“What is coming is better than what is gone.” — Arabic Proverb
Here’s an example of a vision memo I wrote to try and paint the vision and idea of business evangelism at Microsoft as a way to accelerate and de-risk Digital Transformation.
Well, it’s really focused on the idea of building the business innovation capability at Microsoft.
I can’t say it’s an exemplar vision memo, I can’t say it’s perfect, I can’t even say it’s great.
But I can say it’s a start.
And I can also say that putting my idea down into a vision memo form was incredibly helpful for sharing the idea more broadly than any other way I had tried before.
There’s a magic that happens when you write an idea down as a vision memo as if you were talking a friend through what the idea is supposed to be.
If you are somebody who has ideas, and everybody is, if they listen to their true voice, I would encourage you to practice writing vision memos to share your ideas, even if it’s just among a small circle of friends.
About the Vision Memo Example
I wrote my vision memo below in under an hour as an exercise to get something out of my head and down on to paper.
I used a simple structure: the situation, the challenge, the opportunity, a sprinkling of supporting ideas to illustrate the end in mind, and a call to action.
I used an informal tone, and I simply wrote like how I speak as best I could. I tried not to self-edit. I tried not to get all fancy, and I tried to stay away from big words and mumbo jumbo.
I just want to share an idea, raw and real, in a way where I could just as easily talk through it in the halls or over lunch or anybody who cared.
But the benefit of the vision memo approach is that I could easily share my idea with anyone, anywhere in the world, and give a lot of the context that goes with it, well beyond a slide deck, and maybe even better than a video.
After all, movies don’t always live up to the book, and our imaginations are powerful when we seed them with the right words. A vision memo can be a gateway to the future, and it taps into the storytelling and scenario capabilities baked into ancestry.
Vision Memo Example – The Rise of the Business Evangelist at Microsoft
OK, here it goes. Read it with a playful mind. Let your mind wander along the idea and build on the idea to imagine just how powerful the future could be.
Imagine how powerful the future could be if business leaders around the world knew exactly how to make businesses better, faster, stronger.
The irony is the key to strength and resilience is actually agility…business agility.
Imagine if business leaders knew how to leverage all the technology at their fingertips to build a better business and hack a better world.
But there is a gap.
And it’s a great big giant gap where many business leaders don’t know what’s possible with technology.
And, at the same time, where many technology leaders don’t know how to demo the right ideas or explore the art of the possible in real and relevant ways…
… in ways that matter to the market, or to the business leaders that might fund their ideas and ventures.
At Microsoft, we’ve historically worked with IT-leaders in our client’s business to help them make the most of the Microsoft platform.
We have been good at putting together the Legos of Information Technology in ways that work, and we have legions of Microsoft resources that are technically savvy.
Our customers have primarily needed technical advice and guidance from us to help them deploy our technology and make it work in complex environments.
The Microsoft engine has been good at working from Enterprise Agreements and getting better at working with subscriptions. The Microsoft engine has been good at connecting with IT-leaders and earning trust. The Microsoft engine has been good at helping IT-leaders succeed.
And then the Cloud happened.
And Cloud computing has disrupted what it means to succeed in the Digital Era.
Business leaders have been struggling to reinvent themselves and to create new business models. As a general pattern, they have taken the easy way out and focused on lift and shift and sticking their data centers in the Cloud.
It’s a start, but it’s not enough.
From IT-Vendor to Business Partner
Meanwhile, business-leaders struggle to make sense and how to leverage our technology to create and capture business value.
As more customers cross the Cloud chasm, they do so in a way that leaves them vulnerable and ripe for disruption. Just sticking your data in the Cloud does not ensure future success.
Worse, after businesses stick their stuff in the Cloud, they don’t always know what to do with Microsoft. If we are just an IT-vendor, then they think we are done.
If Microsoft has not connected deeply within the business, then there is no more role to play, beyond IT solutions here and there.
The cohesive big picture of what the business could be if leveraging the full Microsoft platform and ecosystem gets lost.
In fact, if you look across the board, you can see some of the biggest engagements struggle with the question—what’s next? And data center migration is not the end. It’s merely the beginning of transitioning to a digital business on a digital platform with a digital culture creating digital products and services in a digital ecosystem.
