By now you will have no doubt heard or seen something about the IT Leader Growth Summit for IT Managers, Heads of IT and CIOs of mid-sized businesses that kicks off this Sunday.
Yes, that is a Xuviate Summit!
With 55 sessions to prepare and a whole summit infrastructure to pretty much build from scratch, it should be no surprise to hear that we have been extremely busy over the last 6 months.
The great news is that IT leaders everywhere love the concept and we already have signups from 41 countries from 6 continents.
Best of all, every single one of the 45 pre-recorded and 11 LIVE sessions will be available for FREE for a specific period of time between 20 and 24 May!
And this last bit is generally what freaks everybody out.
Why on earth are we putting in so much effort, over so many months, to just give it all away for free?
A really good question and in this blog I'll try to give you a behind the scenes look at why we are investing so heavily in this exercise.
But first I need to take a step back and tell you about the bigger picture, which incidentally also serves as an update to my blog article "Why Xuviate?", which I wrote 3 years ago when we sold our shares in Space Age Technologies and fully focused our attention on our newest baby, Xuviate.
So I am not going to repeat any of this here.
What I am instead going to do is to introduce you to the 6 core assumptions our business has been founded on and also tell you where I think we stand with each of them.
Ready? Then let's start by looking at the first of our assumptions which is about the size of the market opportunity.
We have always believed that mid-sized businesses all over the world would at some stage feel the urge to figure out how to use technology more effectively, thereby becoming truly Adaptive Organisations.
Let's agree to label this need as digital transformation or just DX for short.
We also believe that the solutions applied by larger organisations to achieve this outcome would not easily work for mid-sized businesses and new approaches will be needed.
Although we made some predictions, we just had no idea when all of this would become apparent to the leaders of these businesses.
About a year ago Mathias still warned in a blog article that Delaying Digital Transformation Is Super Risky, with the observation that many mid-sized businesses still seem completely oblivious to the disruptive changes underway.
Fortunately (for Xuviate), this has been rapidly changing ever since, and today there are very few mid-sized businesses that don't feel the pressure to modernise their operations, become more innovative and generally do things faster.
And, as predicted, the regular solutions favoured by large organisations require an army of consultants and large-scale, very expensive transformation projects.
Not really something that mid-sized businesses would ever be comfortable with.
Technology is really exciting!
Really, I am a tech-geek myself ... and the vendors love telling you how their solutions will revolutionise your business ... but unfortunately you know that even the best technology is not going to be of much use if your organisation still is in the "digital dark ages".
We have written extensively about this challenge (most recently in Culture Trumps Technology In Digital Transformation) and it seems generally accepted these days that technology is really not that important when trying to get started with DX.
This is really good news for Xuviate as we made a conscious decision not to focus on all the exciting technologies but double down on the more fuzzy people and organisational changes required for a successful digital transformation.
The fact that these first two market assumptions have turned out to be correct, now lead to an interesting conundrum for business leaders of mid-sized organisations.
Let me tell you why.
First, DX by definition requires a solid business and technology background (need to brush up on "What is Digital?")
Next, established doctrine in enterprise digital transformation circles for many years was that the CEO needs to drive DX within the organisation.
But think about this in the context of a mid-sized business.
How comfortable do you think is the average, successful mid-sized business CEO with technology?
Yes, you are right, not really that much at all (after all, he or she is a business person!) and we see this causing massive uncertainty and indecision at board level almost everywhere.
Long story short, if digital transformation has to start, it will probably not start from the top but as a grass-roots initiative organised by a few enterprising individiuals who have to work hard to take an organisation through the various stages of digital maturity (as can bee seen in our DX Maturity Framework).
This means it will initially have very little support and/or budget to work with and will rely on the energy and grit of the participants.
A really tough situation, but that is the reality we see everything single day when working with mid-sized businesses.
The immediate next question for most is then "If this is true, who should ideally take the early lead?"
Read on, as this is exactly what our next business assumption is all about.
For a long time we have promoted the idea that the CTO/CMO duo is best positioned to start DX, but unfortunately many regular mid-sized businesses do not yet have a CTO role.
This means the next best practical option is the most senior IT leader (the IT Manager, Head of IT or, even better, the CIO).
