A flock of starlings

Chasing digital strategy

Murmuration, that’s the term for the aerial ballet of a flock of starlings. They seem to become one massive shape that moves across the sky. There appears to be no rhyme or reason for the flock’s behavior. I can’t help but think these murmurings are much like digital strategy these days: moving to and fro, alighting here and there, taking flight again, only to move in another direction, expending so much energy.

Does any one group or organization have any idea where digital strategy is taking us these days? What it means? Where are we all going? Forrest Gump once said, “ I don’t know if we each have a destiny, or if we’re all just floatin’ around accidental-like on a breeze. ” It sure feels like we’re floating around accidental-like on a breeze. Do a Google search for digital strategy and you’ll see thousands of results of companies looking for a digital strategist that can lead the way.

There are so many starlings in the digital marketplace these days. One sense of something new coming, and the market takes flight. We hear the murmurings, the wind rushing by as something shiny catches the eyes of the frantic flock, and off they fly in pursuit. Are they simply in flight because their neighbor is? Are there really this many businesses with this kind of attention deficit? I think the answer is, “yes”.
customer centric compass At a time in our digital history when we can create so many shiny, new digital things, the question must be asked, “should we”? There really are so many things we can technically do, but of what value to the customer. Will that mobile application, that touch screen device, whatever the latest and greatest digital thing is, result in a better customer experience? If not, what’s the point. Could the next biggest app be the customer centric compass?

This is the year when marketers will realize that just because everyone else is doing it, doesn’t mean you should be doing it as well. First. everyone ran to social media with little idea if it was working or not. Now many are rushing to mobile. For many it is worthwhile, but that doesn’t mean that the new channels are right for you.   — David J. Reibstein


a flock of geese

The masters of the long haul flight
Geese don’t have the panache of the starlings: they don’t expend so much energy and they limit their movement. Sometimes simple things are ingenious. Geese have an end goal and an extremely ingenious way of reaching it: they work together and they work efficiently. This is where digital strategy must live: it’s not only about the goal but how one gets there. Digital strategy should be about value AND how to achieve it.

Digital Efficiency
In order to effectively deliver on digital strategies, every group in an organization must provide lift to the other. In short, to reach the goal the entire organization acts as one. Digital strategy should be about how different areas within an organization give synergistic lift to another. Gone are the days of waste; in are the days of efficiency. You could flit about chasing the “next big thing” like the flock of starlings, and you might have your spot in the limelight for a moment, but this will fade. So many experiments have been “cool” for the moment but then are quickly forgotten. After a while one must ask the question, “What’s the value?”

iceberg floating in water In today’s digital world there is so much waste. So many businesses are consuming huge amounts of human resources. The true cost of digital strategies is far too high right now. To achieve the goals of digital strategies many untold hours are never billed. The true cost of digital strategies are like icebergs: billable hours above the water line and the majority of non-billable hours below the surface. It is easy to see that this is unsustainable business, and yet so many – so many – businesses are operating in just this way.

Digitally ass backwards

picture of a donkey from the rear Imagine Ford promising to deliver a brand new truck or a car to its client but not having a) a supply chain b) an automated assembly line c) a tested prototype of said truck or car d) an idea of how long it will take to build said truck or car. Now imagine given all those missing fundamentals, Ford makes you a promise that they will deliver this brand new truck or car by late spring of 2015.

If this sounds like a crazy idea, that’s because it is! Yet, that is the way so many companies approach any sort of digital endeavor: how to create the digital product is an after thought.

Thankfully Ford does have an operating supply chain; does have an automated assembly line; has tested a prototype; has an idea of how long it will take to produce the truck or car, and knows when they can deliver it by. Furthermore, once they have perfected one part and its manufacturing process, they will try to use that part in their new trucks or cars. No sense re-inventing the wheel or process. Why can’t digital be the same way? It could be. When will companies start getting their digital production lines in order so that they can begin efficiently traveling towards their digital goals?

The missing digital infrastructure
Organizations need to realize they can do more with less. The process of creating apps or creating digital products is as important as the product and the environment that houses them. Once a business has the proper digital tooling, they can interchange the final ‘bits’ that allow them to quickly finish the job.

screwdriver with interchageable bits Buckminster Fuller, the king of doing more with less, looked at the average screwdriver and realized that a Phillips and a Robertson screwdriver shared much in common: in fact the only changing piece was the bit. So he reasoned, why not do more with less and instead of making 20 handles and 20 shafts, make only one handle and one shaft, and make interchangeable bits. In short, Fuller was a disruptor of the old but a champion of the new, and asked the question: ‘ Why not work smarter AND faster?

In a digital economy where Moore’s Law sets the pace and technical development is exponential, classical organizations run the risk of being left behind, hindered by their linear thinking and cumbersome frameworks. Meanwhile, the gap between technical possibilities and company realities grows ever larger. Too many companies waste energy on digital trends that fail to generate measurable business value. Marketers who wish to transform rather than to be transformed will have to develop a laser-sharp focus because, paradoxically, in a climate of exponential dynamics, the answer lies in less, not more. (– Boris Lakowski)

Some companies are just entering the digitization of their businesses. They have an arduous transformation before them. Some companies were recent or early adopters of digital but didn’t transform their thinking and their processes and are falling from flight like lead balloons. The successful companies are realizing more can be done with less – and are gaining speed in leaps and bounds. These successful companies, like Google, are synergistically combining art-copy-code.

Automation and proper processes do not diminish from rich, creative, interactive digital media they enhance the end result. People like Joshua Davis, probably one of the earliest experimenters with generative digital art, were, and are, able to produce vast amounts of rich media in a fraction of traditional production time. Once companies embrace the efficient processes and automation for creating digital media their speed to market will increase exponentially, which in turn will lead to more experimentation, which will lead to even greater creativity. Imagine, an upward synergistic spiral – now that would be the 360 degree cycle I’d like to see.

High-impact digital marketing requires the strategic and tactical alignment of content creation, asset production, search engine optimization, promotion, and analytics all connected along a common backbone of technology. For true digital transformation to take place in 2015, marketers will need to put the right organizational structure and processes in place to break down the silos between their different teams. (– Michael Gerard)

Some companies are already ‘tool-ed up’ and can produce so quickly, so efficiently – free as birds: like lightning fast peregrine falcons, they dive by, and when the starlings see the flash, they scatter. They murmur to others in the flock, ‘what was that? Jonathan Livingston Seagull?’ Without giving this higher and further thought, they frantically continue with their flight as they have always done and will always do.

If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.

— Henry Ford)

Beautiful, isn’t it? A flock of starlings

Steve Harrington

- not the douchebag one

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