What do urban planning and digital transformation have in common?

The evolution and sustainability of a company often requires a digital transformation.

But how do you manage such a project while dealing with the problems encountered with aging technology, carry out day-to-day operations and review the company’s structure and infrastructure? This kind of challenge is often compared to the analogy of fixing the plane in mid-air.  According to an article in hbr, another analogy might be more instructive: reconfiguring a city’s infrastructure.

Dubai, Boston, Shanghai… Major cities are textbook cases for managers struggling to effectively lead the digital transition of their companies.

Indeed, business leaders can draw a lot of inspiration from urban planning strategies to identify landmarks. They can build anchor points into their digital transformation strategy (as in Dubai), either remove obstacles and bottlenecks to improve their speed and agility (as in Boston), or completely change direction and build a whole new city (as in Shanghai).

Keeping up with new digital companies is one of the biggest challenges facing the leaders of today’s largest companies. But if they struggle to solve this puzzle, it’s because they’re usually trying to tackle their IT system on all fronts at once, when they’d be better off planning how to improve their digital capabilities by looking to metropolises that have faced challenges of a completely different scale. While the digital transformation of an enterprise is always a thorny and costly process, learning to think like an urban planner can be very helpful.

According to one of our experts, Omar Bermudez, a former McKinsey & Company digital expert, who has led large digital transformation over the last 7 year around the world (Canada, USA, Japan, LATAM, and Australia), no matter the size of your organization, it all starts with the same types of questioning. “What do you want to become when it is done?” and “what challenges are you trying to overcome?”.  Being able to clearly identify them will allow building a roadmap of the transformation with concrete and tangible milestones to generate significant and meaningful impacts. A transformation doesn’t have to be painful; it just needs a vision and commitment from the leaders, the rest is a matter of speed of integration and maturity level you will acquire during your journey. 

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