Leading at the speed of digital innovation – are you ready for what comes next?

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    Now is certainly not the time to think small, but rather to act big and move quickly by being a disruptor not a follower, Jorge Lopez, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner said in his keynote speech at the 2022 Digital Transformation Conference.

    Lopez provided examples of how two visionary companies are disrupting their respective industries and creating what he called a “new future.” One is SpaceX, while the other is the Syama Gold Mine located in the West African nation of Mali.

    SpaceX, he said, has turned to technology, and specifically, artificial intelligence, to deploy “some of the lowest cost rocketry in the world”, reusing complex and expensive rockets by developing a way to land them safely on autonomous ocean barges.

    As a result, the company is now able to launch one flight a week. One notable slide in his presentation revolved around the payload cost of the SpaceX Starship rocket versus its Falcon 9 Heavy offering. The latter costs US$62 million per launch, while the former, even with a larger payload, now costs a fraction of that at US$2 million per launch.

    Syama, meanwhile has turned to automation, and its ownership have been able to reduce their operating costs by 10 per cent, with a goal of reducing it by 25 per cent in five years.

    “What the Syama mine does is essentially ensure that everything below the surface is fully autonomous, fully automated, and that people essentially can manage at the top level above the ground,” said Lopez “Everything that’s going on underneath is by machines that can deliver 22 hours of work, versus a human, which is about 15 hours per day.

    “What we’re seeing here is envisioning an entire way of doing work that essentially displaces the old ways with new ones that, in fact, are far more productive and will have enormous impact in moving forward.”

    How do visionary companies work, how do they operate and how do they evolve? The evolution and advances, he said, happen via a model that is akin to an expedition to Mount Everest. In it, there is a mountaintop, and below that a staging camp, and below it a base camp.

    In the case of SpaceX, the mountaintop would be establishing settlements on Mars, but in order to get there, said Lopez, a “money pump” of funds would be necessary in order to finance such a lofty goal.

    That money pump is the company’s Starlink initiative, which, once complete, will see 40,000 satellites connecting what he described as “every single physical part of the earth.

    “Today, 40 per cent of the world is unconnected to the Internet, if you can believe that,” he said. “By the time Starlink is done, that number will drop closer to 10 per cent.

    “What SpaceX had to do was find a way to deliver these satellites up into space at a cost well below anything that’s known today. That lead to the idea of reusable rocket boosters.

    As an aside, Starlink told the FCC on Thursday that it currently has 400,000 subscribers, which bring in an estimated US$528 million per annum.

    Lopez suggested that organizations consider the following as they embark on their DX journey:

    • First, you need to pick a mountain top vision and decide what capabilities will deliver the sort of earnings growth that are meaningful results for your company. It’s not a simple thing; you want to get your senior management team together to consider what their vision would be.
    • Take the long view but capture short term opportunities. “Can we lay out a base camp on the way to the mountaintop that makes money and grows? It solidifies a platform that can help ensure the success of a longer-term vision while also delivering some money along the way.”
    • Take an industry view. Does your mountaintop vision put pressure on your competition to change the rules of competition? And can you compete on the speed of innovation? “We’re seeing how this pressure to keep developing and improving is saying we need to compete on the speed of innovation to ensure that we’re able to provide the sort of capabilities that will drive our competitive advantage into the future.”
    • And finally, take a today view: “What more can I do today to keep our project driving forward and growing? What is important now?

    “If you take all of these into account, you will be putting yourself in a place that leads to a leadership position in your industry,” he said.