“Change before you have to.” — Jack Welch
The C.E.O. Pattern has been one of my best tools for driving Digital Transformation.
It’s actually a powerful tool for business transformation and evaluating any business.
The C stands for Customer Experience, the E stands for Employee Experience, and the O stands for Operations.
By using the C.E.O. Pattern as a lens, you can channel and focus your transformation efforts across the most meaningful aspects of a business or organization.
It’s easy to remember the “C.E.O. Pattern”, and it’s super effective, too.
The C.E.O. Pattern has been one of my best go-to tools for my adventures as a CEO Whisperer.
- C.E.O. stands for Customers, Employees, and Operations.
- You can use the C.E.O. Pattern to create a shared mental model for Digital Transformation among managers, leaders, and employees.
- You can use the C.E.O. Pattern to tell the story of your Digital Transformation.
- You can reverse engineer stories of Digital Transformation by looking for interesting patterns around digital customer experiences, employee experiences, and operations.
- Challenge yourself to explore and create new experiences with technology for customers, employees, and operations.
- Use the C.E.O. Pattern to play the “meta-game” of Digital Transformation and work on the core components of your business
What is Digital Transformation
Before we go any further, let’s make sure we have a shared idea of what Digital Transformation is:
“Digital Transformation is adopting new technologies to change experiences and the way things are performed in significant ways through software.”
Effectively, Digital Transformation is the big idea that software and digital technologies dramatically change how we experience and interact with people and things, and how things are done.
I think a good distinction between Digital Transformation and Digital Optimization is that with Digital Transformation, your customers experience and feel your change.
Now that’s empathy, and that’s transforming your business with technology so that your users experience benefits from your adoption of digital technologies.
As long as you get the idea that Digital Transformation is using digital technologies and software to make dramatic changes in business, life, and the world at large, that’s good enough.
What is the C.E.O. Pattern for Digital Transformation
I created the C.E.O. Pattern to simplify Digital Transformation. As I said, I call it the C.E.O. Pattern because it stands for:
- C – Customers (as in Customer Experience transformation)
- E – Employees (as in Employee Experience transformation)
- O – Operations (as in Operations transformation)
Note that you can pivot “Customer Experience” to be whatever is relevant for you and your industry, such as “Student Experience”, “Patient Experience”, “Citizen Experience”, etc.
I use the C.E.O. Pattern to organize any work around Digital Transformation and for thinking about business transformation.
It’s a great and simple lens to slice and dice any big business or organization down to size into the most meaningful places to drive transformation.
If you can channel and focus your Digital Transformation efforts, you accelerate your learning and up your chances of success.
The C.E.O. Pattern puts the key components of a business or organization right there on the whiteboard as a map of opportunity.
Effectively you can chunk the big challenge of Digital Transformation down to size using the lens of Customers, Employees, and Operations.
The Backstory of the C.E.O. Pattern for Digital Transformation
I created the C.E.O. pattern to get everybody’s head in the meta-game of Digital Transformation faster and easier, by creating key areas of focus.
I found I could get people using my C.E.O. Pattern fairly fast because it made Digital Transformation more approachable.
I always challenge myself to find a way to create simplicity out of complexity so that I can be more inclusive and diverse when I bring in talent.
I needed a simple way to bring together all the conversations I was having about Digital Transformation into common themes.
I also needed something simple and sticky that I could just talk anybody through in any conversation, and that people could easily follow.
Whether I was talking with friends, family, or colleagues, I wanted some simple anchor points to discuss Digital Transformation ideas and concepts.
The C.E.O. Pattern made it super simple to have smart conversations about the future of any business.
Why CEOs Love the C.E.O. Pattern
Guess who really appreciates the C.E.O. Pattern?
At the end of the day, the CEOs who want to win and succeed in the future, ultimately need a compelling story for their Future Business.
And successful CEOs can tell that story of Digital Transformation through the lens of the C.E.O. Pattern.
Any CEO can bring their Digital Vision to life by walking through the future of their customer experiences, their employee experiences, and their operations.
The Meta-Game of Digital Transformation
The C.E.O. Pattern forces you to look at the big outcomes of adopting technology to transform your customer, employee, and operations experience in a more holistic way.
This is the “meta-game” of Digital Transformation.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of just digital optimization or just digitizing your operating model.
The meta-game of Digital Transformation gets you working on your business so that you use technology to create a competitive advantage in the core components of your business.
It’s the mega-game of Digital Transformation where there are winners and there are losers.
