Inside Track: Taking the initiative, digitally
15 December 2017 | 0
Digital transformation is not a fad. It is not a trend and it is not going away anytime soon. That is the conclusion of the majority of serious industry observers who have put time and effort into assessing the state of the market.
Digital disruption is a fact of life, and its impact can be felt in business, in industry, in public life and in our private lives. There is virtually no aspect of society that has remained immune from the effects of technology, for better or for worse.
Which is all well and good if you’re one of those companies that has a fully articulated and expertly managed digital transformation policy, but what if you don’t? According to a 2017 report published by SAP on the subject, the majority of respondents to a survey it commissioned reported that they felt they were still in the early stages of digital transformation.
“Only half (50%) of companies have established a vision of the digital future of their company and 37% claim to have a clearly defined transformation strategy in place. Not surprisingly, only 26% of respondents have a clearly defined execution plan for implementing their digital transformation strategy,” said the report.
Realisation and reality
What this shows is that although many respondents regard digital transformation as being important, only a fraction have set up a transformation strategy. Why is this? If there is a train coming down the tracks towards you, surely making a plan to get off the tracks is in your best interest? It turns out the problem is more complex than that.
“One can find reports about successful, high profile transformation projects of established companies in management journals and mass media. However, reconstructing universally valid ‘dos and don’ts’ for initiating and governing digital transformation projects remains a wishful dream. Therefore, a ready-made transformation blueprint companies can adhere to simply does not exist,” said the report.
To make matters worse, only 41% of respondents to the SAP survey said that their IT executives possess the business-related knowledge necessary to enable the successful digital transformation of their company. This is even less encouraging on the business side—only 34% regard their business executives as possessing the technology skills necessary.
So what this seems to boil down to is that it is not access to technology that is the issue. The tools required to carry out a digital transformation strategy are not particular expensive or otherwise inaccessible. It is the know-how that is missing, and according to Cap Gemini in its Digital Transformation Review for 2017, for many companies it is a matter of corporate culture.
“Digital technologies allow organisations to reinvent themselves—transforming the core of the business and finding and exploiting new sources of value. However, many organisations are struggling to reinvent themselves because they run up against a significant barrier—culture. Our research shows that culture is the number one barrier to digital transformation,” said the authors of the report.
Cap Gemini surveyed 340 organisations and found that 62% of respondents cited cultural issues as the biggest hurdle to digital transformation. (The others included presence of archaic IT systems and applications at 48%, lack of digital skills at 43% and a lack of clear leadership vision at 38%.)
As part of its report Cap Gemini polled the opinion of a number of business leaders, including Pete Blackshaw, global head of digital and social media at Nestlé, to find out how they are tackling some of the issues this research revealed.
“In a digital world, you never entirely achieve all of your goals because the landscape is shifting so fast—the platforms keep evolving, the media keeps fragmenting, and so you are always in a catch-up mode,” he said.
Evolution of culture
“Culture evolution is a critical building block of digital transformation, almost a prerequisite. Larger organisations can be very codified in their ways of working and calcified in their habits. You therefore need to liberate the thinking, soften the silos, restructure the incentives and ultimately take much bigger leaps forward.”
One tangible example of how this thinking manifests itself at Nestlé is through an ambitious reverse mentoring initiative.
“Over the past few years, we have reverse mentored well over 150 senior managers. This is where we put a representative of the digital vanguard with a top executive. These executives then get more acclimated around things like community management, online shopping, social collaboration or social media. That has made a huge difference. It is making our company more collaborative and less top- down,” said Blackshaw.
In terms of measuring performance and success, Nestlé has a few ways of doing it.
“There are different metrics we analyse. We look at overall business growth and then attribute some of it to the work we are doing. But we also monitor softer elements: are the silos softening? Is the line between sales and marketing diminishing? Are there structures or positions that emerge that don’t really think about those distinctions? Then again, this is something that defies traditional key performance indicators. Cultural change is one of those areas where ‘you know it when you feel it’,” said Blackshaw.
One thing that becomes clear from surveying the literature around the area of digital transformation is the importance of leadership. Whether it be a matter of in-house knowledge, corporate culture or willingness to change, to stand a chance a digital transformation strategy must have a leader within the organisation, someone who is willing to evangelise the strategy and keep everyone involved on target.
