to hacking and hackers can alter the answers and language which can impact organization’s brand image as ChatBots are front face of organizations online presence.

There are many ChatBot software and platforms. Some of the famous ones are Hubspot, Zendesk, Intercom, Tidio, Mobile Monkey, Drift, IBM Watson and QlikSense. In addition, social media platforms like Facebook (Meta) also offer their rule based chatbots for business pages and ecommerce. Similarly, eCommerce Hubs like Shopee also offer their own ChatBot for online shops running on their own platforms. The top 3 Cloud providers Amazon (Amazon ChatBot), Microsoft Azure (Azure ChatBot) and Google (Google Dialog Flow) also have their own pay for use ChatBot platform offerings that can be easily built-up using scenario-based conversation flow configurations without any need of complex coding and development.

ChatBots are very much in use across the world by all industries and sectors. They are here to stay and they will become much more artificially intelligent in the upcoming years. AI based ChatBots combined with Deep Learning will open many more opportunities for their use to make our lives far more advanced, efficient and effective.

Understanding the perspective of Digital Twins

The need for digital twins was foreseen way back in 90’s when we started using computers for automation. In the past two decades our society and organizations have gone to great lengths in making hyper automation possible and we live in a gadgets world where every it connected and have some part of it managed through digital technology. We have actually started using Digital Twins meaningfully only in the past 5 to 7 years.

Digital Twins, when you hear these words for the first time, the first thing that you think is, it must be some sort of digital replica of physical things. You are half way there in understanding Digital Twins. 

Digital Twin is an exact virtual (digital) replica of physical product, object, system, process and even human beings to some extent. Digital twins is used for simulation, prototyping, testing and maintenance as well as for investigations of cause and effects for any major issues and risks we face in products, objects, systems, processes etc. 

Digital Twins are of three broad types based on their usage needs,

1.     Digital Twin Prototype (DTP) – As the name suggests this is not a real digital twin but a prototype and generally used for all types of digital prototyping giving a feel of the product, object, system or process.

2.     Digital Twin Instance (DTI) – DTI is an actual Digital Twin (virtual instance) of a  product, object, system or process. DTI is used for carrying our multiple scenario simulations and testing on the virtual instance.

3.     Digital Twin Aggregate (DTA) – DTA is combination of multiple instances (samples) of the same product, object, system or process. This is used to carry out detailed simulations and tests on aggregated instances. It is very useful for validating how the hundreds of thousands of instances of digital twins could work and what challenges and issues we might face as we ramp up or ramp down the instances, upgrades, maintenance and support. 

Digital Twins are used in 3D modelling, architecting, construction, manufacturing, retail, healthcare, automotives, aviation, shipping, smart cities and many more industries. Here are some major examples,

1.     Retail – Digital Twins are used in the retail industry to model consumers and study their behaviors to enhance user experience.

2.     Healthcare – Digital Twins are used in the healthcare industry for multiple areas,

a.     For products simulations and tests

b.     For patient simulations and tests

c.     For Hospitals and Clinics process simulations

d.     For staff trainings using digital twins

3.     Automotives – Digital Twins are used in the automotive industry for parts simulations as well as product simulations and testing

4.     Manufacturing – Digital Twins can be used to simulate how industry and manufacturing lines can perform in various scenarios.

5.     Architecting – Digital Twins can be used for 3D modeling and architecting simulations and tests.

6.     Aviation and Shipping – Digital Twins can be used for aircraft, spacecraft and ships simulations and testing

7.     Construction – Digital Twins can be used for major construction modelling and simulation testing.

8.     Smart Cities – Countries and Governments can use Digital twins for simulating smart cities and how they can meet their growth and sustainability goals.

Microsoft Azure Digital Twins Overview for Smart Cities

The need for digital twins is clear from above examples. Please also check above picture of Microsoft Azure Digital Twin Overview of a Smart City. Digital twins help in ensuring before we launch the new product, object, system or process as well as before we upgrade we do a thorough virtual simulation and testing to understand the quality, impact, issues and risks. The outcome helps in addressing all the areas sufficiently before launching. Here are some real examples specifying why we need digital twins,

1.     Imagine the impact for an airline company of recalling its aeroplanes for any parts defects post product launch.

2.     Imagine the impact of healthcare device recall post launch and how much it will impact organization’s brand and finances.

