Recognizing the Inflection Point: Achieving Breakthrough Results in Your Digital Transformation Efforts

Greg Malone

IT Director at Webster University

Learning Objectives

Inflection points occur in the lives of individuals, organizations and within our digital transformation efforts. Recognizing our inflection point is what separates good organizations from great organizations and successful digital transformation efforts from failed ones. It is at the inflection point where choices are made that will determine if we achieve breakthrough results in our digital transformation or whether we remain in the territory of the average. The presentation will leverage case studies to help you recognize your inflection point, take action, and achieve breakthrough results.

Key Takeaways:

  • Recognize the inflection point of your digital transformation effort

  • Take advantage of your inflection point

  • Achieve breakthrough results

"It all started at that moment where I said, 'You know what? The path that I'm taking right now, there's more for me than this. There's more to me than this.'"

Greg Malone

IT Director at Webster University


Hi, my name is Greg Malone. I’m the IT Director at Webster University. I’m also an Organizational and Change Management consultant, as well as a Digital Transformation Leader. I have over 20 plus years experience leading digital transformation efforts for several Fortune 500 companies. My goal today is to share some of that experience with you as you go through your digital transformation. The title of this presentation is Recognizing the Inflection Point to Achieve Breakthrough Results in your Digital Transformation.

We all have inflection points. At some point in our lives, we will come to that point where we have to make a decision where choices are made, where things are done one way or another. You can have one choice, you can make one decision, or you can follow one path or another path. That inflection point can come when you choose your college. That inflection point can come when you choose your spouse, your husband, or your wife. That inflection point will come when you have your first child or that first child goes off to college or into the workforce. You will come to an inflection point, a point where you can decide if I make this decision, you follow one path. If you make another decision, you follow another path.

The purpose today is to understand or to identify when we have those inflection points as we go through the course of our digital transformation efforts in the hopes of getting us to a successful conclusion. Recognizing the inflection point is the key to our digital transformation efforts. It is at the inflection point where choices are made, decisions are rendered that will determine if we have a successful digital transformation or if we have an unsuccessful digital transformation. It’s in recognizing our inflection points that separates good companies from great companies, successful efforts from unsuccessful efforts. Hopefully, through the course of this presentation today, you will understand how to identify those inflection points, and how to leverage them in the course of your digital transformation effort.

Our agenda today is as follows. We will go over the purpose and the objective. We will review a real world digital transformation effort. We will talk about plotting the course, how to navigate your way through your digital transformation efforts. We will talk about some lessons learned from a real world digital transformation example, and then how to achieve breakthrough results.

So what is an inflection point? Through the course of our lives, whether it’s in our organizational life, in our personal life, or in our purse corporate life, we will come to an inflection point, that point where we can decide to go one path or to go another path. In every stage of life, we’re going to have an inflection point. We can choose to go through the inertia of status quo, we can choose to stay on the normal path, we can choose to stay on that path that will ultimately lead to decline, or we can recognize that this is an inflection point and leverage that or use that and the power of transformation, which will lead us to growth. It is in that moment of inflection that you will decide which path you will take.

Let me give you a personal example. It was around 2005. I was halfway into my career. There was a fairly successful career leading projects. I was a Project Manager, have had several successes under my belt paths, and several challenges under my belt, but it was a fairly successful career. I was traveling on a personal trip in Shreveport, Louisiana—I will never forget the day—I was in a hotel room. I had been going through some personal challenges, a lot of different things. It came to a point that evening, it was around 12, 1 o’clock, and I couldn’t sleep. I was tossing and turning. I couldn’t get to rest. I couldn’t get rested.

As I was thinking through my life, thinking through where I’d been, thinking through where I wanted to go, I realized, I said to myself, “I’m better than this. I’m better than sleepless nights. I’m better than the emotional turmoil that I’m feeling or that I’m dealing with at this moment. I’m better than this.” It was those words that led me when I got on that plane, went back to my home in Ohio, started on work that Monday. That is what catapulted me to make some key decisions in my life that led to one of the longest time periods of success that I’ve ever received or had ever achieved. It all started at that inflection point. It all started at that moment where I said, “You know what? The path that I’m taking right now, there’s more for me than this. There’s more to me than this.”