This is something reiterated in the “Laying the Foundations of Digital” Transformation report published by the Economist’s Intelligence Unit. In this report, the authors interviewed a number of leading proponents of digital transformation, working within major companies around the world.
In the introduction, the report nails its colours to the mast—”so far-reaching are the implications of digital transformation that every section of the business must be engaged and included. At the same time, it is likely to encounter organisational inertia and therefore needs a clear leader. Executives leading digital transformation at their organisation must find a way to balance these requirements.”
Nicola Downing, chief financial officer for Ricoh Europe, goes on in the report to emphasis this point.
“Anything on this scale needs a leader,” she said. Downing is unusual in that she has joint responsibility for her role as CFO with Ricoh Europe, as well as heading up the company’s digital transformation initiative.
“Ultimately one person does need to be accountable for it, and I think that does sit well with the CFO or, for organisations that have it, a CFO-CIO combination, which is really what my role is,” she said.
“I don’t think it matters where the accountability sits, it just needs to be somewhere where it’s clear and that this person is supported by other members of the board to drive the change. It’s not the sort of thing you can do on your own.”
Taking the initiative
The Economist report goes on to say not every executive will have all the experience and skills required to lead their organisation’s digital transformation, but that should not discourage them from taking the initiative.
“Don’t be afraid to acknowledge where you’ve got a skills gap and potentially hire to fill it,” said Downing.
“With the breadth of my role, I don’t pretend to be an expert on all the areas I have ultimate accountability for, and it’s about having strong people in teams around you, so hiring the right people for projects or transformational activity is key.”
The Economist’s report finishes with some interesting conclusions that tally well with the findings of others in the industry.
“Digital technology is prompting companies the world over to rethink some of the core assumptions that underpin their business model. This means conceiving new ways in which people, processes and technology can deliver value to their customers and making them a reality by transforming their organisation,” it said.
“Every organisation’s transformation will take its own individual form and will therefore require its own organisational measures to ensure success. However, some common themes emerge in this report.”
The authors go on to state a number of helpful guiding points. It is crucial for one individual to take the role of digital transformation leader—and that person is not necessarily the most obvious candidate as long as it is someone who has the capacity to overcome resistance to change.
That person must include the rest of the organisation in their activities. Digital transformation isn’t an IT project and because it has implications for every department, without the involvement of others it’s unlikely to go smoothly.
Communication is a vital part of the process, as without it stake holders are likely to be alienated. At the same time, it is important to let the results of the process speak for themselves. Allow executives to see the impact of the process.
Finally, and crucially, remember what makes the company unique. The tools and working practices developed by digital start-ups can certainly be used effectively by larger companies but established businesses have different priorities and responsibilities from start-ups, and any digital transformation which ignores that will alienate the organisation at large.
|“When it comes to digital transformation, we see Interconnection as an essential link in the chain. Interconnection is the linking of networks to enable fast and private data exchange between businesses”||
Equinix Scott McConnell, regional sales director, Ireland and Emerging Markets
|Digital Transformation is helping businesses in every sector take advantage of developing technologies to scale operations and reach new customers. Equinix works closely with customers, both at the beginning of their digital transformation journeys, as well as those who are further down the road with the process. When it comes to digital transformation, we see Interconnection as an essential link in the chain. Interconnection is the linking of networks to enable fast and private data exchange between businesses. This allows companies to take advantage of a dynamic ecosystem of partners, networks, carriers, applications and cloud services, while enjoying all the benefits that the private internet has to offer, such as better performance, improved security and reduced cost.Many Irish businesses are eager to utilise services from the major global providers, such as Amazon Web Services or Microsoft’s Azure platform, but are unsure of where to start. This is precisely where Interconnection plays a part. Companies that store their data in Equinix data centres join a network of more than 9,500 organisations across 44 markets and benefit from direct connections to the world’s leading service providers.
The Global Interconnection Index from Equinix recently found that Interconnection Bandwidth is outpacing growth of the public internet, growing at nearly twice the rate. Companies are increasingly relying on Interconnection to provide them with fast and secure access to services that will enable them to transform and grow their businesses.
