Digital 2.0 – The Modern Digital Executive
Want to Transform Your Organization? Throw Out Your Five-Year Plan and Prepare for a Neverending Story
Author: Matt Schaub , Associate Principal, Prime TSR
Organizations know they need to, at the very least, keep pace with competitors. And those with an eye to the future know that keeping pace is only a temporary solution; it won’t guarantee they’ll be around in the next decade.
So how do organizations bolster their place within an ecosystem that constantly changes? Moreover, how do they transcend their current position within the market?
That’s what I discussed with Epsagon Co-Founder & Chief Technology Officer, Ran Ribenzaft.
Meet Ran Ribenzaft
Ran is a fascinating guy—and he’s accomplished a lot in a little time. In 2021, he landed on the Forbes top 30 CEOs under 30 list. He has nearly a decade and a half of experience in cybersecurity and software engineering and has already co-founded two companies: ForFounders and Epsagon, which he and his co-founding partner sold to Cisco for a whopping $500 million last year.
I wanted to know what experience taught Ran about transforming companies, how he defines innovation, and which companies he’s keeping an eye on.
Here’s what he said.
Biggest Lessons Learned About Transforming Companies Digitally
Small organizations have fewer resources but are generally more nimble than legacy companies.
Legacy companies have more resources but less agility. What’s Ran’s point?
Accept that transformation takes time
It doesn’t matter how large or small you are; transformation takes time. “You can set goals and allocate timelines,” he says, “but transformation won’t adhere to them. So be patient and accept that transformation is a neverending story.”
When organizations are impatient, they make the mistake of trying to modernize the entire organization all at once. Ran’s seen many companies try—and just as many fail.
“Pick one team, one service, one application or business unit,” he says. “When you start small, with single chunks,” you give yourself a POC, a sort of barometer for what works and what doesn’t. Then you’ll know what to do when you move to step two.
Don’t set a five-year plan
Another common mistake organizations make is setting long, five-year plans. Instead, Ran suggests starting with today. “Get one thing done today. It doesn’t have to be earth-shattering either.”
One success gives you a foundation. Now you can build off it.
How Ran Defines Innovation
HOW RAN DEFINES INNOVATION
I asked Ran to give me his definition of innovation. “Agility and speed,” he said. “That’s what’s going to determine your organization’s success.”
Not that long ago, it was acceptable to take six months or a year to deliver a new product. That’s unheard of these days. Any organization taking that long to deliver is ancient history.
Want to do more than keep pace with competitors? Then you better find agile-minded people. I asked Ran to unpack that thought for me. Here’s what he said:
“People drive culture. Culture drives processes and methods. Processes and methods drive projects to completion. Yes, tools, technology, and processes are important. But nothing is as important as the people driving them.”
Find agile-minded people. There’s no other way.
Biggest Impact on Digital Innovation For The Next 10 Years
“I’ve seen brilliant teams fail, and not because they weren’t capable,” says Ran. “These people failed because they were too busy with repetitive, time-consuming tasks.” In short, they didn’t have an infrastructure.
Give your team the tools they need.
Don’t let them rewrite the same standard code over and over again. Make it easy to share information between teams. Streamline communication between team members and users. Do what you must, but stop making people do what AI and machine learning can do for them.
Who's Innovating? Companies to Keep and Eye On
So, digitally speaking, which company is Ran keeping an eye on? Believe it or not, Ran said McDonald’s. His answer is so obvious that everyone else seems to miss it.
“When people think about McDonald’s, they think, ‘Oh, yeah, the burger guys.’” But not really.
“When you think about it, McDonald’s is actually a data and tech company.”
Ran’s right. Look at the McDonald’s delivery method. They started with drive-throughs, then moved to a fast-track checkout model. Now the fast-food restaurant is essentially a personalized, self-serve vending machine.
“You wouldn’t think guys selling milkshakes would be hyper-focused on data,” he says. When you take a close look, though, you’ll notice company strategy is built on data. McDonald’s knows what you like, why you like it, and how you want to consume it.
They’re not guessing. They didn’t shift their delivery method based on a hunch. They collect data constantly. Then they use it to give people what they want—before they even knew they wanted it.
Look, McDonald’s could have stayed complacent. It would have been easy for them to stand still and collect. But instead of repeating themselves, they bought an Israeli marketing tech and data company.
Why would a burger and milkshake joint do that? Because they want more data. They want to know what makes their customers tick.
They say food is the way to the heart. Maybe it’s actually data.
Digital 2.0 Hot Seat: Real, Hype, Or WTF
I closed our conversation with a series of rapid-fire questions covering five of my favorite topics: AI, the Metaverse, crypto, remote work, and Elon Musk.
Are they real, hype—or do they just make you scratch your head and say, “WTF?” Here’s what Ran had to say:
“Still hype, but it’s going to be real. I’m still waiting for AI to step in where my doctor left off without it killing me. It’s not there yet, but we’re getting close.”
“I used to play second life a really long time ago, which was probably the first version of the Metaverse. Maybe I’m too old to get excited about the newest incarnation of it.”
“I own a few coins. It strikes me that crypto could easily be the backbone of finance in the future. There was a time before hard currency. So why wouldn’t there be a future without it as well?”
“Real, but I’m not a fan of it, personally. I prefer face-to-face time. That said, I think remote work was the model that led to hybridization. That seems like a good thing to me.”
“Musk brought us some of the most unique and advanced innovations on the globe. He’s real, but I still find myself saying, ‘WTF?’”
Thank you, Ran, for such an insightful interview!