You have a much better chance at winning the game of Digital Transformation by leading at the meta-game level.
How I Used the C.E.O. Pattern to Coach Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s Innovation Team
One of the big challenges I had as “head coach” for Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s innovation team, was to get everybody’s head in the same game.
I used the C.E.O. Pattern to get everybody thinking about business transformation first, then how to use technology to enable it.
Whenever a lot of smart people got together, I faced a few recurring key challenges:
- The One Leader in the Room challenge – If a smart person starts talking, it can be easy for the rest of the room to shut down. I needed a shared model and common framework to get everybody talking.
- All over the board – When you have a lot of technology at your fingertips, it’s for people with the hammers to start looking for nails, even when it’s not relevant.
- In fighting – By creating agreed areas of the business to focus on, it helps people come together and contribute their ideas, perspectives, and experience. It puts the focus on the challenge in front of us, instead of fighting with each other, when smart people have differences of opinion. It helps keep the ball rolling. People still fight, but it’s usually more constructive because there is common ground to get back to.
So the C.E.O. Pattern served as my quick tool for helping smart teams swarm around hot spots in the business to find those big, business breakthroughs.
But even better, the C.E.O. Pattern helped me bring out the genius in everyone.
I love how all of a sudden a savvy tech leader would realize how they could help the business by focusing on what new experiences or benefits they could create around customer experiences, employee experiences, and operations.
And I love how all of a sudden a brilliant business leader would get excited by how technology could help their business and they gained a new level of appreciation for what their technology leaders brought to the table.
The Benefits of the C.E.O. Pattern
The C.E.O. Pattern has several benefits, beyond simplifying Digital Transformation into conversation starters.
Here are some examples:
- Alignment across efforts. By orientation everybody around a common model for thinking, acting, and communicating about Digital Transformation, the C.E.O. Pattern helps align efforts.
- A common model for Digital Transformation. The C.E.O. Pattern also helps create a common model for Digital Transformation so that any initiative could easily be grounded in business benefits.
- Chunking down Digital Transformation. It also makes it easier to chunk up bigger transformations into more manageable themes with continuity across the organization.
- Strategic areas of focus. Customer Obsession is a strategic lever for winning future customers and keeping the ones you have. Attracting and retaining talent in a competitive advantage. Making your operations better, faster, easier, and cheaper through technology is a game-winning move.
- Bridging the business and IT gap. Companies don’t die when they cross the digital chasm due to a lack of technology adoption. They die from not translating technology into tangible business benefits and differentiation. The C.E.O. Pattern is a critical translation layer so that technology creates immediate and relevant benefits that business leaders can use today.
The C.E.O Pattern Bridges Business and IT (Information Technology)
Let’s unpack this last benefit a bit more as it’s foundational to the core value of the C.E.O. Pattern.
There is often a giant gap between business and IT.
Sometimes the tail wags the dog. Other times, technology sits in the corner, because nobody made it relevant.
So perhaps the greatest value of the C.E.O. Pattern is the ability to help bridge this gap between business and IT:
- I find that technology leaders often struggle to be relevant to the areas of the business that matter most. They often fail to explain how their technology would help big business challenges in relevant ways. The unveiling of the shiny object is often met with silence, confusion, or simply swatted away like an annoying fly.
- The C.E.O. Pattern bridges this gap and creates common ground so that business and technology leaders can pair up to win the future.
- The C.E.O. Pattern also helps business and technology leaders see eye-to-eye. Anybody who is already in the business of business change finds the C.E.O. Pattern simple and intuitive. And, anybody coming from engineering, finds the C.E.O. pattern to be a great way to align their tech intensity to the context of business change.
How You Can Use the C.E.O. Pattern for Driving Digital Transformation
You can use the C.E.O. Pattern in so many ways, so here are some examples:
- You can use the C.E.O. Pattern to create a shared mental model for Digital Transformation across your leaders and employees.
- You can use the C.E.O. Pattern to learn and build your Digital Transformation skills.
- You can use the C.E.O. Pattern to evaluate your business and look for transformation opportunities.
- You can use the C.E.O. Pattern to harvest, organize, and share inspiring stories of Digital Transformation.
- You can use the C.E.O. Pattern to explore scenarios, use cases, and usage scenarios across your customers, employees, and operations.
You get the idea. You will be surprised by how much faster you can get with business transformation and digital transformation by organizing your mind in more effective ways.
The more you drill into Customer Experience, Employee Experience, and Operations, the more you will start to see how you can create new and differentiating experiences with technology.