One aspect of digital transformation that companies can struggle with is maintaining close control over all their data. As well as increased performance and reduced latency compared to the public internet, Interconnection offers dramatically improved security and accountability. Industry regulations such as can aid companies in fulfilling PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) and impending General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) compliance obligations. GDPR in particular will require even more companies to know precisely where their data is located, and direct transfer via local Interconnection makes this much easier to track.
|“No longer is business conducted within the boundaries of a physical building—now more than ever, organisations need access to the right communication and collaboration tools in and away from the office. Technology solutions can address these challenges and lead to increased productivity and efficiency, ultimately giving businesses a competitive edge”||
Vodafone Ireland Barry Tierney, head of Commercial and Marketing, Enterprise division
|Connectivity is as critical to digital transformation as air is to breathing. The capability of today’s technology is creating an even greater need for high-capacity connectivity, and a level digital playing field for businesses of all sizes. Even at the start of a digital transformation journey, many businesses realise their current technology limits their possibilities for progress.From Vodafone’s research commissioned in April, it emerged that 67% of SME customers were concerned that their poor communications infrastructure was causing them to miss out on opportunities. No longer is business conducted within the boundaries of a physical building—now more than ever, organisations need access to the right communication and collaboration tools in and away from the office. Technology solutions such as unified communications can address these challenges and lead to increased productivity and efficiency, ultimately giving businesses a competitive edge.
One Net Business for example is Vodafone’s cloud-based unified communications solution, which gives customers a single voice mailbox for all staff, total control of all communications, and routes calls to the most available employee, no matter where they are. It is easy to deploy, with automatic upgrades for simple maintenance, and flat-rate pricing. One Net Business has improved operations and helped for many customers on their digital transformation journey since then.
Sometimes the benefits are more practical and immediate: even when the recent storms hit, Ireland kept working, thanks largely to telecoms: being able to redivert calls from office landlines to mobiles, as well as the ability to collaborate with colleagues remotely, enabled flexible businesses to continue trading through the disruption.
NB-IoT has a number of key advantages that can help companies on their digital transformation journey. Coverage is even more extensive than over traditional 4G infrastructure, it is designed to penetrate deep into cellars, basements and within buildings. It has greater power efficiency so devices can run on batteries for ten years or more without charge. In October, Vodafone Ireland was delighted to partner with Dublin City Council (DCC), announcing that Vodafone’s Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) network has been selected as a key connectivity enabler to the Docklands ‘Smart District’—part of the wider ‘Smart Dublin’ initiative.
Irish businesses now expect to have high-speed connectivity in the workplace, and to ensure that our customers have the best possible service, Vodafone is investing €500 million over the next three years across mobile, broadband, fibre to the home, network infrastructure and customer care systems. In addition to our infrastructure investment, our fibre broadband joint venture with ESB is enabling speeds up to 1 gigabit per second and is having transformational effects on businesses all over the country. This is now available to 110,000 businesses and homes.
Through initiatives SIRO and solutions like unified communications, Vodafone is delivering on its vision of the gigabit society: one where every business, regardless of size, or whether it is urban or rural-based, has access to high-capacity links to the internet. We see connectivity as the democratisation of the internet, with equal access for all. That will enable businesses to better themselves through digital transformation.
|“As end user adoption of the cloud model continues to grow; and factors like security remain a priority from a vendor perspective, organisations’ are increasingly deploying mission critical business applications on public cloud infrastructure”||
Enterprise Solutions Niamh O’Donovan,sales manager
|The term “Digital Transformation” simply means using technology to evolve your business model and gain competitive advantage.For many organisations, digital transformation is a priority but implementing the strategy is more complex and challenging. We work with customers to set out a roadmap, transform one or two services and build from there. From the customer’s perspective, implementing a digital transformation strategy should be a well-planned and a relatively seamless transition.
Accessing business applications, in one place and on any device, that are delivered securely across the enterprise is paving the way for digital transformation in the workplace and across verticals.