3.     Imagine an automotive company recalling its cars to address defective part which did not get sufficiently tested.

4.     Imagine a space rockets company having its rocket failure due to insufficient simulation tests.

5.     Imagine a trading company launching a defective trading app and how much of impact it can create for its customers.

6.     Imagine a construction company building a construction project without full simulation and tests.

These are only few examples why we need digital twins to improve simulation and testing with virtual instances. There are many more examples across all industries and sectors.

Here is a quick understanding on how the digital twins are setup and how do they function,

1.     Digital twins are setup and created as virtual instance(s) that get(s) data feed from the physical instance(s). 

2.     The data is fed using system interfaces or data loads for specific scenarios simulations and tests. 

3.     The results are collected and recorded from different parts of the respective product, object, process or system.

4.     The results are collated and visualisations are created for concluding on insights.

5.     Insights lead to actions and possibly some more simulations and tests until the respective product, object, process or system meets all criteria.

Digital Twins can be created using company proprietary or market standard platforms. Microsoft, Nvidia, IBM, Siemens, Cisco, Oracle, Ansys, General Electric and many other companies offer Digital Twin platforms, solutions and services.

Digital Twins are an essential part of Industry 4.0 and Digital Transformation for organizations’ digital value chain. Digital twins are also closely attached and work in conjunction with the IoT (Internet of Things) and IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) ecosystems. Digital Twins can also be understood as Metaverse made for the reverse engineering of investigations and simulations.

Digital Twins are very useful for organizations, industries, sectors and countries. As it costs to have a Digital Twin, it is important to not apply Digital Twins for every product, object, process and system. Digital Twins should be applied to only mission critical, high impact and high risk products, objects, processes and systems.

Digital Twin are a necessity for organizations as their products and value chain becomes digital through digital transformation and digital business models. In near future more easy to use platforms, solutions and services will emerge that will make using Digital Twins simpler and faster for all.

11 Important areas for effective Digital Transformation

Digital Transformation framework and digital value chain deployment is a huge effort for large organizations as there are too many factors to be taken care for becoming successful.

Organizations’ depending on their size need a multiyear program to full achieve the transformation. For smaller and medium size organizations it is relatively simpler to achieve due to their smaller size and much lower complexities involved.

Alongside the Digital Transformation Framework, we must ensure entire digital value chain (value stream) is well equipped to function smoothly. This requires taking care of following 11 important areas while doing digital transformation of your digital value chain,

Important Areas of Digital Transformation
Important Areas of Digital Transformation

1.     Stakeholder Needs – Identify, Involve and Evaluate that all your stakeholder needs both internal and external are met. This must include your partners (e.g., suppliers, supply chain, marketing agencies etc.)

2.     Digital value chain – Clearly articulate your digital value chain. Define and measure your expected outcomes. Easier said than done, this will take a lot of efforts from all in the organization, especially leaders and management team. Focus is not just on what is the value chain but on what outcomes you want to achieve, for whom and how it will be measured for success.

3.     Competition – Evaluate what your top 3 to 5 competitors are doing and how digital transformation can give you an edge over them. Also, to maximize results, check where your specific industry or market is going and align to it. Use market research and industry papers from top consulting firms and government.

4.     Digital Work Culture – Define and Design work culture changes needed to adapt the digital mindset across the organization. Digital transformation is much more of work culture change then simply changing systems and processes. To be digital the culture must have aspects of digital behaviors embedded and articulated with examples.

5.     Balance Digital Capabilities – Ensure proper digital technical capabilities are in place with a good balance of inhouse and external resources/partners to deliver and run the ongoing digital journey. Also do a check whether your partners (SCM, Suppliers, Retailers, etc.) are well equipped to move in the digital space. There is no point having digital transformation done while rest of your ecosystem is not ready to adapt.

6.     Digital Capabilities Readiness – Establish full set of digital capabilities in terms of people, process and products. The emphasis here will be on people, to check and ensure digitally trained people are onboard to manage the value chain. Existing people can be trained. New people or positions should be opened and hired (e.g., if you don’t have digital marketing leader, you will need one for sure, you don’t have digital data analysts then know that you will need them too). HR must have a Digitally savvy TA Manager that really understands Digital needs and how to acquire the right talent. Lastly there has to be a good balance between how many people you really need inhouse and how much you can manage using your external partners (for Manufacturing, Marketing, SCM, Finance, Procurement, HR and IT).