You may even catch yourself in the middle of a terrible user experience at a store or restaurant and say to yourself, “This looks like a job for software!” (of course, it’s just as easy to create terrible experiences with software, too).
And next thing you know, you are doing Digital Transformation
Now, let’s make the C.E.O. Pattern real for you with some simple examples…
Thought Starters for Customer Experience Transformation
Transforming customer experience really comes down to helping your customers fall in love with your products and services, personalizing the experience, brokering in expertise as needed, making it easy for users to share their experience with others, and creating friction-free user journeys, anywhere, anytime, any device.
Really, the big idea with customer experience transformation is to create and cultivate raving fans in a mobile-first, cloud-first world, where technology is an enabler for new and differentiated experiences.
Here are some example thought starters that illustrate the “C”, or “Customers”, in the C.E.O. Pattern:
- The Raving Fan Experience. Imagine if you could embrace the uniqueness of each customer to bring personalized, rich, connected experiences to your customers anywhere, inspiring and driving loyalty along every step of the customer journey.
- Self-Service Professional Services. Imagine if you could improve your engagement with clients and increase the value of your services by developing self-service and automated options, easy access to expertise and insight, and fast time to impact.
- Connected Consumer Experiences – Imagine if your consumers enjoy their experiences shopping for products, and purchase through an increasing range of channels.
- Connected Customer Care – Imagine creating 360 views of your customers to provide seamless access to personalized information, support, and expertise, across all channels, and predict future needs.
- Connected Audience Analytics – Imagine rewarding your consumers with loyalty programs, and providing them with engaging, interactive, and consistent experiences anywhere, anytime, on any device.
- Connected Client Experiences in Professional Services – Imagine increasing your clients’ agility by providing self-service and automated offerings that assess and generate insights and enable your clients to connect with the right services anywhere, anytime, any device.
- Connected Student Collaboration Experiences – Imagine if you gamify your student collaboration activities to improve learning and teamwork while making it easy to create and share class materials, lessons, presentations, and projects.
- Connected Consumer Device Experiences – Imagine if you provide profitable services to your customers, upgrade devices, and identify new offerings
- Customer-Connected Insights – Imagine if you understood your customers better through digital behavior analysis to develop compassion towards their challenges and desires.
- Connected Customer Experience in Retail – Imagine providing your customers with seamless and smooth journeys that enables them to easily use any platforms, devices, and channels, with a friction-free and coherent experience.
- Connected Marketing and Customer Experience – Imagine more easily building rich advertisements and conducting digital marketing campaigns, delivering them on interactive devices that make the creative come to life.
- Connected Patient Care Experiences – Imagine if your patients could easily reach your clinicians, schedule appointments, and receive medical advice through multiple channels.
- Connected Fan Engagement Experiences in Sports – Imagine leveraging data managed by many different organizations to better understand your fans, target offers to them, and promote the franchise and
- Connected Immersive Buying Experiences – Imagine creating highly personalized customer interactions based on customer behavior and interests, and you provide contextual and personalized information to help your customers learn about relevant products.
- Connected Intelligent Customer Engagement in Banking – Imagine providing personalized guidance to your customers so you can proactively identify their needs and connect them with the right
resources and information at the right time.
- Connected Traveler Experiences – Imagine if passengers could access, purchase, and change all services themselves using their own devices, and apply their loyalty points with other partner loyalty programs or online shopping partners.
- Connected Citizen Engagement – Imagine empowering your citizens to engage with your government services anytime, anywhere, on any device, and easily connect to field workers and case workers.
Thought Starters for Employee Experience Transformation
When it comes to employee experience transformation, the big themes come down to access to expertise and information in real-time, creating shared models and views, improving productivity for common routines, and creating more space for creativity and better collaboration, as well as reducing the metaphorical distance between employees and the customers they serve.
Here are some example thought starters that illustrate the “E”, or “Employees”, in the C.E.O. Pattern:
- Connected Field Productivity. Imagine if your field force could access and share knowledge and expertise, quickly become more productive, collaborate on relevant marketing and sales initiatives, and improve their service quality.
- Real-time Insights for Workplace Safety. Imagine if you could reduce fatalities, injuries, and occupational diseases in your workforce and protect the environment by gathering and analyzing near real-time data from many sources; turning information into action.
- Student Insights for Teachers. Imagine if you knew more about each student’s skills, weaknesses, and interests, enabling you to adapt content and methods, address issues, and help students achieve more.