We’re all going to come to those moments in our personal lives, in our corporate life, as the leader in our organizations. We’re all going to come to those points, where we have to decide, “Am I going to continue down this path, this inertia of status quo, or if I’m going to take this opportunity to move into something different, to do something different, or to cause real change to occur in my organization?” It’s at the inflection point.


Many companies, many organizations have missed the inflection point. We can name a couple. We can name numerous examples. A couple of them—Kodak missed the inflection point. There came a point through the course of the products that they were developing, that they should have said, “Things are moving differently. There’s change underfoot. I need to do things differently. I need to recognize this time and this moment that we’re in, and I need to do things differently.” Blockbuster—household name, one on every corner—missed the inflection point, missed that opportunity. That one day, people aren’t going to come into my store, looking for VHS tape or DVD, but they’re going to stream from their homes. Missed their inflection point. Do you want to go down in history of Blockbuster or Kodak? Or do you want to leapfrog in your digital transformation? Many of the companies that you see today, many of the organizations that you see today, leapfrog them in your effort to advance your organization.


Let me give you a real world example of a digital transformation effort. It was in 2010. We were brought in to one of the largest retailers across the country who wanted to have a digital transformation. They had heard of our success in the past and myself, my team. They said, “You know what? Let’s contract with you all to lead this digital transformation.” $50 million project, over 70 759 retail locations. So one of the largest retail footprints across the country.


The first part of the digital transformation, there was a two day installation. No downtime is expected in the store. We’re going to completely transform every aspect of this company, every aspect of this store. We’re going to take down all the registers. We’re going to give put new servers in. We’re going to put new network in. We’re going to put new network closets in, network cabinets in. But no downtime in the store. Two day installation, we were supposed to get to 200 stores per week over the course of a year and a half so that we will be completed in the course of a year and a half.


Customer service was key, and a quality installation was the token. Complete digital transformation. It was a full technology refresh that would enable their digital applications, enable new servers, new cabinets, new networks. This digital transformation would drive their mobile app. It would drive geo location capabilities, so as people had their mobile app, and they were going from store to store as they were driving down the street, they would geo locate them, identify where they were and relevant to their stores. Then, identify sales, identify promotions that they could provide to those individuals. Increase data intelligence about their customers, as well as their experiences. Complete digital transformation.


With a team of 350 supervisors, technicians, we had to coordinate the delivery of all the technology, all the staff making sure they got there at the appropriate time, because, again, 200 stores for week. We’re constantly moving to a new store every two days. We had to make sure all the support staff, all the installation, staff, all the tools that they needed, everything was in place. The full total installation would be no more than 12 to 16 hours, and again, no downtime in the store.


So as we’re going through this digital transformation effort, we faced what I call the impasse. We faced this moment of impasse. We have frustrated store managers first 10 stores, 72 hours of downtime. If you know anything about the retail industry, you know, as soon as you have downtime, there’s loss of sales. Customers can’t get in, they’re going to go somewhere else. They were ready to cancel the contract, loss of sales, loss of revenue. For us, that would have been loss of revenue, loss of jobs.


I remember to this day, be called the Vice President of Operations for the company called my Vice President into the office. We were all sitting around the room. I was the lowest level person in the room. The Vice President of Operations said very clearly, “I have no confidence in your team’s ability to deliver. I have no confidence in your team. We are supposed to get to 200 stores a week. You can’t even do 10 stories in a week. We faced the impasse.” I want you to hold on to that for one moment. Hold on to that story for one moment.


What is digital transformation? What is it? It’s a buzzword right now. Every activity, everything that we do, we label it digital transformation so that we could get it through the finance committee, we can get it through the investment committee, we label it digital transformation. But what truly is digital transformation? Let me ask you a question. As we look at digital transformation, where do we spend most of our time when we’re dealing with digital transformation? Is it with the systems that we’re putting in place, the technology that we’re putting in place? Is it the behavior of the people that are operating those systems? Is that the culture? Is it our corporate culture? Or is it our mindset? Where do we spend the majority of our time during digital transformation?


