Cecilia Edwards
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Cecilia Edwards

Cecilia Edwards possesses 20 years of experience in strategy and management consulting, having worked with a number of Fortune 500 corporations, middle market companies, private equity firms, and non-profit organizations. She brings this strategic expertise to her Everest Group clients with a focus in next generation IT strategies, enterprise as-a-service models, IT enabled business transformation, and service provider growth strategies. To read more, please see Cecilia’s bio.

How to Become a Digital Pinnacle Enterprise | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

By | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

Transformation goes beyond applying new digital technologies

In years past, in the midst of some hype and some reality, enterprises applied digital technologies to existing processes with the goal of reducing costs, improving quality, and increasing efficiency.

But today, digital native companies – such as Fin Techs, Uber, and Airbnb, with origins in the digital space – and traditional enterprises that rapidly moved towards digital maturity, are causing significant disruption in an already disrupted environment. Their successes are driving today’s enterprises to not only improve but also transform their businesses to deliver value to customers in completely new manners, at radically different price points, and at breakneck speeds.

As presented by my colleague Michel Janssen in his recent blog on Digital Pinnacle Enterprises, the enterprises that are more mature in their digital transformation capabilities have a far greater chance of delivering the necessary business outcomes.

Digital Pinnacle Enterprise differentiators

Interestingly, it is not the choice or implementation of newer or different technology that distinguishes these businesses. Rather, they stand out because of their moves to establish a more collaborative culture, their shift to embracing innovation, their clear approach to move past technology implementation to adoption, and their willingness to change core business processes. These leading companies realize that success in digital transformation is not an event, but a journey.

Executing on those differentiators – culture, innovation, technology adoption, and business model change – is highly complex, cannot be accomplished in one big bang effort, and is more time sensitive than traditional multi-year IT project plans allow. A journey carefully mapped out to efficiently accelerate the impact of digital efforts is required. Elements of this journey include:

  • Establishing a vision for where you would like your enterprise to be digitally. While it will be virtually impossible to predict the exact form it will take, you can well articulate the characteristics of your future aspirations. For example, you can determine whether you want to establish a micro-segmented customer experience, or be able to rapidly introduce products into the market that are responsive to your customers’ evolving desires.
  • Deciding on the priority elements required for your success and, informed with data, determining the characteristics of your target operating model. You will obviously need to make decisions regarding your required technical capabilities, but business process changes, and funding, adoption, and accountability approaches are equally critical to achieving your goals. Determining priorities will also provide guidance into which elements of your business require little change focus as they are anticipated to have minimal impact on your business results.
  • Building a journey map to close the gaps between where you are today and the priority elements of your target operating model. The focuses should be on delivering results as quickly as possible, and remaining agile enough to respond to the evolving business requirements.

Moving at the speed of digital is no longer a nice-to-have

Enterprises that are succeeding in today’s environment understand that their underlying information technology and business model approach must move at the speed of a digital world. They recognize they must be designed for a world in which customer demands are routinely and rapidly changing, and enabling technologies available to them, and their competitors, are evolving even faster. They are prepared to embark upon a journey whose destination is only partially known at any given time, and to shift approaches, as needed, along the way.

Video: Why a Digital Project Isn’t Digital Transformation | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

By | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

In this video, Partner Cecilia Edwards explains how many organizations are confusing digital projects with digital transformation and explains the differences between each.


Digital is all the conversation these days. And in particular, we hear a lot of people talking about digital transformation. But when you peal back the onion and see what they’re really talking about, not everybody’s talking about the same thing when they say “transformation.”

Many people are talking about what we’d call digital projects. When you look at things like social and mobility and analytics, even Internet of Thing, cognitive, and artificial intelligence. All of those things are digital technologies. But just because you’re using a digital technology doesn’t mean you’re in the process of a digital transformation.

A digital project is one that really takes those digital technologies and applies them to the same business model, to do things like reduce cost, improve quality, or improve efficiency. All of those things are projects.

Now, when you get to transformation, that’s a whole other story. Those same technologies can be applied in new ways. They can be applied to improvements in the customer experience, the employee experience, or business transformations. And when we talk about digital transformation here at Everest Group, what we’re talking about is the use of those digital technologies to drive a change in your business model.

Everybody’s familiar with all the disruptors. Uber disrupting the taxi business. AirBnB disrupting hotels. What they did was not just make incremental improvements in how those things were done, they changed the business model.

Now, we’re not suggesting in any way that all businesses need to completely disrupt their industries. But what we are suggesting is that those digital technologies have the opportunity to drive so much change that existing companies, mature companies, need to reevaluate their business models in a way that’s going to allow them to take advantage of the capabilities that those technologies bring to the table in a way that causes them to challenge the status quo assumptions of how you do your business and how you deliver value. That is what we call digital transformation.

How to Successfully Fund Your Enterprise Innovation Initiative | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

By | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

One of the biggest obstacles to successful innovation efforts is a challenge familiar to any entrepreneur: funding. Good ideas take time and money to get off the ground. But when those ideas are relatively “out there” or unproven, the investment can be hard to justify.

