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Defining overall business transformation in terms of intensity

Author: John Cowden, Senior Director, Strategic Engagements, Arbela Technologies

Growing up an East Coast Boston native I was surrounded with creative words and phrases like wicked smaaht, fagedaboudit, put you on blast, ain’t about that, just to name a few. Later in life, after relocating closer to the West Coast, I adapted to a new culture with a new set of creative expressions such as gnarly, hella, ramen profitable, runyon, or skookun. If you are unfamiliar with these expressions, they may catch you off guard both in usage and contextual meaning. The evolution of language in words and definitions is amazing but also confusing at times. 

Business acumen too is subjected to different cultures. Commonly used terms to embody principles and knowledge can ultimately evolve as well, causing confusion when communicating with other industry professionals. Take the word ‘transformation’. While having found a welcoming home in the business world, its definition has also fallen victim to interpretation and usage based on a particular industry or environment. So, let’s dive deeper. 

How do we define ‘transformation’ for today’s enterprise? Typically, transformation is a matter of degrees: degrees of agility, of readiness, of understanding, and — above all — degrees of intensity.

In his Ignite keynote a couple of years ago, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella first shared the term “tech intensity” with an audience of developers and technorati. Since then, intensity has become a unit of measurement for Arbela in assessing any client’s capability for transformation.

It is not just “tech”, or digital intensity, we’ve focused on: we’re also focused on business intensity. By taking stock of both an enterprise’s digital and business intensity — and where it resides on each axis — we’re able to best map its overall transformation.

Before diving in, let’s define these core concepts:

Digital intensity typically refers to an organization’s capacity to rapidly ingest and take full advantage of new technologies. The types of businesses often sitting atop the digital intensity axis are usually wildly nimble, populated by early adopters.

Business intensity is essentially defined by degrees of complexity, competition, compliance – typically the more traditional drivers (and inhibitors). Think of more conservative markets such as insurance and banking. While successful businesses atop this axis may lack the “built-in agility” of their more digitally intense partner, that’s not always a detriment (remember the proverb “slow and steady wins the race”).

The graph below shows both axes and examples of where varied markets typically reside.

Goals of transformation

It’s rare that we talk with a client who starts out by saying, “I want to digitally transform my business.”  The conversation almost always begins by discussing a challenge they’re facing, or a goal they wish to achieve, such as:

  • optimizing operations – continue doing what they do, but faster, better, and/or more cost-effectively
  • pivoting operations – doing what they do, but differently such as brick-and-mortar retailers having to move to curbside pickup in 2020
  • strategic overhaul – a change at the core of the company, including optimizing, pivoting, new lines-of-business, new methodologies, people, and practices—the whole gamut.

Once we determine your challenges and strategic objectives, we then apply the fundamental pillars of transformation to your business and concurrently locate it on the dual axes of digital and business intensity.

Degrees of transformation (and degrees of intensity)

At Arbela, we still adhere closely to the four pillars of digital and business transformation: empower employees, engage your customers, optimize operations, and transform products and services. The question for every business seeking transformation is always, “Where to begin?” At Arbela, the answer always depends on where an enterprise falls on the axes of digital and business intensity.

For years, most technology providers have not approached the pillars as linear. You could have a business dedicate its initial transformation efforts solely to the customer experience and call that a success. But once you understand where your business is in its intensities, the pillars become much more like a process, as the graph below shows.

Think about it, if you’re short on digital intensity, are you really ready to launch a digital transformation effort dedicated to transforming products and services? The primary focus on your transformation should be on operations and fueling digital intensity therein. And if your employees are not fully empowered with the right information and tools, are they able to help fuel any customer engagement efforts? Typically, no.

Where does your enterprise fall on the axes? What should the next steps be to achieve your most strategic goals? We’d like to discuss this with ‘wicked smaaht’ people like yourself. Contact us today.