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User Group Live event emphasises the human factors in Digital Transformation

SEP 03, 2021 | Matt Hatton
region: ALL vertical: ALL technology: ALL

The first Transforma Insights User Group Live event conjured up a lot of interesting discussions around the best approaches to digital transformation. In particular it gave ample consideration to the human factors that underpin the technology. It’s not the tech, it’s the people.

Key themes on digital transformation

Matt Hatton opened proceedings, setting the scene with a short presentation about how enterprises should get to best practice. The key themes of horizon scanning, change management and vendor selection have been widely examined in other Transforma Insights reports, blog posts and webinars over the years. 

Cultural transformation

The first guest presentation was from Manisha Mistry of the R2 Data Labs team at Rolls Royce. The focus of her session was on the cultural transformation that is a critical part of delivering any digital transformation. Her starting point was the many ways in which the value of digital transformation can be diluted if the digital culture isn’t correct, for instance how change is not really embraced. To understand why you need to get into the minds of the workforce. The result: digital transformation is divisive. Some employees embrace it wholeheartedly or even want to move faster, while others feel they are losing their mastery and resent it. Others just don’t get it. 

The only solution is to tackle the cultural factors. At Rolls Royce they have created a ‘digital first mindset’ (something that’s easier said than done I’m sure most people will agree!). The interesting thing is that the technology is the last element. It starts first with the human factors e.g. creating safe places to experiment, before ever dictating what it is that should be experimented with. After that it’s about skills. And only once the culture and skills are in place does it introduce enabling technologies. This approach allows employees to more naturally experiment, learn and ultimately collaborate on new innovation. Part of that was about setting the right goals. It’s less about setting hard objectives for output and more about ensuring that the engagement from the employees was increasing. Furthermore ultimately digital transformation is about engagement of all staff across the whole business. As Manisha says: “This wasn’t about bottom up. It wasn’t about top down”. Also it’s definitely not simply about disseminating knowledge from a single technical group. 

Manisha finished with her top 3 insights on how to best implement digital transformation in an organisation. Check out the presentation ‘Failing Forward Successfully’ to find out more about what they were.


What did 2020 spur in digital transformation?

Then it was on to our first panel, ‘What did 2020 spur? Re-evaluating approaches to digital transformation’ where Jim Morrish was joined by Chetan Polavaram (Director - Innovation - Global Equipment, Digital and Supply Chain, The Coca-Cola Company), Zayd Rasool (Director - Service Excellence, GSK) and Al Fox (Director of Integration and Transformation, BP Solutions) to take a look back at 2020 and the impact that the pandemic has had on enterprise digital transformation. In many ways the themes of the panel reflected those of the previous presentation; how innovation must be centered on the people using it.


The panel inevitably focused on the impact from COVID, and the substantial amount of transformation that it had stimulated. There was a lot of the discussion on the switch of so many employees to working from home, with the much greater emphasis put on the use of collaborative tools and the much greater use of automation (as well as the need to ensure work/life balance for employees). Interestingly for many of the panel, it was generally the case that the tools being used were already in place, rather than needing to be implemented. They just needed to be scaled or embedded into business processes. COVID had focused the attention on being more refined in the way technology was used.

As well as accelerating some changes, COVID also forced a lot of organisations to make changes that they never would have expected. Remote quality inspection and quality control weren’t areas that either Coca Cola or GSK would have expected to the doing normally, but they found a way to make it work. Similarly for contactless products for Coca Cola. Other, more universal, themes such as holding town hall meetings and ideation sessions remotely had also come to the fore. 

There were many other positives to be taken from 2020. One of the prevailing themes was that COVID had, in many ways, accelerated the transformation of non-COVID related things. Chetan spoke about how it had encouraged Coca Cola to be much more innovative and take decisions a lot faster. It had also encouraged the company to eliminate duplication of effort, instead finding a single global solution to problems. And this issue of greater globalisation permeated much of the discussion: working from home has created an environment where everyone is a global home worker and therefore collaboration between them is actually easier. For BP the evolution in 2020 also involved removing silos and layers of management to make decision-making easier. As Al pointed out, however, the key to being an advocate for digital transformation is not to allow back-sliding once the pandemic is over.

