Digitalizing Red Brick Corporations

TLDR; you can find the same challenges startups face inside of all major red brick corporations. Its called digitalization & its a lot harder but safer. A round up of the additional difficulties you’ll face when taking on the intrepreneur challenge.

From my early days I’ve been obsessed with startups. This idea that you could take nothing and create something really excited me. I found this tedious task of creating value for both yourself & the customer whilst finding an elegant economic balance sexy. A task where your potential impact is limitless.

Little did I know, startups aren’t the only place where you can enjoy this complicated task of helping people. All be it, they can be a bit more difficult to work within; this same task can be found inside of red brick corporations.

Throw the idea of starting fresh on something out the window then place some unfriendly gate keepers around your most valued resources and you can find this same challenge inside of almost every major red brick.

The digitalization of red bricks has long been talked about, there’s plenty of literature from Mackenzie, Accenture & Deloitte. What I want to talk about are the three main aspects that differ from startups.

Technical Competence

If you don’t have technical skills, then acquire them. I don’t care who you are, where you work, you need to at the very least understand how the web works and how software is written at a high level. My tip for this would be think in actions in sequence, what does it do & when does it do it. Conquering the technical is not difficult, but it is daunting.

Gate Keepers

The roughest part of the task at hand is going to be that you cannot just start fresh. You have to work with people who will view you as a threat from the offset. They will control large functions you need & you’ll need to get creative with how to get them to help you.

Learn to bargain, figure out how to make people believe in you. As someone with little to no experience doing this, having entered the workforce less than 2 years ago; I know I’m not the person to advise you on how to do this.

What I do know is that people are scared of automation & will do anything they possibly can to protect themselves and their jobs. Grease the path to adoption for them, work with them to build a path forward. Share in credit & make sure the vision is clear even when it changes.

Change Management is a real subject, read up on it

But all of those things require you to have started working together so how do I get them to start working with me in the first place…

Vision & Business Model

Again, you’re not coming in fresh. You’re going to step on some toes & you’ll need allies or something even better. Someone who can do the bidding on your behalf, this is especially important if like me, you’re new to the workforce.

Communication is key here. Explain to everyone the role they play & make it clear what the asks are, get them to buy in & then deliver is the sequence you should be aiming for. A traditional business background is not really necessary but having a mind for business is, think about who the client is, what they’re trying to do, what is everyone else in the industry doing? Then ask yourself, how can I increase sales whilst decreasing operating costs. Its not easy, the more time you spend learning the business the better.

This is not something you can do alone, you’re going to need the help of some very intelligent business & technical people. In order to put together a plan everyone can get behind so make them your friends.

Building a Digital Culture

Ask any digitally driven executive what there most dreaded task is & they’ll tell you its either getting resources (a very common problem everywhere) or building culture. The reason building culture is as hard as acquiring resources is pretty simple. Most red brick corporations don’t have the the brand of being innovative or they choke innovation by over allocating resources to the areas of the business that are currently racking in the cash.

We could go on forever talking about innovation here but the fundamental reason a digital department must be innovative is that good people WANT to work on innovative projects. They want to test themselves & constantly grow much like any other employee would. Finding a balance between getting these great minds to both improve everyone around them whilst simultaneously producing great work is extremely difficult.

Where do I start?

If you’re looking to take on this task, then find yourself a digital department that has done all of the above but also created an open & friendly culture. Take people from the organization out for coffee, ask them about their workplace & how they feel about the work they’re doing. The ultimate test of whether or not a company can digitalize is can it create an open and inclusive culture?