Never mind fail fast, how do you scale fast?

Authors

Alison Kay

EY Global Accounts Committee Chair

Working across EY's largest accounts. Advocate for a diverse workforce. Accomplished pianist. Loves to sail.

Laurence Buchanan

EY EMEIA Advisory Digital Leader

Digital strategy and transformation leader. Helping clients make sense of disruption through innovation and customer centricity.

4 minute read 26 Jul 2018
Related topics Digital Growth Innovation

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The mantra of “fail fast” is as ubiquitous as the bean bags in digital innovation labs worldwide.

Does this question sound familiar: “Why aren't we seeing more impact from our digital investment?”

If so, you're in good company. Many large companies are juggling hundreds of digital initiatives and agencies, along with thousands of apps and websites. Unfortunately, this spend has yet to be matched by a significant impact on the business.

Are you digitizing yesterday's business? If so, it's time to hit the pause button and go beyond “doing digital.” Invest in being digital.
Alison Kay
EY Global Accounts Committee Chair

When a media conglomerate's business was slammed by a powerful new entrant, they wanted advice on the best way to compete – a stand-alone innovation unit or transforming the existing business? We helped them to hit the pause button and look at digital from every angle across their business: not as a project with a start and end point, but as a continuous way of working.

By creating a vision of how they thought the future was likely to unfold (no easy task in these uncertain times), the business created a context for digital and everything that followed. They set up a stand-alone company, acquired others to start new revenue streams, launched customer initiatives and drove down costs through careful automation.

In essence, we worked with them to go beyond “doing digital” and to invest in being digital.

What does it mean to be digital?

There's no way to change every part of your business – systems, business model, distribution, culture, etc – all at the same time. So you need to marry up purpose and digital to develop robust set of priorities.

Some of the most successful digital businesses we've seen:

  • Are led by purpose and data in decision making, not technology
  • Focus on customer outcomes and improving customer experience
  • Continuously experiment and test
  • Demonstrate high levels of automation and agility

The challenge isn't to fail fast. Companies have become adept at generating great ideas and rolling out pilots. Where we see less success is in scaling the best ideas into something that makes a real impact on the business.

When it comes to digital innovation, the real outcome that you should look to achieve is not to fail fast but to scale fast.
Laurence Buchanan
EY EMEIA Advisory Digital Leader

How do you scale fast?

Scaling fast is both a capital and organizational challenge.

Financially, you need to raise and allocate the right amount of capital to fund digital transformation. In a recent EY study, Digital Deal Economy, 90% of respondents were prioritizing capital allocation for digital transformation. With such large amounts at stake, you'll need to manage investor expectations while you juggle the old business model alongside the new one.

Structurally, will you buy, build or establish a joint venture for the new digital business? There are pros and cons to each model, but whether you build a new business on the side or start internally, there will come a point when it's time to launch the best ideas across the business. 

The “digital factory”

Shifting from stand-alone digital innovation labs to digital factories is the key to accelerating transformation and connecting it to the day-to-day business.

One leading travel company rotates a variety of people through different roles in its digital factory: digital strategy, innovation, design and prototyping and the deployment hub. Every two weeks, they rotate in a different group of people from the business to solve a new challenge, which ranges from stripping out 10% in costs for a particular function to creating a brand new business model. Then they rotate out, taking back direct knowledge of working in the digital factory to their operational roles, which has a terrific knock-on effect for changing the culture.

The skills you need in the deployment hub are akin to those of a venture capitalist: clear objectives, fast decision making and the necessary funding to scale up in a tight time frame.

The commercial reality is that the deployment hub needs to be connected to innovation and prototyping in order to deliver real change.

Digital transformation: where innovation meets industrialization

Digital transformation, at heart, is a huge change program. It’s difficult to do both the day job of running today’s business and to disrupt it for tomorrow’s growth. But digital transformation requires meeting the challenge of that duality.

To disrupt yourself, you need to give people the freedom and resources to innovate, but you also need to connect these efforts to deployment. 

Summary

The best ideas need to be scaled, industrialized and rolled into the main business – that's the only way to get real value from digital investments. Ultimately, the entire organization needs to be fit for the digital world.

About this article

Authors

Alison Kay

EY Global Accounts Committee Chair

Working across EY's largest accounts. Advocate for a diverse workforce. Accomplished pianist. Loves to sail.

Laurence Buchanan

EY EMEIA Advisory Digital Leader

Digital strategy and transformation leader. Helping clients make sense of disruption through innovation and customer centricity.

Related topics Digital Growth Innovation