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The Digital Transformation Series: Part 2 — “I can’t change … I’m too big”

In the over two decades, spanning my entire IT career, I have been a consultant to Fortune 500 clients — companies that operate worldwide, with hundreds of thousands of employees and billions of dollars in revenue. These are companies that have, not one but many flavors of whatever is available off the shelf or can be developed by their large in-house IT team in collusion with an even bigger array of vendors. Complex integrations with internal and external tools and a continually changing workforce with ever changing priorities can make what could have been quite simple and straightforward into an engineering quagmire. It is no surprise then that IT support teams at these companies protect their territories from invasion by so-called new thinkers. It is why many large companies try to maintain status quo. It is why companies like JCPenny are filing for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy and Macy’s are closing over 125 stores worldwide.

The decision to transform and pivot is not an easy one for any CEO, let alone one who has billions at stake and is answerable to shareholders and investors alike. No one wants to stir up a hornets’ nest. Brave leaders who have successfully led their companies to newer terrains are therefore revered and idolized. They say that the mark of a true entrepreneur is He who does not fail to pivot in the event of a crisis. This conversation with Sajan Pillai on the ‘Pivot or Panic Syndrome’ is an interesting read on the subject.

Walt Disney is today one of the most successful entertainment companies in the world. Over the course of just under a 100 years, the company has gone through many ups and downs, steered through the Great Depression, diversified into multiple sectors and innovated like no other company in their domain. Instead of settling with their own cartoon characters and animation studios Disney today houses action heroes of Pixar, Marvel and Star Wars including X-Men, Fantastic Four and DeadPool. Disney also owns the most successful theme parks of the industry and even launched its own Digital Streaming Service Disney+. All these and many more innovations, expansions and acquisitions ensured that Disney remained at the top and was even able to cope with the recent revenue loss hitting the entertainment industry as a result of the pandemic. Only by pushing the boundaries of their existing businesses through Digital Transformation was the company able to expand from a moderately successful studio to a complete entertainment experience with theme parks, merchandising, cruise ships and more.

Big or small, no one can afford to say no to digital transformation. If you want your company to last for many more years, you need to be brave to make changes, small and big, along the way. And as Walt Disney prophetically said “Times and conditions change so rapidly that we must keep our aim constantly focused on the future.”


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