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It's time for IT teams to digitize like the startups do

William Heitman | Dec. 21, 2015
Many IT leaders are desperately seeking digitization as a way to transform their companies, but century-old, nontechnology improvements can produce results that can impact operations across all lines of business.

First, they have many more opportunities to try, fail and eventually become experts. A typical startup usually has only one chance. It must succeed or die. Among just the Fortune 500, however, the equivalent of three million employees’ worth of virtuous waste is ready to be digitized out of knowledge work factories. Each company has enough opportunity to establish a permanent “knowledge work industrialization factory.” This is not much different or any more difficult than establishing an industrial engineering group dedicated to knowledge work. Their goal would be to make mundane knowledge work tasks as simple as digitally ordering coffee. 

Second, existing businesses already have the resources that the startups need and crave: data, technology, experienced workers, customers and investment capital. From a knowledge work industrialization perspective, however, most of this is an undisciplined mess. Data standards are lax, effectively creating internal, unintended “data lakes.” Capabilities to collaboratively design knowledge work for “digital machinability” pale in comparison to those of even the most basic manufacturing operation. 

Suggest that executives invest to industrialize a knowledge work factory to eliminate virtuous waste and fend off digital startups. They scoff. This is “knowledge work.” It’s not manual labor. All the while, startups are cherry picking their most valuable opportunities for digitization.

 

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