7.     Partners are important – For digital transformation to be successful all your partners (e.g., suppliers, supply chain, marketing agencies etc.) must be fully onboard and equipped to move towards digital ecosystem. Often partners technical capabilities and system landscape standardization and connectivity for seamless transactions management becomes a major issue. This is one of the most challenging areas where organization’s core systems are not seamlessly connected using industry standard messaging platforms resulting in lot of manual work and Lean waste if not identified and handled in advance as part of the transformation. Challenge is generally faced with manufacturing suppliers, supply chain partners and eCommerce hub (shop in shop) partners.

8.     Big Data and Insights – One of the other major areas to watch out are related to Data and Insights. Going Digital means, the organization will now have a lot of data in various systems and these data must be used to generate meaningful insights using near real time online dashboards. Key value indicators (KVIs) and Key performance Indicators (KPIs) as well as various aspects of industry 4.0, digital marketing and online sales must be well defined and measured for growing the business and creating sustainable value.

9.     Compliance – As you embark on the Digital value chain, all the compliance needs must be redefined as per the digital value stream. Data privacy and online compliance regulations from global as well as local country specific compliance must be fully acknowledged and implemented.

10.  Digital Command Center – The more digital the organization becomes the more the organization would need digital command centers to check and manage their online presence and customer touchpoint platforms (likes of company websites, campaign websites, facebook, youtube, twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn and many more). One mistake on these platforms can cost a lot to the organization and its brand image globally (e.g., it can directly impact share prices).

11.  Cyber Security – Going digital brings a lot of positives but it also has its own negatives. If systems are not well architected and digital platforms are not secured with cyber security. System authorizations and authentications must be handled with end-to-end encryptions. All people must be trained in understanding basics of cybersecurity related to use of strong passwords, keeping the devices locked when not in use, authorizations are maintained and segregation of duty conflicts are vouched to ensure right people get right information (nothing more and nothing less). All servers, devices, systems and digital equipment are periodically scanned and patched for avoiding virus attacks and hacking.

Digital Transformation is like implanting a new brain in the organization (body) to make it more effective and efficient while still keeping its vision & purpose (soul) intact. Digital transformation helps to change the strategy of an organization on how it can unlock its full potential to achieve its vision, purpose and goals (north star).

The Digital Transformation Framework

Digital Transformation is a large commitment for organizations to change how it works, thinks and generates its business. Everything has to change to think, work and act digitally across the entire organization.

For being successful in making the leap for digital transformation, the organizations must follow a solid framework along with talents from both inhouse employees and outside partners. The digital transformation scope must also cover the landscape of the business partners to ensure they are equally digital equipped to work and deliver seamlessly.

The digital transformation framework provides a well thought through roadmap steps that can be applied to any organization to achieve transformation goals with agility, speed and accuracy. Digital transformation framework along with organizations’ digital value chain helps define organizations full path to succeed digitally.

Let’s do a quick run through on Digital Transformation Framework steps and supporting areas for achieving first time right successful transformation across the organization.

Digital Transformation Framework
Digital Transformation Framework

Step 1: Understand Impact of Transformation – Organization must clearly articulate and know what’s in it for them, why do they need to transform and what will be its impact across the organizations, taking in account all internal and external stakeholders involved. Eventually part of this is what the board of management will use for communicating towards the entire organization.

Step 2: Map the end to end As-Is value stream – This is an important step where the organization lays down its as is value stream on how their current business works. Full End to End mapping must be done involving talents from all divisions. It will also be useful to map the processes up to 3 sub levels deep to make it meaningful to understand processes and eventually gaps and improvements.

Step 3: Map the end to end To-Be value stream – Once the As-Is flows are mapped the important and often difficult step is to map the To-Be value stream. This can be achieved by taking input and lead from external partners hired for digital transformation. It can be also achieved by identifying gaps, manual steps, Lean waste in the processes and repetitive as well as duplicate work. The To-Be process map should result in automation and standardization of work. It should improve productivity and efficiency as well as competitive technology edge.

