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Digital dialogue: 6 transformation insights

digital dialogue

Tech leaders talk digitisation

Increasingly, digital transformation is being viewed as a vital tool to help organisations become more agile, streamlined, cost-efficient and competitive. In fact, global spending on transformation is expected to reach an astounding $6.3 trillion in 2023.

While current economic and market uncertainties are putting even more pressure on organisations to find ways to build resilience and fuel growth, digital technologies provide a practical solution to accelerating modernisation and transformation activities.

To uncover what is top of mind for digital leaders and how best to approach transformation, the Financial Times, in partnership with Kin + Carta and Microsoft, recently hosted a webinar on The Role of Digitisation in Streamlining Business with these panelists:

  • Priya Gore, Managing Director, Azure Digital & Application Innovation, Microsoft
  • Mark Ardito, VP Cloud Modernisation, Kin + Carta
  • Romina Guevera, Chief Digital Officer and SVP, Michelin
  • Sarah Kandil - Group Digital Strategy Officer, Société Générale

Read on to find out what these experts are saying about digitisation and how organisations can take action today.

1. It's a cultural shift, not just a digital move

Technology itself cannot change an organisation. People are the single most important driver of the digital transformation process.

Many non-digital native companies tend to work in silos, using legacy systems and waterfall development methodologies. Those traditional approaches cannot keep pace with today’s rapidly changing business environment. As new ways of working are introduced to the workplace, such as Agile scrum and automation technologies, it’s critical to acknowledge that change can be scary for employees.

To support cultural change, keep the lines of communication open and foster the idea that digital transformation is very much about working in a smarter, more efficient way. When people start to see new possibilities, they start to see the return on value.

Priya Gore, Azure Digital & Application Innovation at Microsoft, says, “There is a massive opportunity for companies to broaden their thinking around how teams collaborate to build next generation products and services so they can be the best at what they do. While we need a strong technology foundation, we also need the capable brains of humans to make these technology systems work intelligently. People are the most important aspect of bringing about cultural transformation.”
What makes an organisation ‘next level’ is people, process, technology - in that order, specifically and purposely. Because technology is last; it’s always people and process first.
Mark Ardito , VP Cloud Modernization - Kin + Carta
I can’t underscore enough the importance of the human factor in terms of transformation.
Priya Gore, Azure Digital & Application Innovation, Microsoft
Automation can be a powerful transformation driver. At Michelin, we view automation as a way to support our people.
Romina Guevara, Chief Digital Officer, Central America, Michelin
We’ve had discussions with various teams to get them thinking about what their jobs are going to look like as automation and AI are implemented.
Sarah Kandil, Group Digital Strategy Officer, Société Générale

2. The time is now to upskill and enable your workforce

Closely linked to this shift in culture is the skills gap issue - and it’s a global one. With many employees having worked within the same organisation for decades, they are ill-equipped to help their company leverage next generation technologies.

Mark Ardito explains: “Through no fault of their own, many workers don’t possess the skills they need. There just hasn’t been a lot of focus on internal learning.” And since hiring tech talent is next to impossible in the current market, that means organisations must invest now in training programs to enable their workforce.

Société Générale has embarked on an ambitious digital literacy program targeted across all areas and levels of the bank. “It’s really important for employees who are not technology native to acquire new skill sets that didn’t exist 10 years ago. They need to understand why we’re talking about cloud, API and what impact those technologies will have on their jobs tomorrow,” says Sarah Kandil, ”We also need our senior leaders to understand what they need to know in order to proceed in a data-driven company. It’s back to that cultural shift.”

Likewise at Michelin, where learning is a top priority. Romina Guevara explains: “If employees have trouble learning or adopting new technology, the most important pillar supporting our transformation will fail. So we created a digital passport program, in which role-based passports with specific sets of courses are available.” The uptake on this initiative was significant. Course completion rates increased 20 times year over year compared to the original elearning platform. Intelligent automation was used to send out course lists and gamification was built in to encourage participation.

Shifting from data-rich to data-driven processes requires up-levelling of skills and opens up new employment opportunities, dispelling the myth of potentially high levels of job displacements.

So far this year, tech industry jobs grew by 207,000 positions and there are still over 200,000 unfilled jobs in the U.S. IT job market (Computerworld, December 2022).

Enablement is a big part of what we do at Kin + Carta. Beyond building tech solutions for our customers, we help them along the journey by working side-by-side to solve problems and provide upskilling.
Mark Ardito , VP of Cloud Modernization - Kin + Carta
digital dialogue 2

3. Data organisation, data democratisation

By making data more widely available, it can be used to inform decisions, encourage collaboration and drive innovation, resulting in better outcomes for organisations and the people they serve.

“Most enterprises are data rich because they have been in ‘store and hold’ mode for years. The challenge now is to make that data available in a way that it can actually be used to advance the business,” says Mark Ardito. He goes on to cite this powerful example of what can happen when data is not shared: “During the pandemic, we saw supply chain breakdowns, which in large part was due to data not being shared across the many teams that are part of a company’s supply chain.”

The idea of democratising data is a great concept, yet it is easier said than done. While advanced technologies - like data mesh - offer the means to make data widely accessible, discoverable and secure, enterprises require expertise to execute. Since in-house digital skills are often in short supply, engaging an experienced technology partner to lead the way is often the best path.