Enterprise Solutions are delivering innovative projects and moving critical business applications to the cloud across numerous verticals with the following business and end user benefits:
Security and compliance is always a concern but is being addressed through secure digital workspaces. Citrix Workspace Service offers app and desktop virtualisation, secure mobility management, mobile productivity apps, on-premises or cloud-based file sharing, plus networking for secure remote access.
The time has come for businesses to transform and the opportunities for those that do are significant.
|“The first step we have taken with many of our customers has been to define their existing IT processes and services. Taking this step has allowed us to help customers through automation to gain significant efficiencies”||
Triangle Michelle Harris, sales director
|If I break it down, our customers are approaching Digital Transformation on two fronts;
The first is the push from the employees for a more modern and user friendly digital workspace. Companies also want to score higher in “best place to work” industry reports to help with recruitment and employee retention. Employees increasingly expect the flexibility of remote working practices and security pressures are pushing the approach of only providing the minimum level of access necessary to applications and company data. All of these requirements together have driven forward digital workspace activity more in the past 12 months than we have seen in the past 12 years.The second driver for Digital Transformation in our customer base is within the data centre, where security and application transformation have become the top drivers. There is such a high level of disruption happening by new players within the traditional industries that agility and re-platforming core applications have become a necessity to compete with the newer entrants. This has been the only way to facilitate providing new applications to their respective customer bases. From an IT perspective, this has increased the level of software-defined infrastructure and networking projects and also driven the demand for automation to address the current inefficiencies across IT processes in general within customers’ environments.The first step we have taken with many of our customers has been to define their existing IT processes and services. Taking this step has allowed us to help customers through automation to gain significant efficiencies and a hugely improved level of compliance, auditability and consistency across their environments. This has also allowed our customers to start delivering cloud like services from their own internal “private cloud” by implementing workload costing, self-service and higher levels of monitoring/capacity planning. Normally customers don’t just decide on undertaking a digital transformation for the sake of it, our engagements are driven by business outcomes that our customers want to achieve, we just help them to understand how to deliver that outcome using a scope/timeline and project.
|“Analysing the functional operations of the business, we challenge the status quo of business models and process, we analyse the data and we listen to people. The outcome, a blueprint of transformational change where technology simply becomes an enabler”||
Ergo Kerry-Anne Pollock, chief commercial officer
|Digital Transformation is no longer a trend, such is the impact it is having on organisations today. It is a vital component of any modern-day business strategy regardless of company size. Digital technologies are profoundly changing the way customers interact and do business, both altering and impacting almost all business functions within organisations across a wide spectrum of market segments from Walmart to Wall street. Our clients are competing in an age of digital business, where legacy operating models need to be replaced with lean operating models. Thus, digital technology is rapidly shifting, from being a driver of marginal efficiency to an enabler of fundamental innovation and disruption and impacting the bottom line.We have extensive experience assessing, consulting and transforming in both SMB & Enterprise accounts, across a variety of industries.
Leadership: Our team works with our clients at a CxO level firstly to get an in-depth understanding of the businesses strategic drivers, understanding the digital strategy and real objectives.
Operational: Deep Dive immersion sessions! Analysing the functional operations of the business, we challenge the status quo of business models and process, we analyse the data and we listen to people. The outcome, a blueprint of transformational change where technology simply becomes an enabler. Laying the foundations needed to cultivate a culture of innovation and growth by breaking silos and embracing adoption and encouraging collaboration, increasing operational efficiencies and increasing productivity. A happy workforce is a productive workforce!
Customers First: A consistent and rewarding omnichannel experience is pivotal to a great customer experience. We work with clients to understand their customers’ behaviours, wants and needs, deciphering pain points, we use customer journey mapping to unearth what is needed to be done. The business benefit outcomes include, an omnichannel ecosystem increasing interactions through digital assets, increases in ecommerce conversion, access to actionable data that analyses both behaviour and preferences thus increasing sales and revenue. Designing great customers experiences, utilising existing and new technology assets, is how we help differentiate and delight with an exceptional customer experience.
|“I have not met a business yet that has not got Excel hell, and sometimes the solution can be as simple as replacing multiple spreadsheets with a single, central database. This speeds up communication and enables more productivity”||
TEKenable Peter Rose, CTO
|We give organisations a structure in which to think about digital transformation. At its most basic, putting aside the buzzwords, digital transformation is simply the change created by applying digital technologies to organisations, processes and business models. Microsoft often refers to digital transformation as having four strands, or ‘pillars’. We tend to agree: our digital transformation initiatives impact organisations in four main ways: engaging better with customers; making staff more productive; improving operational efficiency; and creating new products or transforming existing ones.To help our customers begin this change, we offer a “Fast Start DX Engagement” workshop. Over just two and a half days, we ask questions of our customers’ business, and give them examples from our direct experience of delivering change projects. This process looks at where to apply modern technology to get a better outcome.
