Reading. Reading books. Reading books was our first way of travel. For both my wife and me reading started at a very early age. The public library was the main source of our travel experiences. We would pick up the maximum # of books each week and read them. Read them fast. All the wonderful countries and cities we visited in our mind, the great people we met while reading. While all imaginary it was as real as travel can be. Reading was our first phase of travel.
The second phase of travel for me started by bicycle. Pack all my stuff on my bicycle, and ride all the way to Germany. And later on by car. All nearby countries first and then further in Europe. No planes till I was in my twenties. I guess I made up for that late start by spending the last 30 years in planes and airports living the road warrior live.
3rd phase of travelling
The 3rd phase of travel is something we watched this week in all the cities we visited. Bratislava, Budapest, Vienna amongst some of the beautiful places we visit riding around with the top down in our little red convertible mx5. Vienna was high on the list as my wife is a great fan of the German movie Sissi. I must have seen that movie during our marriage at least 30 times. I can do whole parts of the dialogue myself now. In German. We had to visit the Sissie castle, the Sissi garden, the Sissi museum.
And in all these places we saw the new stage of travelling. From all beautiful sites to see you make a Selfie. You move your phone up about 30 degrees, then do your hair, smile to show the money you spent on the dentist and make a picture. If you are vertically challenged you use some sort of selfie stick. Then you try to get the photo uploaded to all sort of cool platforms for folks at home to see. Without looking around any further you rush to the next place. I imagine they will come home with pictures of themselves only. The Selfie phase of travelling.
We are only just at stage 2 of travelling. Never made a selfie myself, so little hope to reach stage 3 of travel. This holiday is actually a combination of stage 1 and 2. My wife’s first book she owned, a gift from her grandmother, was about a princess in Hungary. Really seeing the country of that book was high on her bucket list. My wife booked a nice stay in a house in Hungary via Airbnb. I love Airbnb. After living in business hotels the larger part of my life it offers great opportunities to stay in real homes.
This house was in the middle of the countryside, little village, maybe 20 houses and a church. Every day at 0700 and at 1900 hours the church bell would ring. One evening we met the owner’s father. He invited us for a drink, some locally brewed strong beer. As the evening progressed and the beer was replaced with some even stronger liquor my Hungarian was improving by the minute, as was his German. We asked him about the church bell ringing twice on a day. He explained how the first one was to start working, the second one to stop working.12 straight hours of work, each day, only Sundays off. All his life. He was in his late 70’s, still working.
Focus on the future
We asked him about how they made the beautiful apartment in the farm. It was clear they spent a lot of time and money on decorating it while the rest of the farm still needed work. He explained how it’s logical you first spent your money on those assets that bring in money from customers, be it the apartment or the farm. Focus on the future. That is the only logical choice. The rest of your money is spent on living and slowly improving your own farm as well.
So this old farmer made it sound so simple. You work hard and spent your money on all the external customer related activities first. The rest of the money is spent internally on slowly improving operations, and fix what is broken and worth fixing. Having worked in the IT industry for all these years all I have seen is the reverse. Talks about technical debt, assets that need to be replaced. Never ever any meaningful view on how IT is supporting the company on making money. Business-IT alignment interpreted as how business needs to align to IT.
At the same time, I do see the need of keeping the cash flow in order. You have to keep your business afloat while preparing for the future. And with people being used to looking at mostly internal metrics digital transformation means changing the way people work as well, remember: digital transformation is 91% people transformation.
Keep running the old, prepare for the new, work hard, and be customer focussed first. In a recent meeting just before my holiday with a newly appointed COO we discussed these very topics. He explained how he needed to clean ship, keep things running, focus on improving customer satisfaction, increasing his NPS. The thing we both realized is that he was so 100% occupied with fixing the old, mainly internal stuff that he did have little time left to focus on the new. Innovation as a distant goal. And that is the real world of digital transformation I see with most of my customers. Fix what was broken yesterday, keep alive today, no time left to prepare for the future. But focussing on yesterday and today, with little energy for tomorrow and no energy left for the day after tomorrow you really jeopardize the continuity of your company. Focus on today OR focus on tomorrow?
So what can we do? With my brilliant team of Trifork AI-Machine Learning experts, we can solve so many business problems deemed unsolvable in the past. Recommenders and return reducers for online fashion, predictive maintenance for an industry, virtual experts for healthcare and call centres as some of the cool stuff they do every day. The way we overcome the problem of focus on yesterday’s and today’s problems is by introducing parallel tracks. One track is the focus on today, the cash flow, they fixing old issues.
We focus on the second track, take the business problems that now can be solved with AI-Machine Learning and start that in parallel. A parallel track with little interference from the other track. Our ML4Axon approach as a perfect example. This 2 track approach works great as we solve real business problems for business people, with little track 1 IT involved. And once the second parallel track, the one we do for our customers, starts to show real tangible business outcomes we incorporated that in today’s ways of working, linked to the business processes and software in use today. Keep running today and allow for innovation at the same time in parallel tracks.
As the old Hungarian farmer said: focus on customers first, improve everything you can for your customers, keep you company operational on one track. Improve and innovate all assets that allow you to prepare for the future. Make it a track 1 AND track 2 approach. Parallel tracks, and work hard. A simple recipe for business continuity combined with digital transformation.