That’s a lot of digital. But that’s modern business.
And if in a business leader’s mind, Microsoft merely represents a Cloud provider, then that is an awful lot of unrealized business potential. The key here is to not only paint the bigger vision of the future of business, but to make it real and relevant by sharing stories and examples of what’s possible—how technology can create new and compelling scenes of the future for every industry.
The mission and the challenge for Digital Advisors is to transition Microsoft from an IT-vendor to a business partner.
The Digital Transformation Pillars
The Digital Transformation Pillars that Satya Nadella called out, are a classic lens into any business. It’s helpful to break big transformations into themes of change revolving around the most critical scaffolding of a business:
As Peter Drucker pointed out long ago, the whole point of a business is to create a customer. And the two core functions of a business are marketing and innovation. The point of marketing is to know customers, and innovation is the journey of creating products and services to solve customer’s pains, needs, and desired outcomes in a market viable way.
You can replace customers with clients or students or patients. You can replace products with services. The point is to use the Digital Transformation Pillars as a lens into key components that help business leaders create and capture value along their value chains for their customers.
And customer experience is the new value chain.
The Digital Transformation pillars are also a way to think about disruptive change. They are easy to relate to and have conversations around. You can explore how to reimagine the customer experience, reimagine the employee experience, reimagine the operations experience, and reimagine the product experience.
A lot of focus has been on reimagining the customer experience and the employee experience, but that’s not enough.
If business leaders do not reimagine their products for the Digital Era, they will gradually fall off the market (or quickly in some cases), because they won’t know how to create and capture new value for their future customers.
To be fair, business leaders struggle across the board. They want to grow and they know they need to innovate. But they really struggle with the translation layer between a world full of technology options, and how exactly to translate those technology options into value.
What they typically get is a sales pitch on technology X, when what they really need is a demo of a future scenario or a scene of the future that lights up what’s possible in terms of how they can transform their business and disrupt the market (or at least disrupt themselves from a dying business.)
They need more than PowerPoints or slides from management consulting firms. They need platform. They need an ecosystem. They need advice from trusted experts who can help them see far out into the future, create a vision for a better business, and make progress today.
They need Digital Advisors.
The Mindset, the Skillset, and the Toolset of a Digital Advisor
A Digital Advisor represents a very different capability, operating from a very different mindset. The Digital Adviser leads the charge in helping business leaders reimagine their success for the Digital Era, make the market.
And this sets the stage and the platform to help transition Microsoft, and all of tis partners in the vast digital ecosystem, from an IT-vendor to a true business partner that’s first-in class for the new world.
Because, as Satya Nadella boldly pointed out, “every company is a software company”.
Every company needs to figure out how to build an intelligent system as the backbone for it’s business, to use customer insights to learn and adapt and delivery new innovations at the speed of the market… or better
And Microsoft knows software.
So by it’s very nature, Microsoft has a key role to play in helping shape the future success for every business and organization on the planet, to be more, and achieve more.
And, because of Microsoft’s unique position as a platform company and a productivity company, Microsoft can actually delivery on helping businesses and individuals to achieve more.
But to lead this charge, it takes a very special type of person to bring all of Microsoft to the customer as they help them reimagine their future.
Be the Game Changer
It takes a game changer.
According to Peter Fisk, a game changer is “disruptive and innovative, as they reshape our world. They are more ambitious, with stretching vision and enlightened purpose.”
They see markets as “kaleidoscopes of infinite possibilities, assembling and defining them to their advantage.”
A game changer does not just play the game well, they change the game.
Business Because of Technology
The real power of a Digital Adviser is their ability to translate the Microsoft ecosystem into business opportunities and capabilities for customers.
Another way to put it is, they can create business because of technology.
An effective Digital Advisor knows enough about the business leader’s landscape, their pains, needs, and desired outcomes, to be able to inspire and lead change and transformation.
Or, to put it another way, drive constructive disruption.