This is especially true in a corporate environment. Standard corporate funding models for technology projects simply don’t align with the way innovation works. Traditionally, organizations base their internal investments on a business case that shows projected improvement from a baseline. The business case requires and includes upfront knowledge of the full funding needed to complete the project, and assumes that every project will in fact be successfully completed.

Read more at Cecilia’s blog

Stop Sweating Your Assets to Start Driving Innovation | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

By | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

The popular business book “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There” offers personal and professional advice based on a simple premise: the skills and talents that got you promoted to a senior level are not the same as those required to succeed at that level. This applies in the corporate world or in our home lives; ask anyone who has been married if the equation for a healthy relationship was the same before the wedding and ten years later. But the concept is particularly relevant to today’s IT teams. Given the current pace of technology, what got IT here definitely won’t get us there.

Read more at Cecilia’s blog.

5 Steps to a Realistic, Repeatable Innovation Process | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

By | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

Innovation in a business context cannot be a simple flash of brilliance. (It typically isn’t a simple flash of brilliance in any case, as we’ll discuss below.) Even in the rare cases that an innovative idea seems to come from nowhere, it must not end there. Businesses, and especially IT departments, need to deliver outcomes. A cool new gadget, algorithm, etc. is essentially meaningless until it enables or produces the desired results, e.g.: improve the customer experience, drive down costs, transform the business model. Only then is the energy from that flash of brilliance harnessed in a way that matters to the organization.

This focus on practicality feels unintuitive and different from how we usually think of innovation; the image of a single inventor being struck by a moment of genius is a powerful cultural paradigm. It is also neither realistic nor repeatable. Innovation driven by an undisciplined creative process will not predictably deliver results. This makes reliance on serendipity an innovation strategy unsuited for a corporate environment.

Read more at Cecilia’s blog

3 Strategies for Measuring the Impact of Innovation | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

By | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

For today’s leading companies, innovation is no longer optional. The imperative to transform your offerings while simultaneously driving productivity and cost savings continues to grow more urgent as the pace of technology accelerates. But while innovation is a key component of any modern business plan, it also enjoys a singular status among most organizations’ critical strategies: it’s the only one that is not consistently and rigorously measured. Read more at Cecilia’s blog.

The Biggest Risk to Your IT Department that You’re Not Addressing | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

By | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

Today’s IT departments face a profound challenge: the delicate and precarious balance between stability and innovation. “Keeping the lights on” has never been more important. Business quite literally runs on technology and any downtime or blips in the user experience can cause major negative consequences, from brand equity and sales to internal productivity and morale. But innovation is equally imperative. The pace of technological change demands that businesses evolve or go extinct. You can’t afford to stand still – but you cannot compromise your core operations, either. In response, most organizations split the difference. IT assumes that legacy systems are stable and continues to rely on them as foundational infrastructure. When new requirements arise, they invest in new technology with a greater emphasis on agility and responsiveness, often in the cloud. Read more at Cecilia’s blog.

A Lesson to be Learned from Delta Airlines’ System Outage | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

By | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

Bimodal IT has become common parlance. It is the term for the underlying assumption that large enterprises require stability in their core IT systems, and should therefore not take the risk of migrating to new technology. Instead, the old systems should be maintained in their current condition – or a condition that is fundamentally the same with only minor adjustments – and only use current or next generation IT for new requirements.

While the logic seems to make sense on the surface, there is a major flaw in this argument. IT systems aren’t like fine wines that get better with time. IT systems become old and outdated, just like your own personal computer. Think about it – how many years did it take you to become totally frustrated with the computer you LOVED when you first got it? It was the best thing on the market, was lightning fast, and did all the cool new stuff.  But five years later, it has slowed to a crawl, the operating system isn’t compatible with the latest version of the programs you want to use, and no one has the components or software required to service it. There comes a point in time when it is more risky to hold on to the old than to migrate to the new.

Now let’s test this argument to determine whether it makes as much sense for the enterprise as it does the technology forward consumer.

Delta Airlines’ entire system was shut down due, at least in part, to some of their core IT systems not switching over to backup when Georgia Power encountered a switchgear failure that is the equivalent of blowing a fuse. The result? More than 650 flights were initially cancelled, with thousands more likely at risk of being cancelled later in the day. Of course, the impact of an outage of this magnitude is not limited to a single day. Somehow, all of the passengers still have to get where they were going, and will need to fit in on other flights. There is no way Delta will be able to accommodate all those people, so other airlines will have the opportunity to pitch in and serve those stranded by Delta.

The outage began at 2:30 am, and Delta resumed flight by 9:00 am. In just six and a half hours, Delta lost millions of dollars, ran many of its passengers off to other airlines, and served a major blow to its hard-fought battle to build a reputation as the most reliable U.S.-based international carrier. All in just six and a half hours.