Romina Guevara explains Michelin’s approach: “We’re working on a huge transformative project that has the purpose of bringing all sources of information, internal and external, into a single corporate data lake. This is more than 200 sources of information, including information that lives in peoples’ brains or on paper, so it’s not all in a digital format. We are eager to learn and implement new technology, which will help us continue to provide the best customer experience.”

Banks have traditionally been data rich and insight poor. With evolving customer needs and expectations, it’s more important than ever to transform the way data is used, governed and secured. “It’s not a question of not having data, it’s having data that is structured enough to extract insights so that we at Société Générale can make informed decisions,” says Sarah Kandil.

As technology and platforms become more mature and datasets become more robust, we can rapidly enhance our capabilities. Machine Learning (ML) services, such as pre-trained models like Azure Cognitive Services are examples of how organisations can leverage AI technology - and within a matter of weeks be closer to advanced analytics and a prescriptive domain.
Data is a very important pillar and a centerpoint to transformation - both digital and cultural
Priya Gore, Azure Digital & Application Innovation, Microsoft
Think about getting data to a prescriptive path where you can predict that things are going to happen before they happen - imagine what’s possible if you can actually be proactive versus reactive. You can’t do that without really strong data sets and really capable subject matter experts
Priya Gore, Azure Digital & Application Innovation, Microsoft
Organisations that invest in ruthless automation and get really refined at what they do tend to exit tough economic times ahead of competitors. Now is the time to use available technologies like intelligent automation to perform data analysis and achieve valuable insights.
Mark Ardito, VP Cloud Modernization - Kin + Carta

4. IT department is now a strategic business unit

A few decades ago, CIOs were responsible for governing IT operations and services. Today, it’s a different story. Along with their C-level peers, CIOs have a seat at the boardroom table, talking business and operational strategy. In these days of digital transformation, the IT department itself has transformed; it is now an enabler, helping the business achieve goals, enter new markets and create new products and services.

  • Take Walmart as an example of how IT has played a strategic role in creating an entirely new product line. Most people think of the company as a bricks and mortar retail giant - and it is. But Walmart is more than that; it now supplies small and mid-sized retailers with online, fulfillment and pickup technologies to aid in their digital transformation.
  • Goldman Sachs, a well-known bank and investment firm, is another case in point. The company is now selling transactional data (such as commodities bought and sold) to other trading firms, so that they can run their own analytics.

Without forward-thinking CIOs and advanced technologies, these initiatives would not be possible.

CIOs now play a vital role in helping their organisations understand the overall cloud economics landscape. Only by empowering leaders across all departments to embrace technology as a strategy will companies remain competitive, especially amid economic uncertainty.

We no longer view IT as a supporting department that’s separate from the business, the product. It is strategic now.
Romina Guevara, Chief Digital Officer, Central America, Michelin

Recents research underscores the strategic role CIOs play in today’s organisations:

  • 53% of CIOs are being asked to accelerate their digital transformation initiatives (PwC)
  • 60% of execs list digital transformation as the "most critical growth driver in 2022" (PwC), and
  • 80% of business execs said the CIO is the key stakeholder in driving innovation (Deloitte)

5. Think big, start small

Creating a test and learn culture is the best way to rapidly realise the benefits of digital transformation. Some practical tips to achieve this include:

  • Think big, start small: Build something small and meaningful, a minimum viable product (MVP), a 6 - 12 week project.
  • Assemble a cross-collaborative team: Seeking others outside of the core team will help you avoid bias in the way you go about modelling and architecting your solution. As you encourage other voices to be heard and involve SMEs and stakeholders in the process, you will get buy-in inherently.
  • Leverage your partners, technology platform providers and business partners to learn about what works well and what doesn’t.
  • Constantly iterate, just as you would develop software in an Agile way.

A significant amount of progress can be made by moving and maturing your organisation along a spectrum of transformation… one project, one use case, one thing at a time.

If you can scope minimum viable solutions that are high value to the business, and perhaps slightly lower effort out of the gate leveraging great technology capability, you can bring value to the organisation very quickly and build upon that.
Priya Gore, Azure Digital & Application Innovation, Microsoft
Bring customers and stakeholders in on these projects so you know you’re building the right things from the start. It’s very powerful to achieve value together
Mark Ardito , VP Cloud Modernization - Kin + Carta

6. What's ahead in tech

Technology is evolving at a rapid pace and, while our panelists mentioned several that hold promise (including blockchain, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and metaverse), the following three were of particular interest:

  • Low code platform capability is something that businesses all over the world can leverage to bring application experiences to light very quickly. By establishing a Center of Excellence and building in security and governance, this capability can be extended to citizen developers - those who are not traditionally tech-oriented people. “This is a very exciting opportunity. Microsoft is developing these products and services, so that you can feel comfortable unleashing this capability into the wild within your organisation,” states Priya Gore.
  • Intelligent automation has a wide variety of efficiency-boosting applications, including data analysis, process optimization, and intelligent bots with conversational AI capabilities for customer interaction. By automating time-consuming and tedious tasks and reducing human errors, employees are freed up to focus on higher value work. “Organisations are using intelligent automation to accomplish more with less in today’s hyper-competitive world and economic climate,” says Romina Guevara.
  • Application innovation is a key element of digital transformation, providing an environment and tools to improve workplace collaboration, increase the speed of innovation, improve competitiveness, increase productivity and reduce infrastructure costs. Mark Ardito states, “Technology partners and cloud providers can provide strategic advice and technical expertise to help identify the best use cases for your enterprise.”


Watch the full webinar

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