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S.E.T. for Success in AgTech: Transformation

set for success in agtech transformation

S.E.T.: Scalability, Enablement, and Transformation

Transformation isn't just a project. It's something that must be a part of an organizations being. That means putting culture in a place so that Transformation becomes a natural way of working. - George Westerman

In our previous article, we covered the concept of Enablement and how technology can improve a company’s workflow with new and enhanced tools and processes. We dove into Enablement and what makes companies successful through implementing one or more of these concepts – powering real-time decisions, leveraging self-service, and creating an ecosystem of connections.

Within S.E.T., Transformation is defined as using technology to fundamentally change how an entire business operates and delivers value to customers through new products and business models. In contrast, Scalability and Enablement generate value from different angles, and both focus on digitally optimizing specific areas of a business.

Throughout history, there have been many examples of technology transforming agriculture and the way farmers conduct business. 

Jethro Tull used his new horse-drawn seed drill to individually plant seeds in 1701, replacing the traditional broadcast method most farmers used at the time. This early form of precision agriculture dramatically increased yields and lead to an agtech revolution helping farmers feed their families. 

John Deere’s desire to produce a self-polishing cast steel plow at an industrial level made his name synonymous with farm technologies. Deere used to say, “If we don’t improve our product, somebody else will.” His ability to see that he needed to continually improve and produce better products and experiences for his customers created the company we all recognize today. 

Today, creating a plow, like adding a technology to develop a company’s digital maturity, is not as likely to propel the business forward since AgTech is more complex, competitive, and technical. Understanding future market forces, dealing with legacy overhead, and organizational culture changes are all barriers to transforming an entire business. 

So how can the leaders of today prepare for organizational change that a transformation takes? The Transformation of a business requires a balance of technology, company culture, and measuring outcomes and value drivers.  

Below is a systematic approach to a successful transformation.  

Defined Purpose | Change Capability | Measurable Outcomes

Defined Purpose

A successful transformation requires a defined purpose for both the company and customers served. Think of this step as defining a company’s north star to guide and be a waypoint to course correct while making progress toward Transformation.

$1.3 trillion that was spent on digital transformation last year, it was estimated that $900 billion went to waste.

Explicitly defining the company’s purpose creates direction and alignment, preventing the waste of company resources, and is fundamental to a successful transformation. Here’s how a company can define its purpose:

  • Defined Vision – A company vision is a compelling picture of the desired and ideal future an organization wants to become or achieve. It is the reason for the existence of the company in the first place. When starting a transformation, revisiting the company vision and syncing with the desired value a company wants to bring to its customers solidifies the direction and bright north star of a company.  
  • Customer Value – Identifying a real problem to solve for customers is critical in any business, but especially in AgTech. For farmers, each year can make or break a season. Providing them a tangible return on investment, solving problems seen in the field, and planning for AgTechs slower adoption rate is critical to ensuring that companies are providing value without giving up farmers’ essential products. 
  • Business Strategy –It’s necessary to identify a business strategy to start a transformation. Leaders who aim to enhance their organization’s performance solely through digital tooling tend to have strategies exclusive to that tooling. While having a plan to transform a business with tools moves the technology initiatives forward, that alone shouldn’t guide a business. Define not only the tooling but the organization’s change and process strategies. 

Companies with a clearly defined vision and purpose alone, with no extra work, achieve three-year shareholder return growth rates 3% higher than their competitors. According to a survey by PWC, companies that were the best-performing success (measured in terms of three-year growth of total shareholder return) is attributed to a capabilities-driven approach to strategy. 

Change Capability

Start the iterative journey of Transformation with understanding where the company is currently —conduct quality assessments of the organization’s processes, technology, and people. Assessments help focus and prioritize efforts towards an organization’s change capability.  

Align Processes and Technology 

Companies can align their processes by prioritizing and focusing on one thing at a time. Picking one problem to handle allows for straightforward ways to manage tasks on the way toward a transformation. Evaluate your processes and change them into shorter, more agile cycles.  

Year-over-year investment trends are pointing to opportunities in the following spaces: AgBiotech, Innovative foods, Farm Management, Sensing and IoT, Midstream Technology, and AgMarketplaces. 

31% of companies have invested in AI in an effort to get ahead of the competition

With new technologies such as blockchain and the Internet of Things, the potential of new emerging technology is staggering. While each new capability that comes out is easier to use, understanding how these technologies can make a difference in an agtech business has become more difficult. While these technologies help drive innovation forward and contribute to the Transformation of a company, integrating legacy systems with these new technologies is becoming more complex. 

Align People

94 percent of executives in industrial companies see digital transformation as a top strategic priority - but only 14 percent are highly confident that their organizations are ready to fully harness these changes associated.

Aligning technology and people with a companies purpose gives leaders the ability to show their teams why the company is changing and what it means for their future. 

Senior leaders must create a robust digital culture to leverage, attract, and maintain better talent. According to a research study by BCG, companies with a digital culture that empower their people to deliver results faster are 5x more likely to achieve breakthrough performance than companies who neglect culture.  

Often new technologies can fail to improve organizational productivity not because of fundamental flaws in the technology but because intimate insider knowledge has been overlooked.

Aligned processes and technologies drive a Transformation forward, but those alone won’t make a transformation successful. People have to adopt these new processes, business models, and technologies. Internal teams of scientists, business people, agronomists, and engineers focused and accepting of the company’s purpose make the iterative cycle of change capability successful.  

Measurable Outcomes

Data holds the key to new revenue streams, better customer experiences, improved market insights and lower costs of doing business - Brian Householder, CEO, Hitachi Vanttara

Identify measurable outcomes after the organization has aligned and found its purpose. Be sure not to mix up outcomes with outputs, as output measures do not address the value or impact of your services for your clients.

  • Measuring Progress – Tracking the performance of new tools, technology, and processes ensures the business KPI’s are aligned and met, and that the organization is aware of what’s happening in each step.
  • Identifying Customer Satisfaction – Soliciting and understanding customer feedback provides the directionality to solve your customer’s problems. Send out customer surveys, host focus groups, and listen to the company’s customer support team.
  • Converting Data into Insights – As businesses begin moving from systems of record convert to systems of engagement, they can achieve new insights through new data generated. These insights lead to new products, capabilities, and services for the business and its customers.

Digital maturity is critical for companies to continue growing in today’s economy and agtech marketplace.

Through 2020 and beyond, organizations will need to continually evaluate their transformation initiatives. Keep in mind that transformations are different for each company and depend on that company’s economies of scale, goals, and vision. Transformation requires continuous improvement as you tweak and optimize processes, technology, and culture to maintain and achieve measurable outcomes.  

Part 4 of our S.E.T. series will cover how all of these concepts work together to propel your business forward to have you S.E.T. for Success.


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