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BLOG:Digital Transformation: The Sherlock Holmes Approach

Digital Transformation: The Sherlock Holmes Approach

The heart of true digital transformation is the journey of an organization remaking itself in incremental steps.

If you are a fan of Sherlock Holmes, you might be familiar with Sherlock and Watson running befuddled through foggy London streets and trouncing villains in the end. They are relatively simple adventures at times, involving deductive reasoning and a willingness to think in different veins - similar to how many organizations are approaching digital transformation.

Holmes would always do something very sharp in his pursuit of villains through the streets and alleyways - he’d move one step at a time, then stop and listen. Small steps, foggy vision.

It’s an extremely valuable point of knowledge that any company undergoing experience transformation should do: Even when the road ahead is foggy, you can always take one step, pause, and listen for where to step next.

An organization can only succeed at transforming itself digitally by embracing the fact that the world changes almost daily and it will need to adjust almost daily. It should do this by creating an experience ecosystem that is not only built on flexibility, but is a vehicle that recognizes change quickly. The basic premise in creating an experience ecosystem that invites and embraces change can be summed up in 4 characteristics: Know Yourself, Make a Vehicle, Find the Truth, and Create.

Let’s take a quick look at each one.

Know Yourself

When an organization knows itself, it has a firm grip on who it is as an entity and what it wants to become. This includes knowing and solidifying things like vision, mission, strategies, and communication vehicles at every level of the organization, not just the top. In addition, governance should be in place like a wise grandfather, not a dictating overlord, and the current & future states should be visualized to see.

Sounds simple, right?

While many organizations tout a vision, mission, etc, the studies are astounding as to the amount of people in an organization that have no idea of these “foundational, concrete, future-casting words”. There are plenty of studies to refer to, but try it out yourself in your organization asking, does everyone tell the same story in these areas?

Make a Vehicle

All the activities you conduct for digital transformation need some way to feed back into the organization; you have to build a vehicle to do that or you are wasting your time.

This is typically a part of a design that many organizations skip over. They’ll move full-speed ahead on projects and events, assigning or assuming that a director or manager will step up to handle it. However, it shouldn’t be left to chance.

Making a Vehicle nods to the design and methods an organization will put in place to make changes based on what they have learned. This includes getting very real in certain areas: feedback mechanisms, communication methods, and designing your visual ecosystem. A visual ecosystem is comprised of building out certain necessities and experience components for your organization…

  • What are we at a high level? - We call these atlases; they “frame” your organization;
  • What do we want to know? - You need to create your journey map architecture that goes into those atlases.
  • _What do our experts think happens in these journeys? - _These are best understood as “draft personas and journey maps” (we refer to them as Ghost Personas and Ghost Maps because they aren’t really fully baked).

The vehicle has to be in place in order for your organization to make the most of what it is learning and finding. Can everyone in your organization name identify that vehicle?

Find the Truth

Find out about the segment you are aiming toward. This means to stop being biased with internal views only and begin including objective, observational, measurable information into the design and actions of your organization.

If it involves customers, go visit them. If it involves internal employees, go visit them. If it involves vendors, go visit them.

If you built your Ghost Personas and Ghost Maps in the Make a Vehicle phase, now is the time to make them real and convert them into real Personas and Journey Maps.


This is the finality of what you are going to do with what you know, both about your organization and about a targeted segment. You realized who you are and who you want to be as an organization, created a vehicle to absorb and make changes, and went into the real world to validate what you thought. Now is the time to get creative.

Trying to create ideas for your customer experience? Think of your idea generation like a three-legged stool - your SME knowledge, external expertise, and validated customer research.

If you take any of those out, you cut all of them short. They are meant to build and support each other, all while keeping each other in check. These are easily done (and very enjoyable!) by utilizing events like Ideation Sessions and Innovation Jams, short, highly-engaging engagements that generate ideas like crazy.

Wrapping Up

Think back to the fog at the beginning of the post. Putting a system in place that contains these elements allows you to take one step at a time. Jumping off into a project or effort without these elements in place may work for that project, but doesn’t transform the organization.

So think wisely, but don’t be afraid when you step into the fog. Just realize you need to take one step at a time, pause to see what is happening, then take another step. Building an experience ecosystem with the elements you read about can help you do that.