This should force enterprises to look at their IT systems and ask just how stable they really are. Their systems, assuming they are similar to most major airlines, were likely built in the 1990’s – more than 20 years ago. Given the rapid pace of technology changes, a 20 year old system is practically ancient. Who has the skills to service systems that old? How well does the system integrate with new technology? What level of customization and patching together has occurred over the past 20 years to keep the system relevant? How has the system been able to address the vulnerabilities and performance issues resolved by newer technology? In other words, what is the underlying risk associated with an IT system that is a couple of decades old, and is it reasonable to expect it to get better?

Bimodal IT might make sense in some instances when the cost of the risk of obsolescence is low. It can also make sense as a short-term strategy. However, nothing is stable forever, and the increased complication of maintaining old systems adds risk that slowly creeps up over time.

Yes, transitions to newer technology are both costly and risky. But so is having an unexpected total business shutdown due to the inability of an ancient system to continue to perform as it has in the past. Transitions to newer technology can be planned and managed, and seem to be much less of a gamble in the long-run.

The Internet of Things (IoT): What’s not to love? | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

By | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

If this year’s International Consumer Electronics Show was any indicator, the Internet of Things (IoT) has made the transition from fascinating concept to increasing reality. Companies are developing and launching all sorts of useful products for consumers: connected lightbulbs, health sensors, parking space finders, snow monitors, smart toothbrushes, self-watering flowerpots … and just about anything else you can dream up, and probably a few you can’t.

What remains to be seen, perhaps, is what’s in it for consumers beyond the cool factor. As devices become increasingly wired and consumers become more reliant upon them, the IoT inevitably faces some real challenges. Most importantly, consumers use a broad range of electronic devices developed by different manufacturers. Because no standards currently exist, there is little interconnectivity among these devices, creating islands of potentially interesting and useful data, but virtually no causeways connecting them.

Relatedly, these devices may produce heaps of interesting data that, ultimately, is just that – interesting data. The hard work is gleaning meaningful insights from the data. Many of us can (and do!) share our step counts with anyone within our Facebook reach … but we’ve made no inroads into losing those 10 pounds we gained over the holidays.

And then there’s the issue of data security. Just who owns or has access to all of that data that is produced and just what are they going to do with it.  It may seem reasonable that the company that made the device can use the data to improve their product offering, but when it comes to specifically targeting us in sales campaigns, that seems like another line we may not want them to cross.

It just may be that the challenges with the lack of standards that would cause a consumer to have to learn how to manage multiple systems and the uncertainty around the data issues may stymie the growth of IoT with consumers.

The other IoT “consumer”

An IoT “consumer” that gets much less attention is the commercial enterprise, which is unfortunate, because there’s a lot of potential there. Enterprises are better positioned to take advantage of the IoT because they don’t face the same challenges as regular consumers do in making use of IoT outputs.

For example, organizations are accustomed to hiring systems integrators to build custom solutions to integrate across their products. They are, therefore, much more able to build the causeways to connect the islands of data that the IoT produces.

Furthermore, many enterprises have, or can hire, the resources necessary to manage the resulting data. And beyond data management, a significant proportion of organizations understand the value of collecting and analyzing data of all types, and have teams dedicated to the exercise. Ultimately, many organizations are well positioned to derive meaningful insights from the data they can collect through connected devices.

And (the recent Sony situation notwithstanding) they may be better able to control and manage the IoT data outputs, so privacy is less of a concern here than it may be for consumers.

Ultimately, though, the financial benefits offer the greatest opportunity for the enterprise consumer of IoT data. While most individual consumers can’t anticipate significant financial gain from optimally watered plants, every commercial organization can benefit by eradicating waste, speeding product delivery, and/or identifying competitive advantage.

Potentially then, the greatest short-term benefit of the IoT will go to enterprises that aggressively embrace the opportunity by leveraging the resulting data to differentiate from competitors.

Taming Your IT Transformation Terror | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

By | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

Originally posted on Fierce CIO

Transformation is a journey that, done correctly, requires a significant amount of change in an organization to achieve success.

IT transformation is the overhaul of an organization’s IT operations, where the goal is more than just cost savings. Instead, IT transformation is about increased capacity to use technology to drive new competitive advantages. IT transformation is about unlocking value through improved business agility, faster speed to market and using big data to inform smarter decisions that can lead to improved margins, sales growth and happier customers.

Transformation is always disruptive on some level. It requires changes in people, skill sets, training, headcount, career management and more.

“Big T” transformation demands that an organization attack both technology and process changes simultaneously, two variables that can add enough complexity and risk to sabotage the effort before it gets beyond the planning stage.

“Big T” transformation demands that an organization’s senior leadership be ready to make it a strategic priority, assign champions and hold people accountable for specific metrics along agreed-upon timeframes. Time must be invested to create a clear vision for what success looks like at the end of the transformation process. That includes a clear articulation of the business value desired, one that your bankers and shareholders would easily understand.

Read more on Fierce CIO