Research has shown us, experience has told us 70% of our digital transformation efforts fail to meet expectations. But why? Why do they fail? They fail because they don’t have a shared vision for the future. There’s a disconnect amongst the team of where it is that we want to go for this digital transformation effort. Lack of scalability from pilot to production rollout. We can’t scale. It’s okay to do it in a pilot. It’s okay to do a few examples. But when we try to scale, we fail. Lack of employee engagement. Lack of employee engagement is one of the reasons why we fail to meet expectations during digital transformation. Inadequate management support. So this is the brainchild of a mid level manager. This is something that we want to do from a workforce perspective. But we never get the buy in from our senior leadership to make sure that we have the fortitude to carry it through all the way from beginning to the end. We don’t have that full management support that we need in order to make sure our digital transformation efforts are successful. Non existent cross functional collaboration. We’re not able to break down the silos and the barriers and the walls that we built up in our organizations in order to make sure that our transformation efforts are going to be successful. Lack of accountability, as well.


The key aspect of why digital transformation efforts goes back to the question, where do we spend most of our time? If we’re honest with ourselves, the place that we spend the majority of our time in digital transformation efforts is with the system, is with the technology. That’s the fun part. Putting in new technology, getting those new bells and whistles. We can’t wait to get that latest iPhone. We can’t wait to get that latest Android phone. The technology is easy. The part that’s hard in our digital transformation efforts is changing the behavior, changing the culture, and changing the mindset. That’s where digital transformation fails, not in putting in the technology. When I go back to my old computer science days, my days of coding and basic and using dos.


Technology is zeros and ones. It’s either on or it’s off. We can work through technology. The challenge is working with people. How do we use? How do we leverage our people? How do we leverage behavior, culture, mindset in order to make sure that our digital transformation efforts are successful? We spend the majority of our time with our system, the majority of time of our time planning out technology. We fail to understand, we fail to comprehend, we fail to look at the whole scope of this change in order to make sure that we’re going to be successful. Digital transformation has to go beyond being a buzzword. It has to be transformative. It’s in the word, it has to go beyond transformation to transformative, not just in technology, but how we approach life, how we approach business, how we engage one another. It truly has to be transformative.


So plotting the course. How do we plot the course for digital transformation? Many consultants will tell you there’s no one way path to getting from the start to the end of a successful digital transformation. I know we like to have our five steps and our three milestones and our six plans that get us from A to B and from C to D. But in true digital transformation, where you have to not only understand the systems that you’re putting in, but also how to manage mindsets and culture and behaviors, when you have to deal with all of these different levers, it’s hard to say you’re going to be here on end point A on this date, and you’re going to be here at point B. You have to allow for people to adjust to the digital transformation. You have to put in those things that drive adoption of our technology. You’d have to put in those carrots that allow people to grow into this transformation effort.


As we talked about, there’s an inflection point. There’s a point that if you continue down this path, the inertia of status quo. We want to stay in status quo, people want to stay normal. Everything about us physiologically, organically wants to stay. We want to hit what scientists call homeostasis, where everything is the same, everything is in balance. If something changes and a then something else changes in B. But our bodies, our minds are associated with maintaining balance. So when we introduce new change, people have to get adjusted.


I’m reminded of a quote from a leader that I knew. He said, “Too much light blinds people.” You know when you’re sleeping and someone comes in and open and cuts on the lights quickly, you get blinded. Too much light blinds people. We have to allow the time for people to adjust. Because in our failure to allow people to adjust to digital transformation, we will not get the adoption, we will not get the buy in, we will not get that cultural behavioral adjustment that people need to make in order for our transformation to truly be transformative and for us to achieve breakthrough results.


We have to build the power of transformation. We need to communicate, communicate, and communicate. We need to allow adjustment. We need to allow for that in order for people to be able to move into this new realm.

Get full Q/N Access

Sign up to Q/N with a few details to watch this presentation.

  • Hidden
  • Hidden