Digital transformation cutting both ways
15 December 2016 | 0
The reality of digital transformation is starting to become apparent for organisations, changing perceptions of what it is possible.
This is according to Dr Joseph Reger, CTO EMIEA, Fujitsu.
“We had to learn how, and we are still, to talk to non-IT people,” Dr Joseph Reger, Fujitsu
What has already happened, said Dr Reger speaking to TechPro at the recent Fujitsu Forum, “in a very visible way is that companies are finding the first few steps on the path of digital transformation are actually showing them a possible outcome that is markedly different from when they started, and therefore the words that we’re using, going as far as a change of the business model, are not actually exaggerated at all.”
Though the digital transformation experience is not necessarily uniform for all organisations, said Dr Reger. “I don’t think there is any company who would doubt that digital transformation can lead to a total change of the business, which is why more and more business people are involved on the customer side, not just IT people.”
However, digital transformation conversations are not primarily with IT, said Dr Reger, leading to some needed change for service providers.
“We had to learn how, and we are still, to talk to non-IT people,” said Dr Reger.
“You can use the lingo and go into details, and it will be appreciated, but that’s going to be a very different conversation if you talk to the business people who are looking for a solution to their problem, because their expectations, and frankly skillsets, are different.”
With different criteria for speaking to the business, Dr Reger said it can often be a somewhat binary conversation.
“There’s no point in going down into technology details [with the business] because the only question that needs to be clarified is doable/not doable. And if doable, then for how much.”
“Also, the nature of the offerings that you present to business people is different because in those conversations there’s always a service wrapper around it. Even if you are selling something as much of a product as a server and a storage system, you still need to wrap the services around it and the proposition of how it helps to solve the problem, if it gets into the discussion with the business people at all. Sometimes it doesn’t.”
Digital transformation, though having the capability to facilitate innovation, does not always require breakthroughs in technology, said Dr Reger.
“Digital transformation projects frequently require a special engineering effort,” he said.
Despite this need, there is little required that is beyond current technologies, he asserts, based on experience.
“The number of digital transformation projects that require beyond normal technologies, that are not available in the market, is very small. In fact, I haven’t seen a single one in this past year. I’m not saying they don’t exist, I am just saying that we haven’t encountered them.”
“When I say though, that some special engineering is required, it is because you’ve got to put what exists in a different form to be useful for an innovation project. Sometimes that requires special kinds of sensors because the data that you’d love to have as a customer is just not available, or it has not been recorded. Or in some cases it requires an effort to provide that data.”
This trend toward combining technologies in innovative ways to facilitate digital transformation and innovation, for clients has pushed the search for talent, said Dr Reger. The right people for these special efforts and innovative projects will come with diverse skills and experiences, he said, as well as the traditional engineering and project skills.
“There is a substantial pre-skilling effort going on inside of Fujitsu. We have established an internal platform for it that is produced on campus and we have a curriculum defined and we are very actively working on, changing the skillset of our people,” he said.
Dr Reger said Fujitsu is fully aware that the transformative effects of the digital drive are felt as much by service providers as their clients.
“We will have to change the skills of our people, the company organisational structure, and some cultural aspects of it because, again, digital transformation is, first and foremost, a transformation. And as a transformation, it needs to do all the things that transformation does to a company, that is change the portfolio of the company, changing the offerings of the company, changing the skills of the company, changing the organisations of the company.”
“Digital transformation is very clearly,” said Dr Reger, “in the companies that do it successfully, reducing the number of hierarchical levels, and defines new ways of interaction, because it needs it for agility. And in a way, that’s natural.”
“When we talk about digital transformation very frequently we cite start-up companies who do this and do that, and everybody is so envious of them all. They do cool things and so on, but it’s not just that they do cool things and an innovative use of technology, what they also do is have no hierarchies and are flat organisations — anybody can talk to anybody. It’s ad hoc, it’s project oriented and it’s merit based. So, I would think that if large companies want to become competitive with that background, they need to become similar to that background.”
Dr Reger said that in the context of digital transformation, people with those diverse skills and experiences will become more important, but supported by the appropriate use of artificial intelligence (AI).
He argues that in the context of digital transformation, hyper-connectivity, the Internet of Things (IoT) and the increasingly complex and sophisticated world of cybersecurity, AI is useful, “it’s an absolute necessity”.
“We’re using AI because the defence job in cyberspace requires the help of machine learning, as well as artificial intelligence, as well a couple of very smart people. So, it will be about right skills and imaginative people that are good at problem solving and not necessarily trained security people — just damn smart people.”