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Mike Sherman, Chief Strategy and Transformation Officer, BT
Industry View from
Experts predict that the digital revolution the global economy has embarked on is going to be as much – if not more – disruptive as the Industrial Revolution was. But while that revolution emerged at the confluence of certain economic and technological trends, today we have much more awareness of the disruptive global forces shaping our future. Early adopters are even writing playbooks about their successes and failures to share learning with other businesses.
As Michael Sherman, Chief Strategy and Transformation Officer at BT explains, thanks to the complexities of digital transformation, no business can go it alone. It needs partners, and finding the right ones is of strategic importance. We often hear of incumbent start-up partnerships which fail as a result of the cultural clash between the partners.
Digital technology provides only the foundation for the transformation. The first challenge is to select the ones that both fit the strategic purpose of the business and are compatible with each other to form a coherent ecosystem. But digital technology, even if well-chosen, won’t get you too far without transforming your people and processes in line with it.
How do you go about transforming your people and processes?
Forget about the big-bang approach entailing a drawn-out planning phase followed by the implementation of a complete system. Digital transformation is more about agility and iterations. You’ll need tech-savvy staff to operate your digital systems: something you won’t achieve overnight. Sherman highlights the importance of managers letting their employees fail and providing them with the kind of coaching that can help them overcome their skill gaps. Employees will need an immersive experience in this new digital environment to get it right.
To take full advantage of the investments made in technology and the digital skills of employees, processes designed around legacy technologies need to be reimagined, too. Digital transformation is about “the ease to do things”, which can’t be achieved by leaving cumbersome old processes in place.
Find your North Star
The relevance of benchmarking and continuously checking your transformation progress against external market factors in the course of transitioning can’t be overstated. All you need to do is find the right industry leaders that you want to benchmark your performance against. Not only are their performance metrics available, they are also open to sharing both their success and failure stories with those who want to follow in their wake.
Revenue, profit and employee productivity are obvious markers of successful change management in the long run. However, soft metrics such as net promoter scores and employee engagement scores are also worth keeping an eye on as they are good indicators of processes going off course and can be drivers of major adjustments or fine-tuning.
Who is at the helm?
As Sherman has pointed out, a high percentage of digital transformation projects fall through because, given their technology-driven nature, they tend to be initiated and owned by the IT department. However, this is not the right approach. Instead, the transformation always needs to be led from the top with the CEO at the helm facilitating it and making sure all obstacles are removed from its way.
Digital transformation is about openness and collaboration. However, in order for this ecosystem of employees, customers, partners and suppliers to operate securely, a protective wall has to be erected around it. Cyber-security is a major concern when it comes to digitalisation, but it shouldn’t discourage companies from embarking on the journey. A network-based security system can guarantee the connectivity required for collaboration and the impermeability needed to fend off any cyber-attacks.
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