Business

The Most Useful Business Book I Have Yet To Read

Why Digital Transformations Fail — Tony Saldanha

This is the first time I’ve been inspired to write a business book recommendation. Several years ago I had the privilege of working with Tony Saldanha, when I helped orchestrate a 1-day visit to New York by P&G’s Next Generation Business Services team. Once a year the group, which includes President of the cross-company, globally focused Next Generation Business Services (GBS) unit, Julio Nemeth, and Vice Presidents from each of P&G’s functional groups, visits start-ups with 10X business service improvement potential. While Tony impressed me then with his extreme intelligence and well thought out processes, after reading this fascinating book, I fully realize how exceptional the depth and breadth of his knowledge and insights are, and how broadly applicable and needed they are by corporations.

Tony was Vice President, GBS, Next Generation Services from 2015-2018 and prior to that, had operational responsibilities to run P&G’s multi-billion dollar GBS unit in every region of the world (Japan, the Philippines, Singapore, India, Switzerland and the U.S.). He set up the first shared services center in the Philippines in 1993, program-managed P&G’s $8 Bn dollar outsourcing of IT and GBS, and also led the systems integration of the Gillette company into P&G as Gillette CIO in 2005. As a result, Tony has unique vantage points from running operations in every function in the enterprise as well as implementing major innovative approaches, that assimilated macro trends, new technologies, transformational business processes and human behavior. All impact corporate growth potential and cultures, and can contribute to making change the norm at a range of organizations.

Creating a culture that broadly embraces frequent change is not an easy task in any firm, let alone one as sprawling as P&G. Aside from Tony’s breadth of knowledge and insights about digital capabilities that impact companies and his knowledge of processes required to change organizations, he has an unusual gift of being able to describe it all in understandable terms, with clear steps companies can follow to get started and adapt based on their own peculiarities and needs.

My point in writing this is not to explain Tony’s key insights and recommendations, but rather to share why I genuinely think every person in business today, whether in a large or small company, can benefit from his book. The main premise of Why Digital Transformations Fail is that failure occurs so often, in large part because of lack of discipline and rigor at each critical step. Tony uses the analogy to airplane flight take-off preparation for which pilots carefully use a comprehensive checklist to make sure all key steps have been taken to maximize success odds and minimize the chance of failure.

While most business books have a few good ideas that are stretched out over enough pages to make it a book, Why Digital Transformations Fail is packed with actionable ideas, supporting information and examples, and there is no fluff or wasted words. I found myself highlighting on nearly every page and plan to go back over those highlights to capture and make sure I remember the most significant ones. I will be recommending the book in my business school courses, executive education seminars, and business conversations.

Aspects about Why Digital Transformations Fail I like include:

–      It’s comprehensive, covering many different aspects of what companies need to be mindful of when tackling digital transformation, and it does so in a logical order.

–      The language is approachable and understandable for a range of executives, across industries and levels.

–      There are so many fascinating examples of how top companies have dealt with each stage of the digital transformation process, that those in and of themselves are reasons to read the book.

–      Tony’s glimpses into the future of the most promising digital technologies and the wide range of ways they will impact businesses and lives, is another reason to read it.

–      Critical steps in the digital transformation process are repeated and summarized at different points with varying levels of detail, in a way that reinforces and makes them more memorable and actionable.

–      Tony provides key questions to ask as take-aways after each section and again at the end of the book, to help execs reflect on current and potential future practices in their own organizations.

–      The bulleted style of writing enables readers to think about and digest each point rather than combining and burying these substantive ideas in paragraphs.

I’m confident others will find Why Digital Transformations Fail as instructive, valuable, informative and interesting as I did. The audience for the book is wide, since all organizations today need constant digital transformation and all functions are involved. Because it relates to new product and services and new business model development, it’s also a great book for start-ups, R&D departments, corporate finance people, and marketing support agencies to read.

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