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Insights / Blog / Business

Controlling Digital Transformation: How to plan for the future

June 26, 2015
Alain VeuveAlain VeuveManaging Director, AOE Switzerland

“We have a strategy, it's called doing things.” What was originally meant as a barb by startups toward the Old Economy, has now become certainty: Whoever spends their time with virtually endless strategic processes for any length of time will lose. On the other hand, strategic thinking is more important than ever. Here's Alain Veuve's take on the topic.

Digital transformation is changing our society – which doesn't necessarily make it easier to make strategic decisions. But how can such a complex topic be strategically thought out in advance? I've attempted to create a new approach, a planning patter of sorts. Using this approach you can keep the short-, medium- and long-term in view in order to derive your activities. I've condensed the definition of the time frames considerably; it's unsound today to plan longer than five years in advance in any business.

The Corporate Agitation Model above is intended to show the continuous process for developing new revenue channels. Our assumption is that different activities will take place on the different levels of technology, society and business.

Digital Transformation: 24 months in advance

Companies should be on the lookout for new technology currently being researched. In this case it's not important to already try to derive utility for the mass market, but rather to stay informed about developments.

In society, companies should stay abreast of current societal trends. Most of today's trends already comprise a more liberal mindset when it comes to using new technologies and the impact these technologies have, than in the past. The aim is to recognize early which technologies will become accepted by a large portion of the mass market.

A company's primary medium-term concern should be to establish a culture that is able to handle change. Since this change is constantly accelerating it is not a one-off task to be completed, but rather a permanent cultural evolution.

Digital Transformation: 12 months in advance

When it becomes apparent that new technological possibilities are ready for mass-market consumption it's time for a company to use these possibilities for its own gain. The knowledge gleaned from long-term observation of societal trends can help define a general direction for a possible product, which can then be tested in a pilot group with the customers. The actual product is created by the customers' feedback and input.

In this phase a product is not what we generally understand it to be. It is, firstly, a prototype capable of solving people's problems at an acceptable price. this prototpye has no name, no pricing model, no marketing concept. At this point it doesn't even have to be clear whether a company can earn money with it.

On a corporate level this is the time in which structures need to be created for the new product. First and foremost teams must be assembled that have the skills required. The teams must be capable of producing the new solution as economically as possible. This applies to material and immaterial products equally.

Digital Transformation: 6 months in advance

Now's the time to actively use the technology for a broad customer base. Before this can be done, one must build a product from the prototype and develop revenue channels. These channels could consist of a simple sales model. However, I'm convinced that you have to look for win-win constellations and build appropriate user-oriented channels along these constellations. A typical example of such a constellation are Amazon E-Readers oder those readers by other vendors that are sold solely for the purpose of selling a complementary product, in this case, E-Books.


Such a continuous strategic process, used to interlink concept, test, development and introduction of products, enables us to easily depict new revenue channels, even in ever-shortening cycles. At the same time the entire process becomes “lean”: Strategic development becomes an integral element of corporate work processes. This means it isn't shielded by the board and external experts, to then be implemented with great effort in the company. Instead, change is lived and everyone in the company knows that progress without change isn't possible.