The Mindset: Think Big, Think Broadly, Think Beyond
The mindset of a Digital Advisor starts with Thinking Big, Thinking Broadly, and Thinking Beyond to be a force of disruption and a real change leader.
Here is what that means in plain language…
- Make new markets
- Amplify social impact
- Create new business models
- Cross-industry ecosystems
- Global reach
- Multi-horizon strategy
The Skillset (Solving Problems, Leading Journeys, and Framing the Future)
Effective Digital Advisers have strategic skills that set them apart. They use their skills in the context of being a game changer and as a change leader for disruptive innovation.
Here are the groupings of skills for effective Digital Advisers…
Opportunities identification & qualification:
- Market & business analysis
- Deal structuring
- Business casing
Compelling and immersive storytelling:
- Design (UX/CX/UI)
- Project management
- Stakeholder management
- Expectation management
- Change management
- Technology fundamentals
Influence and Challenge:
- Executive presence
Toolset: Disruption, Design, and Delivery
The toolbox for a Digital Adviser is an ever expanding one that uses the right tools for the right job (never the hammer, looking for a nail.)
By create a culture of sharing and open innovation, Digital Advisers continuously up-skill their abilities and pave the path for their peers, while leapfrogging the competition in new and creative ways.
The most important tool in the Digital Adviser’s toolbox is their mind – supported by their mindset.
As the Digital Advisor leads journeys of transformation (strategic, cultural, technical), they create clarity around desired outcomes, act on windows of opportunity, and accelerate delivery.
Here are some of the categories for tools to help the Digital Adviser along their journeys:
- Relevance and applicability
- Reference cases
- Market analysis
Windows of Opportunity
- Opportunity identification
- Value (Opportunity Sizing)
- Business Casing
- Deal Structuring
- Workshop approaches
- Teaming & handoff recommendations
- Post mortems and learnings
- Project management playbook
- Relevant Independent Software Vendors/Partners
The Big Picture of an Engagement: the Opportunity, the Solution, and the Outcome
A Digital Advisor earns their living by helping customers achieve their business outcomes which lead to Microsoft incomes.
They do so by driving end-to-end engagements composes primarily of an opportunity, a solution, and an outcome.
To create disruptive opportunities, the Digital Advisor creates a synthesis of a unique perspective, business leader priorities, and a business case.
To bring a unique perspective to the table, the Digital Adviser forms a hypothesis for the business leader based on:
- Industry (and Cross-industry) expertise
- Market trends and patterns
- Emerging technology capabilities and solutions
To gain a clear understanding of the client’s priorities, the Digital Adviser attempts multiple objectives at once:
- Establish new business models
- Respond to competitive threats
- Improve financials
- Streamline operations
- Enhance customer and employee experience
A key tool at this stage is a compelling story and press release mock up.
By mocking up a story of the future and how the customer will change their game, they set the stage for working with the right people, on the right problems, in the right way.
How do Digital Advisers formulate a viable solution that will create value for business leaders?
By infusing storytelling and experience design into the journey of a solution.
The end-game for the solution is a viable solution that creates value for the customer. It infuses experience design and storytelling into the solution to produce higher quality results.
The employee experience is shaped by a new culture and mindset that embraces change, obsesses around the customer, and thrives on innovation and growth.
New business models are created as a result of changing components of the business model, which include the customer segment, the distribution channel, the product, and the value prop.
The end-result is a transformation in the customer experience, the employee experience, and the partner experience.
How do Digital Advisers deliver on the opportunity and realize the targeted value of the solution?
Through a combination of stakeholder management, change management, and engagement management, effective Digital Advisers drive business outcomes, financial outcomes, and social outcomes.
The Rise of the Business Evangelist at Microsoft
In a world that thinks of Microsoft as the IT-vendor, now is the time to lead the transformation of Microsoft.
It’s time to drive the message that Microsoft is the key business partner for the future into the hearts and minds of our business leaders around the world.
By being a game changer, by embracing the mindset, the skillset and the toolset of a Digital Advisor, and by making business because of technology real, you can champion perhaps the greatest cause and boldest ambition in Microsoft’s history – to be the business partner to the world’s movers and shakers in the Digital Era.
To new beginnings.
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