Yes, you read correctly and, once you consider the typical attributes of an IT leader you'll realise that this is not really such a far-out idea as these leaders have acquired quite a few critical skills over the years:
You can read more in one of our blog articles from last year aptly titled "The Speed of Agility: How IT Is Teaching Business a Lesson".
To support forward-thinking IT leaders kick-start DX for their business we developed quite a few tools, frameworks and methodologies to support the process we described in "How to Kick-Start Digital Transformation Without CEO Support?".
IT leaders everywhere are waking up to this massive growth opportunity and the successful case studies are piling up.
And this directly leads me to the next assumption.
Let me summarise how we are doing on our core business assumptions.
Wow, point 4 could turn out to be really tough!
Our hypothesis to overcome this challenge was surprisingly simple:
Compared to regular consulting solutions, we decided to keep the IT leader in complete charge of the process and instead figure out how to remotely and cost-effectively support them to kick-start DX on their own.
After a lot of experimentation on how to extract important insights from the community and package them in ways that can help IT leaders on this journey, we finally settled on three interlocking value offerings:
And the results have been nothing short of spectacular.
We are currently helping IT leaders from around the world to overcome internal resistance and kick-start digital transformation.
And many of these leaders we have never met in person...
I kid you not!
Even though I am a big believer in the process we have developed, I am still occasionally caught off guard when seeing just how fast some of these IT leaders are able to fundamentally change the status quo in their organisations ...
Really powerful stuff! In fact, if I was in charge of a consultancy (who tries to own all the IP), I would really be worried about the emergence of 1-1 coaching solutions (such as ours)
So far our business model assumptions have all turned out to be correct, leaving us with one more assumption to go.
Unfortunately this also the one assumption we really, really struggle with.
Marketing theory states that happy customers are your most important asset and, if supported correctly, will help you promote your product and attract your next batch of customers.
We have no shortage of successful IT leaders.
The problem is that these (often incredibly!) successful IT leaders don't create new business for us 🙁
And it is not for a lack of trying ....
So what is the problem?
It's actually quite obvious, if you think about it.
IT leaders of mid-sized businesses are not connected with other IT leaders like themselves.
Of course, they may belong to CIO communities or go to Microsoft/Apple/Google events and socialise with other IT leaders, but they do not really have all that many peers (if any) who work for similar-sized organisations.
If you don't believe me, I challenge you and check for yourself.
Directly ask an IT leader in a mid-sized business about this ...
There are really no communities tailored to the needs of IT leaders from mid-sized businesses.
The most powerful communities are around specific vendors, but they are often so far removed from the practical challenges of IT leaders that apart from the technology support it is all but useless for anything else besides direct technical support.
For larger businesses, of course, there are a huge number of IT conferences and online and offline communities to choose from.
But not so for IT leaders from mid-sized businesses.
The reason for this lack of a dedicated community is that most people make the mistake of believing that IT leaders in mid-sized businesses require the same solutions as their enterprise counterparts.
To many, a mid-sized business is simply a smaller enterprise, with identical challenges. And this implies the solutions should be similar.
While the first part of the statement is 100% accurate, the last part about the solutions being the same is in many cases 100% wrong.
How can the solutions be the same when you can often count the number of IT people in a mid-sized business on your two hands?
When you know there is almost no budget to work with?
When you know there is no real strategic understanding of the importance of IT?
The solutions are really not the same and require specialised understanding and often innovative approaches that you cannot read about in any text book.
The effect of this lack of a community is really crippling to a company like Xuviate who wants to scale its business.
It means that virtually every client we bring on board is the result of "cold outreach" efforts ... and you can imagine how easy this is in a world where IT leaders are so hectically busy running from one project to another.
If people don't know you it is as if your solutions didn't exist, even if they see your ad on LinkedIn or Facebook 50 times every a month.
In fact, can you still remember when you last clicked on an online ad for an unknown company or brand?
Yip, thought so!
Considering how well we have been doing on the other 5 predictions about our industry, however, it would be really sad to fail at this last hurdle and not be able to achieve our goal of helping 10,000 mid-sized businesses survive and thrive by end 2020.
So, if there is no ready-made community we could tap into, so our thinking goes, then we simply need to create this peer-community ourselves.
Not only would we solve our immediate need for faster growth, but we would also create even more opportunities for peer-support, thus further entrenching our approach as a viable alternative to costly traditional consulting offerings.
