A stitch in time saves nine. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Look before you leap. These conventional cautions apply to everything from buying a dog to choosing a mate, but a wiser adage – when it comes to digital transformation – is a saying attributed to Napoleon Bonaparte: Take time to deliberate; but when the time for action arrives, stop thinking and go in.
In the case of Mircom, one of the fastest growing companies in the intelligent building and life safety solutions sector, the time to go in was the fall of 2019 when a security assessment indicated a worrisome vulnerability to cyber attacks.
“As a technology company, we have always put innovation at the forefront of business strategies, so we were ready to head down the road to digital transformation,” says Mircom’s Chief Technology Officer, Jason Falbo. “The results of that assessment really pushed us into gear.”
In the space of two months, Mircom replaced a hodgepodge of on-premise hardware, software and servers with a superior hybrid-cloud design that gathers information from various IT systems and aggregates data to the cloud. There were growing pains along the way, and many requests to return to the old way of doing things, but with the need for security driving digital transformation, taking a step backwards wasn’t an option.
The rapid pace of Mircom’s digital transformation flies in the face of the traditional “wait and see” approach taken by many businesses during volatile times. In our new digital economy, however, it’s no longer the case that slow and steady wins the race. In fact, a recent McKinsey report estimates that the fastest companies to move outperform those who play it safe by twice as much.
Speed is also a factor in a 2017 E&Y study that categorizes companies undergoing DX according to three stages of a butterfly’s life cycle. Caterpillar companies (the largest group) demonstrate no commitment to any significant change and are content to optimize present conditions. Chrysalis companies (a smaller group) understand the potential impact of disruption and are preparing to transform. Butterflies (the smallest group) score high as innovators and are prepared to shift their worldview to become disruptors themselves.
Like their butterfly counterparts, companies such as Mircom meet disruption head on and, at the same time, make plans to become disruptors themselves. Two critical components of their approach to DX are instilling in others the urgency for disruption and developing a culture that enables agile decision-making. In Mircom’s case, this translated to getting others on board in the effort to close security gaps and leveraging the company’s lean bureaucracy to make decisions quickly.
As digital disruption accelerates, so, too does the need to transform, but the pace continues to lag in many organizations. The 2019 CIO Census once again identified DX as a top priority, which should indicate a concerted effort to fast track the deployment of new digital tools. Instead, the potential impact of digital transformation weighs heavily upon the minds of IT leaders, many of whom are already playing a game of catch-up.
The previously cited McKinsey report declares that digital transformation rewards first movers and some superfast followers, in part because they develop a learning advantage and are able to “skate to where the puck is headed.” Opportunities to move boldly, says the report, often result from a change in circumstances, as was the case for Mircom. The trick, as Jason Falbo was quick to recognize, is capitalizing on those changes by moving quickly.