Step 4: Create a full list of Gaps and Improvements identified – Ensure the list is prioritized and owners assigned to ensure who would own and help drive which gaps and improvements. Eventually it will be a team work and many more people including technical IT inhouse and outside team members will be involved. The prioritization will set the tone for which are the important must have items that will create most of the impact and must be done first. As the list could be long, MOSCOW method can be applied to come to a shortened must have list.

Step 5: Create Transformation Roadmap and Blueprint – The information collected from step 1 to step 4 can now be converted to a transformation roadmap and blueprint documents. As this will be a long program involving multiple projects and tasks with dependencies, it will need to be well defined and executed with Lean, Agile and Design Thinking methods. The roadmap and blueprint will also ensure all compliance and audit related activities are well covered in the scope.

Step 6: Setup Multidisciplinary Program Team – Once the roadmap and blueprints are approved, the core program team can now setup the full Multidisciplinary program team required for various phases and projects to initiate execution. Inhouse talents as well as external partners must be onboarded to form the team.

Step 7: Manage Communication, Execution & Change – Initial communication of the program roadmap and blueprint must be shared widely across the entire team. The Daily dashboards and tracking and weekly/bi-weekly steerco updates and measurement metrics along with the definition of done must be communicated. The execution standards like Agile (Scrum or Scaled Agile) and Lean methods must be well communicated and ensure the team is trained to operate seamlessly. This is also the step where most of the technical execution and readiness takes place. So this step will require a lot attention and energy from everyone in the program.

Step 8: Deploy Solutions & Services – Once various tracks and projects have completed their execution, the important step of testing, cutover and release management comes up. In this step user acceptance testing, rework and sign offs on definition of done are achieved for all projects and for the entire program as a whole. 

Cutover activities planning including data migration and phase in / phase out of systems / solutions / services is planned. User trainings are done for all. The interdependencies including exact sequence, date and time along with primary and backup owners for each cutover activity are confirmed. This also involves getting our partners ready to cutover and release. Communication of release and cutover command center for effective release management are put in place. Multiple checkpoint meetings and Go/No-Go signoffs are achieved. Point of no return is clearly mentioned and underpinned. 

Go Live is achieved and first set of end-to-end golden transactions are carried to ensure entire process, people and systems are working as expected. Upon completion of the golden transactions the ramp up towards business as usual gets kicked off and generally with in 1 to 2 weeks of go live full ramp up and business as usual stage is achieved. Alongside from the day of go live 24×7 support to fix any teething issues is put in place. All transactions are tracked and progress reported on daily basis to ensure full control and attention on priority basis to keep the business smooth. This is also the step where best teams and team members are awarded/rewarded for their efforts. Overall team’s success celebrations are done.

Step 9: Measure Continuous usage and improve – In general the program team and its support structures continue for 6 to 8 weeks post go live to ensure a full cycle of 1+ month or even 2 months are done before concluding the closure of the program. This is also the step where community for practice (CoPs) are setup for users to interact with key users and subject matter experts. CoPs are online discussion forums of specific function, division or process experts and users to interact even after the program is closed.

Change control boards are also implemented to ensure changes are submitted, reviewed and approved through a board consisting of multi-disciplinary team that can approve/reject the changes. It serves both the purposes, one it to ensure continuous improvements are done to keep the business running and second is reject any unwanted changes that can lead to Lean waste again.

The Digital Transformation Framework ensures a successful implementation of organization’s digital needs of installing a new brain that can change how the organization functions as a whole, how it innovates (thinks) and how it operates (acts) to achieve its results.

Do look out for my second article covering 9 important areas that must be taken care for effective digital transformation and to make it successful.

Leading your way with Digital Transformation

Digital Transformation is often misunderstood as equivalent for technology adoption. Digital Transformation has a much bigger and broader purpose for any organization embarking on it. It is a multi-year journey and often continues even beyond the decade as the change in technology landscape continues to evolve itself rapidly.

It has become a necessity for all organizations to ensure they are continually digitally transforming as a large percentage of customers and consumers are digitally savvy and have a much more powerful mobile computer (mobile phone) in their hands. Generation X, Y and Z are comfortable using internet for searching and finding solutions and services online as their first and most important step.

The key purpose for Digital transformation is meet the need of customers and consumers, allowing them to find organizations solutions and services when they want and wherever they want it. Allowing them full flexibility of time and device and giving them ability to find, compare and choose the solutions and services that will best meet their needs.