And this is how the idea for hosting an online summit was born.
Towards the end of last year we first posed our marketing challenge to our private DX Practitioner Mastermind Group and Claudio Perrone, one of the members, suggested we consider hosting an online conference.
Although this was not the first time the topic came up, we took it seriously this time (thanks Claudio) and eventually purchased a self-help guide from Navid Moazzez on how to create a Virtual Summit within 90 days.
And thus our summit journey began!
Whereas most see a virtual conference as an opportunity to make some money and establish authority within a niche, we immediately recognised the potential for achieving quite a few really important goals:
As mentioned previously, one of our core FREE services is that we occasionally package and share our newest insights in thought-provoking blog articles.
But writing such thought leadership articles is very hard work and a good one can take a few days to complete ... which unfortunately means we don't blog as often as we would like to.
Our initial goal for the Summit was to produce 40+ high quality interviews, panel discussions and case studies on topics that are really important for helping IT leaders grow.
I am so proud to tell you that we not only achieved this ambitious target but are actually on track to have 56 sessions in our library by the time the Summit comes to an end on 24 May.
Wow, still can't believe what we have been able to produce in such a short period of time.
Of course, if it wasn't for all the participating IT leaders and experts who have invested much of their own time, this wouldn't have been possible.
I salute you all!
But wait, there is more! The content we have produced is only the beginning.
If it was only for the content you could rightly criticize us for being naive and bad business people. So much time spent on an admittedly altruistic reason of supporting the global IT leader community doesn't sound very clever ...
Agreed, if that was the only reason ...
At Xuviate we view the Summit as the start for an even more ambitious project which is to create an active, global community for IT leaders of mid-sized businesses.
This is why we have created the Summit All-Access Pass where you can, for a small fee, not only get life-time access to all the sessions we have produced (instead of just getting access during the Summit), but where you also get a free, 12 month membership to our new IT Leader Growth Groups (hosted on LinkedIn and Facebook).
Once the Summit concludes, most of our creative efforts will turn towards building out this community.
Many of our Summit speakers have also agreed to join this community and contribute where appropriate in a strictly non-sales mode. Apart from the opportunity of being able to give back (many speakers have expressed this desire), there is of course also the opportunity for them to become known for specific expertise and knowledge by a very focused, global IT leader community. And this might just generate many new business opportunities over time.
We know it is going to take a while and we are prepared to put in the necessary effort.
As part of this we have already committed resources to keep producing videos on important topics and challenges similar to the ones we did for the Summit.
Naturally all of these efforts will also help us find more IT leaders who are ready to grow and lead their organisation on a digital transformation.
We estimate that out of every 10 IT leaders who join us at the Summit there will be 1 IT leader who will want to accelerate their own growth even more by either joining one of our IT Leader Mastermind Groups or even engaging us for remote coaching.
On the one hand the income generated through these engagements is necessary to sustain our operations while on the other hand every new customer we engage with increases our exposure to real-live problems and allows us to find generic solutions and practices which we can again share in our free thought leadership articles.
And so a virtuous circle is borne where IT leaders join a network where they can first and foremost learn from each other and, when they are ready to accelerate their growth, can join one of our more advanced programs.
What a great win-win-win for the IT Leaders, Consultants and also Xuviate.
My original plan was to summarise my thoughts in an article no longer than 800 words.
But when I started writing, I couldn't help myself to chronicle our story and thinking in detail, thus again creating a monster blog post of 3200 words!
The reason why I felt compelled to do this is simple.
I am thinking that, if you are an IT leader in a mid-sized business or are otherwise a Lean/Agile/Change/IT/DX consultant who currently works with mid-sized businesses, you would really want to understand where we are coming from and where we are aiming to go before you make a decision to join this community and help it grow.
And this is exactly why I hope that you will take this chance to sign up for the free IT Leader Growth Summit (which kicks off on 20th May) and check things out.
Just imagine what we all could achieve together?!
DX Sensei, Mastermind Facilitator, Abundance Thinker or CEO, call me what you like, but know this: I am extremely passionate about helping IT leaders from mid-sized businesses discover their true potential and realise just how important they are to helping their employer survive and thrive in our increasingly digital world.
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