- Patient Insights for Doctors. Imagine if clinicians can leverage the power of data from sources such as a patient’s smart devices, medical devices, Electronic Medical Records, and community health data to move patient care beyond the hospital setting, provide personalized medicine and improved treatments, identify at-risk patients, and drive clinical innovation.
- 3D Visualization for Product Development. Imagine if you could collaborate using 3D information visualized in context and at scale to support better communication and decision-making across disciplines and teams.
- Connected Collaboration and Creativity. Imagine if you could unleash the creativity and energy of your workforce by allowing them to collaborate and share knowledge securely anytime from anywhere.
- Digital Assistants for Routine Jobs. Imagine providing employees with technologies and digital assistants enabling them to perform routine jobs, better, faster, easier, and with more consistency.
- Remote expertise on demand. Imagine if you could scale expertise to help your employees solve complex issues in real-time, using real-time work instructions, on-demand remote advisors for assisted diagnosis, and remote visualization capabilities.
- Human-Robot Collaboration in Manufacturing. Imagine a factory where robots work collaboratively with your workers, safely assisting them in a variety of tasks to improve our manufacturing quality.
- Contextual Insights in Banking. Imagine providing your bankers with contextual insights to make every customer interaction relevant and highly personalized.
- Connected Product Development. Imagine if you could design products based on insight from usage data, collaborate with global development teams, and quickly prototype and test new products.
- Connected Workplace in Government. Imagine if your employees could remain connected with their agencies while working from anywhere, and could remotely collaborate, innovate, and share ideas and information
Thought Starters for Operations Transformation
Here are some example thought starters that illustrate the “O”, or “Operations”, in the C.E.O. Pattern:
- Connected Operations. Imagine if you had operational insights across business divisions, enabling you to predict problems and minimize disruptions, improve decision making, and increase efficiency.
- Predictive Maintenance. Imagine if you could stay one step ahead of our maintenance needs, identifying optimum times and processes for refreshing our equipment.
- Connected Manufacturing. Imagine if you could track and trace the full supply chain path of your products, collaborating in real-time across multiple sites and the entire supply chain, and realign the efforts of your entire manufacturing ecosystem when necessary.
- Smart Supply Chain. Imagine if you could streamline your value chain while better managing your labor, energy, water, and transportation costs.
- Smart Facilities. Imagine if you could increase the efficiency of your administrative processes, improve coordination and collaboration, and optimize the use and maintenance of facilities.
- Data-Driven Operations in Professional Services. Imagine if you could analyze the performance of your field force and partners, the quality of engagements, and the effectiveness of sales to make better, data-driven decisions to improve operations.
- Connected Customer Management in Retail. Imagine if you could maintain a continuous connection with your customers, optimize marketing campaigns, and tailor offers and incentives to your customers’ needs.
- Connected Student Management in Education. Optimized Imagine if you could precisely fulfill the educational and career needs of each student, adapting the curriculum to strengths and weaknesses, applying the most appropriate learning methods, and awarding credible certifications.
Innovate Better with the C.E.O. Pattern
You can use the C.E.O. Pattern as a very simple lens to innovate better.
At a high level, you can use the C.E.O. Pattern to innovate in your product and in your process, by channeling your innovation energy around your customers, employees, and operations.
Even if you just get really good at innovating in the customer experience, that is a giant playground of opportunity:
- Remember how disruptive the idea was for products to come to you, instead of you going to the store?
- Remember how disruptive the idea was to just grab the stuff you want from the store and go?
- Remember how disruptive it was the idea that anybody could be your next taxi driver?
- Remember how disruptive it was the idea that you could rent somebody’s home as your next hotel or bed and breakfast?
So many ideas flow out of simply empathizing with the pains, needs, aspirations, and desired outcomes of customers, as well as just finding ways to reduce friction in the customer journey.
To win the future, disrupt at the edge of your customer experiences, where your customers will determine where future value will be created or destroyed.
Call to Action
- Think, act, and communicate your Digital Transformation approach using the C.E.O. Pattern.
- Practice using the C.E.O. Pattern when you think about how to transform a business.
- Practice using the C.E.O. Pattern when you learn stories of transformation from others. See if you can figure out how technology was used to transform the customer experience, the employee experience, or the operations.
You Might Also Like
Best Digital Transformation Books
Amazon Leadership Principles for Innovation and Impact
Digital Transformation Explained
How I Created Trends and Insight for Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella
How Satya Nadella Transformed Microsoft
How To Use Stories to Create the Future and Innovate Better
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