Hicham Abdessamad explains how the difficult task of embedding digital transformation into an organisation can be achieved.
At the Forbes CIO Summit in London last week, Hicham Abdessamad, CEO of Hitachi Consulting, explained how the difficulties of embedding a culture of digital transformation into an organisation can be managed.
This process starts with an acceptance that digital transformation involves accepting the importance of partnerships and of working within business ecosystems. It isn’t just about selling products – although of course any transformation programme needs to have corporate goals at the centre.
And partnerships means accepting that you can’t do everything in house. Co-creation and collaborative innovation are essential. This involves working with suppliers, customers, regulators, and even in some cases competitors.
Digital transformation from the top down
Successful transformation requires involvement by management at a senior level. Reporting lines are a key enabler. When the executive in charge of technology, the CTO (or CIO, CDO etc) reports to the CFO, the focus is likely to be on cost. In successful organisations the CTO reports directly to the CEO, where the focus in on strategy and corporate goals that go wider, and further into the future, than this year’s financial results.
But you need the right CTO. And we are seeing a change here, Hicham believes. More and more, CTOs and CIOs are looking to, and being judged on, corporate goals and outcomes. Hygiene factors such as “uptime” while still important are subsidiary. The CTO is becoming increasingly strategic, central to the growth of an organisation.
Enabling the digital workforce
Success isn’t founded on just the CTO, or even on their team. People across an organisation need to engage with digital technology. This is less difficult than it might seem. Apart from a few die-hards, most people prefer to work in a disruptive organisation; it’s more exciting, more challenging. Compare the atmosphere at Google HQ with that of an old steel mill…
You can’t force an acceptance of the benefits of technology on all employees however. This, as with all change management programmes, needs to come from the top. It needs senior executives who are stubborn about promoting the benefits. Managers who are open to a flexible approach to implementation, picking up small wins that gradually accumulate into major transformation.
That way people see real benefits: and the potential of digital transformation becomes credible. To make it even more credible, case studies can be drawn from the world around: competitors, especially lean and agile start ups that are making ripples in a long-established industry, can be used to show the dangers of staying still.
Another technique is to ensure that the workforce is constantly upskilled. This can be as simple as sending people to conferences. Or it can involve ensuring every employee has access to regular training relevant to the emerging digital environment.
Change shouldn’t be simply for the sake of change, Hicham warned. It should be designed to enable corporate goals. And for many organisations that means turning digital technology into revenue, either in the form of reduced costs or new and better services.
Where new services are being developed it is as well to test these in-house at first. The skill needed here is to perfect a transformative technology, for instance developing predictive maintenance of trains, trial it internally (and reap the rewards), and then use an analogue of this service in a different industry such as factory production lines. That way customers can gain risk-free access to your innovative thinking. And that’s a win-win for you and for your customer base.
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