The businesses always know what the challenges are—either it is an opportunity they cannot capitalise on, or an inefficiency in their business where they cannot see a workaround. For example, optimising operations is a common sticking point. We ask executives what impact that has, and whether it causes delays or bottlenecks in a process. I have not met a business yet that has not got Excel hell, and sometimes the solution can be as simple as replacing multiple spreadsheets with a single, central database. This speeds up communication and enables more productivity.
We bring that pragmatism and practical approach, by showing customers what’s technically possible and advising on what areas to focus on first. Identifying a series of specific challenges leads to a list of manageable projects. Collaborating with our customers, we agree a high-level business case for two or maybe three projects at any one time. We work to three-month project cycles, and we always make sure there is demonstrable value within three months—and ideally, faster than that. We also look to repeatedly add further value from then on.
Over the past 16 years, TEKenable has worked with companies ranging from start-ups like Sanctifly.club to major traditional organisations like Zurich Life and Pensions and An Post to define and deliver projects in one or more of the four pillars.
For example, we worked with An Post to enable business through an online channel. AdMailer is a suite of blended services, from design through to delivery, that lets businesses develop bespoke direct marketing campaigns with specific messaging, targeted to a specific area or set of customers. The service drives revenue into the traditional postal service through digital channels, and it delivered a return on investment within months.
Digital transformation does not have to be a hugely complex, expensive project. Weatherbys has been in business for almost 250 years. Simply moving its traditional paper-based foal registration process online made a huge difference to the company and its customers.
Digital transformation is such a big area, and there are literally thousands of technologies to enable it. But as with any journey, it needs a map. The essence of what we do is provide a structure that allows customers to take that journey in stages rather than all at once. Quick wins, and ongoing value, put in place the foundations for making progress along the path towards the destination of digital transformation. As the saying goes, the trick to eating an elephant is to take it one bite at a time. Otherwise, you risk ending up with a bad case of digital transformation indigestion.
|“Digital transformation is complex, requiring massive change in underlying technology and business processes, along with a shift in corporate culture. People, leadership and experienced focused customer engagements are core to delivering on a successful digital transformation programme”||
Singlepoint Rob Curley, managing director
|Digital Transformation is about improving and tailoring the customer experience by leveraging the right technology sets delivered through an environment of continuous innovation and continued improved interaction.It is complex, requiring massive change in underlying technology and business processes, along with a shift in corporate culture. People, leadership and experienced focused customer engagements are core to delivering on a successful digital transformation programme.
The process is all about transforming the business to engage with customers seamlessly across a variety of touchpoints, leveraging technologies such as big data, automation, machine learning, IoT, analytics, micro services.
At Singlepoint, we engage through a digital readiness assessment with the customer to assess their current digital capabilities and challenges and define a digital transformation plan. This includes finding out where they are today, where they want to go and how aggressively they want to pursue getting there.
We are finding that companies are looking to capture ideas and get prototypes delivered much faster than before.
Strong relationships between customer, employees and partner are key to making the transformation a reality. The trusted partner and support teams help to improve user adoption rates while reinforcing the positive aspects of the technological change.
Companies are digitally transforming the way their employees work and dramatically improve their customer experiences. We work in a smart, agile way and leveraging the right technology sets delivered through an environment of continuous innovation. This isn’t just about rolling out new IT projects; it’s about transforming the business to make it leaner, more agile and more cost effective. We find that leaders are looking for ways to better use internal and external data—particularly big data. Companies that use big data effectively tend to generate higher revenues and come up; with more innovative project ideas and capabilities.