Digital transformation impacts the very fabric of an organization by seamlessly and securely connecting all stakeholders with each other and automating various touchpoints of all stakeholders both internal and external. It needs a complete change in organization’s culture, thinking and ways of working where entire organization has to think and do things online digitally. It creates an entire digital ecosystem where organization, its supplier and customers of all types able to interact and do business using digital technology solutions and services.

The focus is largely on the outcome of all this for customers and consumers. The focus is on improving productivity, making the processes easier, seamless & automated, increasing time to market, increasing accuracy and ensuring full compliance across the end-to-end process of innovation, design, build, test, deploy, market, sell and support lifecycle of solutions and services offered by the organization.

Digital transformation in general has large benefits across the entire ecosystem for all involved stakeholders. Important is to understand that it is not a small undertaking of only some areas or divisions. It is certainly not about technology adoption. It is about bringing an end-to-end change on how any organization is designed to operate digitally and organization’s ability to adapt to the changing world of technology.

Digital transformation requires organizations to create new business models, new operating models and relook at upskilling employees or bringing new talent with desired new skills to operate the new business and operating models. The change starts from top and it requires the board of management to think and live digital. All the important organization metrics must be made digital and as real time as possible. It requires full commitment from all tiers of management staff to ensure they walk to talk of becoming digital.

Digital Transformation applies to all industries. Every industry and business sector need digital transformation. Here are some names Banking, Consumer Goods, FMCG, Healthcare, Investment, Insurance, Manufacturing, Logistics, Retail, Tours and Travel, Utilities etc. The list is long and digital transformation has been even adopted by governments to have better reach, communication and delivery of services for their citizens, business, employees and people.

Digital transformation means digital landscape and digital landscape means underlying new technology platforms, systems and gadgets that enable to seamless automation and user experience. Here are some of the new technologies used to build the digital landscape for the organization.

1.     Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML)– AI and ML systems are of many types where the systems handle complex set of data and help to get predictions and insights.

2.     Big Data and Analytics – Big Data and Analytics systems are meant to collect the data, clean it, structure it and feed it to create analytics for timely and meaningful decision making.

3.     Cloud Computing – Cloud computing platforms are generally used to deploy systems, store data and securely access them online from anywhere at any time. These are highly scalable and flexible pay per use platforms ensuring high reliability and speed.

4.     Internet of Things (IoT) – These are generally sensors and gadgets attached to product, machines and packages for tracking certain aspects and insights like usage, temperatures, date and time stamps, pictures, scanning etc.

5.     Robotics – Robotics are largely used in manufacturing and industry 4.0 digital transformation initiatives to automate production lines. Robotics are also used now a days in restaurants, food courts, warehouses, air ports and ports for automating food making, product handling (pick, pack, ships) etc.

6.     Robotics Process Automation (RPA) – Robotics process automation is used for automating business process execution. The entire process is handled by computer systems instead of any human interventions ensuring speed, scalability and accuracy.

7.     Social media and Digital marketing – Social media platforms and digital gamification are used for reaching customers through online campaigns, digital platforms and online shopping malls and hubs. It involves use of Metaverse and other gamification techniques to engage customers and sell their desirable products.

8.     Blockchain and Digital Currency – Blockchain is used in fintech for digital assets and digital currency management. Blockchain also have possible use cases in logistics, healthcare industries, and online auctions tracking and maintaining of records. Digital currency will open a lot of new opportunities for all. There is a need to move in this direction as our customers and we ourselves have been using less and less of physical currency. Everywhere we are able to pay online. Governments and monetary authorities are looking into this as it will ease the burden of printing and maintaining so much of physical currency across the world.

9.     Augmented, Virtual and Mixed Reality – Augmented, Virtual and Mixed Reality solutions open new doors for gaming, online training and learning, online try (visualize) and buy solutions. It helps create a virtual world which feels like real experience with real to life digital environments.

Digital Transformation as the name suggests is a transformation of an organization, its entire ecosystem and it’s a portfolio of offerings (products, solutions and services) using digital new technology solutions.

Many organizations have gone through digital transformation and some think it’s over for them but its far from over. It’s just the beginning and the transformation must continue as the world evolves and as the customer needs change.