Top 10 takeaways from the Agile Digital Transformation podcast in 2023

Top 10 takeaways from the Agile Digital Transformation podcast in 2023 image

Posted by Tim on 29 Dec 2023 in Business,Company

It’s almost hard to believe that it’s been over three years since we first launched our podcast, Agile Digital Transformation. The idea arose right at the start of the COVID pandemic, and we started setting everything up in the summer of 2020, with the first three episodes launched in September, Netflix-style.

Since then, the podcasting sphere has exploded, and with that explosion as well as the increasing need for digitalization and digital transformation, our own podcast has become more and more successful over the years, with nearly 120 published episodes and quite a few really exciting ones already ready to get released in 2024. In 2023 we reached quite a few milestones, some of the most notable ones being:

  • Transitioning from us contacting potential guests to now almost exclusively getting podcast guest recommendations from PR firms and/or the guests’ respective marketing teams (or sometimes even the guests themselves)

  • Publishing 39 episodes featuring high-level conversations with renowned guests

  • Publishing all of our existing episodes to YouTube and incorporating the publication of future episodes into our workflow

  • Getting featured on the 7th place on FeedSpot’s annual selection of the 30 best digital transformation podcasts

To round off and celebrate the most successful year for Agile Digital Transformation so far, we’d like to share some of the most important and resonant lessons from some of our favorite and most popular episodes published this year.

1. The future belongs to digital-first companies that are able to leverage technology as digital assets rather than have it be a digital liability

Marcus Charalambous, president and CEO of Backbone, creators of the digital experience platform Expresia, used the perfect analogy for a digital liability: “a digital liability is exactly the same as having a big debt. Over time, you're paying interest.”

A digital-first company is one that strongly values innovation and continuous optimization, having made digital a core part of its business strategy. Most importantly, it needs to be future ready in order to be more resilient to unexpected disruptions and unsuccessful (digital) transformation initiatives.

2. A full-on digital transformation might not always be the best fit; consider something like “digital adaptation” instead

We had a great conversation with Le'Rhone Walker, VP of Technology of the Healthcare division at the digital transformation consultancy Bounteous, in which we coined the term “digital adaptation” and discussed how it compares to digitalization and to digital transformation.

“As practitioners, we're finding ways to adapt digitally so we can provide value differently, provide value quickly, to show our clients maybe the end state of what things could be without going through a full transformation. And I think that those baby steps can help lead them to that larger vision and maybe find insights that weren't even on their radar.” – Le’Rhone Walker, Bounteous

3. In spite of the obvious importance of and value in effective digital transformation initiatives, it’s difficult to calculate and see tangible value from these initiatives

In one of the early episodes of 2023, we had the pleasure of speaking with Deloitte’s Tim Bottke, author of the recently published Digital Transformation Payday: Navigate the Hype, Lower the Risks, Increase Return on Investments, in which he exposes the problems of seeing the ROI of digital transformation, and shares a helpful framework for driving real, tangible results.

An interesting phenomenon which Tim highlighted in our conversation and which contributes to poor ROI of digital transformation initiatives is digital washing, which, similar to “greenwashing”, means putting on a facade of being modern and digital without actually abandoning outdated approaches which prevent DT initiatives from truly taking off.

4. Digital transformation is inherently changing the nature of competition, which is disruptive and can even be destructive for incumbent firms that resist change – but that’s not a bad thing

One of the most interesting points from our conversation with Mike Lenox, award-winning professor, consultant, author and speaker who teaches at the University of Virginia's Darden School of Business, was that digital disruption can be digital transformation’s evil twin.

Mike elaborates this with an example of incumbent firms that feel so secure in their solid marketplace position that they get swept up and wrecked by the rapid pace of digital transformation; however, that simultaneously opens up new opportunities for and further propels innovation.

5. Digital or any kind of business transformation is more than just about technology – it’s about innovation, driven by a careful balance of people, processes, and systems

As Louwki Coetsee, Group Vice President of Sales & Client Value at Netsurit pointed out:

“It’s not just about digital transformation. If you really want to be successful, we talk about innovation. It’s like, how do we innovate?

Yes, technology is a piece of that, but, really, digital transformation is more around innovation, it’s your people, it’s your process and your systems that will give you the momentum to innovate and disrupt your space, whatever you might be doing.”

6. There have been various phases of digital transformation, and we are on the cusp of a massive shift to a new phase marked by “integrated experiences”

The CEO of Zinnov Pari Natarajan defined the first phase of digital transformation, i.e. 1.0, as “digital plumbing” which focused on eliminating the inefficiencies of non-digital processes.

In contrast, as he states, “with the current digital transformation 2.0 providing integrated experience, a small business can have similar capability on the process workflows like a large company.

So, the autonomous enterprise could be a large enterprise, an autonomous enterprise could be a one-member enterprise – but still be highly effective.”

7. When we’re developing new solutions to modern problems, it’s essential to consider the risks of these new solutions & develop them such that they don’t in turn create new sets of problems, which then lead to an endless cycle of problem–solution

In our insightful conversation with Peter Evans of Xtract One Technologies, we explored this chicken-or-the-egg relationship between problems and solutions in the modern era, and how the novelty of digital technologies additionally complicates this.

He pointed out that, as the flywheel of digital transformation continues to evolve for all kinds of industries and sectors (e.g. physical security), the number of concerns also grows, such as for example concerns about people’s individuality and privacy.

8. Project management needs to continue to focus on existing challenges while also tackling all the new ones arising from post-COVID disruptions & innovations

With digital projects increasing in both number as well as importance and complexity, project managers now need to juggle existing challenges such as bottlenecks and dirty data with more novel ones that result from the COVID crisis and the subsequent digital revolution, such as stress and burnout, resistance to change and technology adoption, and the move to remote collaboration.

According to Juliana Marulanda, founder of the agency growth consultant ScaleTime, it’s crucial to know “who’s on deck for what, what is the actual accountability, and then, how are you able to have visibility across different projects, both internal and external, and across external, so that you can make decisions based on the information that you’re given.”

9. Alignment between leadership is key to success, especially when it comes to driving true business transformation

While making sure your leadership is aligned is key to business success, it’s got just as much to do with the company and its culture as it does with leaders’ own relationships with themselves and others, with their capacity of both introspection and empathy.

As the founder of Startup Patterns Sam McAfee highlighted: “The most important thing for us as individual humans in an organization is to have as much empathy for each other as possible. And to try to not point fingers and attack each other in meetings, and let our tempers get the best of us.”

10. Product-led digital transformation is a completely different concept from product-led growth, and it should be the natural approach to running a successful business in the digital era

A seemingly obvious but invaluable point made by Chris Stegner of Very Big Things on episode 100 of our podcast is that the chief reason for the lack of business success is companies believing that they’re already doing “well enough”, so to speak, and consequently not having any motivation to improve and/or disrupt.

Chris also warns about the dangers of procrastination, pointing out that one day it might be too late to actually start streamlining your business: “If you’re a leader inside of that company and you know you could make something a whole lot better – maybe it’s really good right now, but it could be better – don’t procrastinate.”

Wrapping up

We hope you enjoyed revisiting some of our favorite takeaways from our conversations with these great guests. We’d like to thank every single guest that joined us on our podcast in 2023 and shared their stories and expertise with us.

Happy new year to all our guests, listeners and readers! Stay tuned for more exciting conversations coming up in early 2024, and feel free to revisit any of your favorites or any episodes you may have missed this year.