Like a fine wine, digital transformation requires passion, patience and tenacity

  • Posted on June 13, 2019
  • Estimated reading time 4 minutes

When I’m not helping clients develop digital strategies for the future, you can usually find me in the vineyard that my wife and I maintain on our Texas farm.

Each year, we produce about 40 bottles (Mother Nature willing) of our private label red wine — and each year I marvel at the numerous steps that must take place in order for a successful harvest to lead to a vintage worthy of sharing with family and friends.

Anyone who has ever grown something in a garden can relate to the uncertainty of all. There may be too much rain one month and not enough the next — each with potentially dire consequences. There may not be enough sunshine to build up optimal sugar content in the grapes — or the temperatures may not come at exactly the right time to bring the best out of each grape.

With all of these variables, there’s nothing more satisfying than opening that first bottle of wine knowing that all the hard work, attention to detail, creativity (and a little bit of luck) has paid off.

The same is true of my work with clients helping them to transform their businesses, mainly around their digital marketing strategies. In my work as an Advisory Practitioner at Avanade, I help clients identify the gaps and opportunities for improving both the employee and customer experience. I’ve found that winemaking and digital transformation have three things in common:

  1. Remember to keep your eye on the big picture. In digital transformation projects, it’s sometimes easy to get overwhelmed by all the steps needed to get to the end goal. Whether it’s personalizing the customer experience or helping to make it easier and more enjoyable for employees to do their jobs, it’s critical to start by creating a vision for the end goal that can be used to galvanize all stakeholders involved throughout the transformation.

    In the middle of a digital strategy project, there can be so many steps left to complete that the end result can seem elusive. Keeping an eye on the big picture of what we’re doing and why we’re doing it not only creates clarity but motivates everyone to keep marching towards the goal.

    The same can be true with making a great wine. There are so many steps over the course of several seasons that it can sometimes be hard to envision the end result. For example, when pruning the vines in the winter, you need to think forward to the harvest and imagine what you want the vines to look like eight months down the road. This vision is critical and guides the pruning process, ensuring a desirable harvest. And when things get tough, the best motivation for keeping the big picture in mind is enjoying the fruits of our labor from the last year’s harvest to remember the journey.            

  2. Connecting the dots is critical. How does the customer experience relate to the employee experience? Are employees empowered to help the customer with the best technology and tools? Do customers feel cared for throughout their journey with a business? Asking these questions and understanding the relationships between all stakeholders is so important when crafting a digital strategy that works for the client, their employees and their customers.

    In a recent modern workplace project for a large financial services company, I was able to help the client understand the integral relationship between the technology platforms used by employees and how improvements to the workplace experience would facilitate easier collaboration across the globe and ultimately improve the customer experience as well. It was gratifying to learn from a friend of mine who works at that same company that the improvements we helped put into place made a difference on his ability to do his job.

    Understanding how each variable affects the quality of a wine grape requires the same kind of approach. Throughout the growing cycle, I must be able to understand the relationships between sunshine, water, pruning techniques, TLC and grape selection — and how they all work together to create a bountiful harvest and quality wine.

  3. Enjoy the journey. Within each digital transformation project I’ve worked on, there comes a point where roadblocks must be removed in order to continue to make progress. My life in the vineyard is no different: There always comes a point where it appears that conditions seemingly have conspired against a bountiful harvest. I’ve learned along the way that these challenges, too, must be viewed as gifts.


Every step in a process — whether it be crafting and executing a digital strategy, winemaking or growing your career — has its challenges and opportunities. The point is to savor both: Be grateful when things go just right and be open to learning and growing when a challenge presents itself.

Ralph Waldo Emerson is famous for his inspiring quote, “Life is a journey, not a destination.” The same is true for the work that I do for my clients everyday — and for the journey of winemaking. Both require passion, creativity, patience and tenacity to get the job done — and an invitation to enjoy the journey wherever it leads.

Jennifer George

Hi Jacob, 

Thanks for sharing a day in the life of! When we were on our last project together I had no idea you had such a fantastic work environment. Would like to taste the wine from your farm sometime! Continue to knock them dead :)



June 25, 2019

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