IAB’s Vijay Solanki: “Digital’s ‘Fourth Revolution’ Is Here And, Yes, It Will Take Great Courage”

IAB’s Vijay Solanki: “Digital’s ‘Fourth Revolution’ Is Here And, Yes, It Will Take Great Courage”
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In this guest post, IAB Australia CEO, Vijay Solanki, says digital transformation of a legacy company is a journey that requires everybody involved to be ultra brave…

Disruption isn’t new. It has been around forever, but the frequency of major disruptions is increasing in step with technology. We are now very well into what has been coined “The Fourth Industrial Revolution” – which was the theme of DAZE 2016 that I spoke at during the week – and it builds upon what we already know and see: Billions of people connected instantly by mobile devices. It brings to disruption a velocity and scale hitherto unknown, and it’s becoming more driven by consumers than business (and therein lies a key difference from past disruption, and an important lesson we will discuss in a second).

Vijay Solanki

None of this should be new to you, but yet it still manages to take so many businesses by surprise. So how do you remain agile and responsive enough to avoided being the disrupted?

Talk to experts and learn from the community

I was lucky to be part of the Philips transformational journey. There’s an innovation event that takes place every September in Berlin, since 1924, called IFA. I presented prototypes and products at IFA between 2012 and 2015. At the end of the day, there was a bar close to the conference centre where I would hang out with peers from Sony to Samsung, and that’s where some valuable conversations were had over a round or two of mojitos.  We were all driving digital change in our companies and sharing notes on the key challenges and opportunities: Getting leadership support; building capability; learning from the pure plays and start-ups; and building a software culture.

Celebrate the evangelists

When driving digital transformation through a business you will find some supporters and champions especially if you pitch well, create a compelling story and change the conversation.  You have to remember the internal marketing program.  Identify the digital champions in your business, engage them, support them and then celebrate them.  Those leaders who champion digital change need to be recognized.  That exercise will catalyze transformation.

When I worked at Philips it was a $30 billion company focused on health care, lighting and consumer goods. In 2012 four of us created an internal start-up leaving our roles in innovation, design, software and marketing to create Philips Digital Innovation.   At the core of the innovation philosophy, it was about meeting the needs of the consumer, as identified by the insight work. It was a reversal of business-as-usual, but to their credit, Philips backed it wholeheartedly.

 Create a story and change the conversation

We created a story that took a good – but essentially dumb – product and made it smart. We put the consumer first, examined what they wanted and needed, and then looked for enabling technology that might solve the program.

It’s the Digital Trinity that is essential for surviving the Fourth Revolution: Be led by the consumer, be enabled by tech; and vigorously explore new business models. It’s a simple model.  Just because you have the ability to do some great new thing doesn’t mean you should do it. Indeed, it should never (or very rarely) be a tech first proposition. It should always be customer first – and with the insights that can be gained nowadays, there’s no reason not to be.

 Use new methodologies

I love a good Hackathon.  We ran 30-plus hackathons over three years, each a week long and with a mix of disciplines.  As well as deliver prototypes, they became a great training and transformational tool.  And we always had evangelists at the end of a hackathon – people who had seen the power of UX, data and software first hand.

The Fourth Revolution will transform business in a much faster and more permanent way than ever before. It’s essential to be agile in development and execution, and to invest in those people and ideas that add real value to the consumer experience, not just those that add value to the balance sheet. The old ways are passing rapidly, and to we need to keep up.

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