The digital thread

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I’m at an Alfresco event in New York, and was lucky enough to get to sit next to a senior IT executive from a very large industrial conglomerate at dinner last night. I was explaining the outline of the MWD Advisors research framework, and also outlining how we see digital technologies’ value as being about providing a more economically efficient way of co-ordinating resources of different kinds.

We were talking about different ways that organisations are looking to drive innovation into established businesses – hackathons, corporate VC activities, and so on – this company is doing it all, by the way.

And then this executive told me about the term they use for a key strategic concept in this organisation: the ‘digital thread’. “The problem we often have,” he told me, “is not about getting more new ideas into our businesses, but how we take new ideas and weave them into our existing operations so that we can deliver real products and services effectively”. The conversation that his team is trying to have across multiple businesses is about how – in order to really support new customer-facing initiatives – there needs to be a continuous digital thread that links up new applications and systems with existing practices, systems and teams in core operations.

This chimes completely with our own view about the new roles that BPM, decision management and collaboration capabilities are finding in organisations: together these capabilities can create what this executive calls the ‘digital thread’.

We both agreed that without such a digital thread in place, there’s a real danger that new customer-facing initiatives being delivered into markets are fundamentally making customer experience promises that businesses can’t keep long-term.

What’s your view – is it possible to build sustainable digital investments without some kind of way to link new, fast-changing capabilities with existing, core capabilities?

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Neil Ward-Dutton

I'm passionate about helping organisations get real business benefits from the investments they want to make in IT. I love technology, and I've seen it used to amazing effect - but I hate waste, and I've seen so many organisations waste their investments. Over the past 10 years as the Research Director at MWD Advisors I've gained invaluable experience working with clients across many industries, learning about what works and where people come unstuck in trying to drive business change with technology. I've advised on technology strategy and business change management across Europe, and presented at dozens of conferences on these topics around the world.

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