The first steps in digital transformation

Day two’s sessions kicked off with Jim Morrish digging into the first steps necessary in undertaking a digital transformation. The starting point for this presentation is the Transforma Insights Case Study Database which provides detailed analysis of hundreds of real world deployments of digital transformation technologies. Jim first provided some analysis of how enterprises are using these technologies and the different approaches being taken. He also uses it as a starting point for exploring topics such as how to structure project teams and how to plan your first steps for Digital Transformation. 


Moving from selling boxes to experiences

Samuel Seelan of Haier was up next, sharing his company's experience of moving from selling boxes to enabling happiness and wellbeing in every home in his session ‘From selling kitchen appliances to transforming consumer experiences’. This presentation included a dive into their journey in redefining the company purpose, defining the relationships with customers, evolving the product range and changing enterprise processes to reflect this. The most notable facet of his presentation was the extent to which it emphasises the human factor. This particularly focused on the customers and their relationships with the products, including the applied use of machine learning. It also included consideration of the employees and how they coped with the COVID changes. 


Impact of COVID's unprecendented change

After this Chetan Polavaram in his presentation ‘Building for scale and resiliency’ dug in a little more detail into some of the topics that had come up during the panel on day 1. He discussed the impact of the unprecedented change stemming from COVID, including a refocus on digital channels, simplifying logistics and the use of analytics. His presentation covered how they managed three phases: crisis (including considerations of supply chain), recovery (and changing requirements for coping with shifting demands) and how to adapt to the new normal (with greater need for automation and contactless).


Setting up to succeed in Digital Transformation

Our second panel ‘Planning and implementation - technologies, tools and talent’ Matt spoke with an esteemed panel of experts about best practice in setting their organisation up to succeed in digital transformation initiatives. This wide-ranging discussion included project prioritisation, implementation, measuring success, vendor selection, team structure and change management.


Alice de Casanove of Airbus talked about how the transformation spanned both the product and the organisation; the latter being most difficult. Airbus has established a digital roadmap, running design thinking workshops to understand the impact of all these technologies on people. Satyam Priyadarshy of Halliburton further expanded on this, talking about the very specific financial metrics they look at to determine success. He also echoed Alice’s sentiments, commenting that we’re generally better at ‘digital’ than we are at ‘transformation’. Ahsan Baig of Alameda-Contra Costa Transit agreed, talking about how digital transformation is not just about shiny toys, it’s about alignment with overall organisational strategy, involving heavy collaboration with lots of stakeholders, and empowering a ‘high performance workforce’. Alice also made the comment that digital transformation is more about stimulating the desire of employees to make changes, a nice link to Manisha’s earlier presentation. 

There was also a very interesting discussion on structure, i.e. where responsibility should sit within the organisation. The conclusion of the group was to create a centralised hub to set the frameworks for what technologies the organisation should use, although in the understanding that technical skills are likely to sit elsewhere in the bigger organisation. It’s mostly about coordination and making sure that roadmaps are implemented. 

Motivating the workforce

Finally, Zayd Rasool, Director - Service Excellence at GSK, discussed in his session 'Motivating your workforce while implementing a digital transformation’ how to motivate a team to be goals oriented during transformational times. This included examination of what constitutes the new digital workforce, the changes they trigger, the impact on the workforce, and the ways to mitigate challenges, including issues of collaboration, education and accountability.


All fascinating stuff. And one topic permeated everything. People, whether they be customers, employees or other stakeholders are overwhelmingly the most important element of digital transformation. They need to be engaged in the process. 

About the Transforma Insights User Group

Access to the User Group Live events and on-demand versions of the sessions are available to members of the Transforma Insights User Group. Access to the group is open to any enterprise IoT adopter. Sign up to a Transforma Insights 'Essential' subscription and you will be automatically added to the User Group if you are eligible.

On-demand content is also available to Prime and Corporate subscribers to Transforma Insights' advisory services.

The recordings are available via the Reports page (link pre-filtered to just include the User Group content).

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