Updated: Jan 19, 2021
Humans don't like change. It's ingrained in us that we come to appreciate routine and habit. However, 2020 has seen businesses who might have previously been hesitant about adopting a digital strategy to suddenly needing to go digital in order to survive. In this episode of Any.Talk, we discuss what concerns people have about digital transformation and how to implement it properly at all levels of an organisation.
What is digital transformation?
Digital transformation is adopting digital technology to create more efficient workflow and improve the way businesses operate. It means saving time, saving money and making everyone's lives easier.
Why is digital transformation needed?
Failure to adopt digital technology means a business will eventually become obsolete. We've seen during the COVID-19 pandemic that many businesses have had to quickly adopt digital tools and move online through necessity. No matter what industry you are in, adopting digital technology will add value to your clients or customers. Take a poorly made website, for example. If the user has a bad experience they'll just go to another website.
Digital transformation is not only about the business interacting with the user but also within the organisation itself. Adopting the right digital tools can make collaboration much easier, especially for remote work.
Why does digital transformation sometimes fail?
Digital transformation can take a lot of time and effort, but if done properly can really pay off. The reason it sometimes fails can be due to a number of reasons. One of them being that everyone needs to undertake proper training so they understand why these changes are happening and how it will be implemented so that it can be rolled out properly. It's a team effort to have a successful digital transformation.
Listen to the full episode below or stream it on Spotify, Apple Podcasts or anywhere else you listen to podcasts.
Any.Talk Episode #9: Digital Transformation
Annie-Mei: Good morning, I’m Annie-Mei Forster and today on Any.Talk, we’re going to be discussing Digital Transformation. We’ve got a special guest on the show today but first I’m joined again today by Anywise General Manager Steven Kouloumendas. Hello Steve.
Steve: Good morning, Annie-Mei.
Annie-Mei: And our special guest today is Senior Consultant Chris Mackellar. Hello Chris.
Chris: Hi Annie-Mei. Hello Steve, how’s it going?
Annie-Mei: Alright, so I’ll start with you Steve. How would you define digital transformation and can you briefly talk about Anywise’s personal digital journey?
Steve: Yeah, thank you Annie-Mei.
So digital transformation for me, starts with everything that’s not actually digital. So businesses and people alike all try to achieve certain things and we all have a way of doing that. Part of digital transformation is trying to adopt digital technology to make our lives better and improve the way we do things. So that’s being more efficient and savings ourselves time or saving ourselves dollars. That’s fundamentally what we’re trying to achieve with digital transformation.
Now in the context of large organisations, and in particular Anywise – what does that actually mean? For Anywise, we’ve always been an organisation that has, I’ll say been at the forefront of adopting new technology and trialling new technology by looking at how we can use technology for our own personal gain. Looking at how we can compete with much larger organisations and fundamentally add value to our clients in a way that will leverage new technology and use it as a competitive advantage.
We’ve been quite successful in doing that. We’ve had quite some luck in adopting technology for our own uses, whether it be our back of house functions. Or everything from our email, video chats, providing remote teams, ways to communicate whether it’s by the likes of video calls, having digital whiteboards, having our own ERP (enterprise resource planning) system which are geared towards very specialised project management solutions enabled by cloud technology.
Adopting these things, we’ve had luck in. We’ve often changed tools. We’ve taken this very agile mindset to it that has enabled us to adopt different tools, almost design an ecosystem from the outset having a very strong understanding of what we’re trying to achieve and how we want to add value to our clients. It’s just about finding the right mix of tools; understand how they interact with each other and understand how we as a business will adopt them. Then having the ability to either rapidly adopt and also to change course.
If the environment changes, having the ability to say ‘this isn’t quite the right tool now and we should swap this tool out and adopt something different with a different value proposition’. Being able to adopt that means we’re fundamentally adopting change, which is at the core of most digital transformation, is change and understanding what that change is. What I said at the start of this was digital transformation is all about people. People in the loop and enriching our own lives. Making our own lives better by either saving time or saving cost and having that understanding of what you’re trying to achieve from the start is a really key part to digital transformation. It really helps business and others understand how to approach digital transformation because it starts and ends with people at its core.
Annie-Mei: Thanks Steve. So Chris, how has Anywise helped others with their own digital transformation and are other organisations as open to change as Anywise?
Chris: Good question, Annie-Mei. I might answer the second part first.
I’d say not every company or organisation is open to change or digital transformation. I think a lot of companies find it a bit daunting and frightening. Quite often now, companies are actually seeking out assistance from like a digital partner to help them along their journey and they might do it in sort of a staged manner. Sometimes there’s a lot of change involved with adopting a new tool. There’s all new processes, there’s training that has to be undertaken.
In regard to Anywise’s assistance with other organisations, we’ve been involved with some really large entities. We’ve got an ongoing project with Questacon, the National Science and Technology Museum based in Canberra. They do a lot of outreach work across the entire country and we’ve been helping them digitise a lot of their processes. Creating a central repository that everyone can access in real time.
They were using some rather disconnected and distributed ways of conducting certain parts of their business. We’ve managed to create a really good robust tool that can be accessed from anywhere. It’s mobile friendly as well. It’s built in a modular fashion so that new functionalities can be added to it. So it’s a tool to basically grow organically with Questacon. It’s built as you go. It’s not something all-consuming and scary for the organisation on board.
Annie-Mei: Ok thanks Chris. Back to you now, Steve. Can you talk about why digital transformation is important for a business and how you can help an organisation that is averse to change?
Steve: Yeah thank you Annie-Mei. Another really good question.
Digital transformation is super important in the world we live in today. In particular for businesses. So with the rate of technology development around the world and the rate of technology adoption for business purposes, it is getting increasingly difficult for businesses that do not have a digital adoption strategy or aren’t operating in digital at all, it’s getting increasingly difficult for these businesses to stay relevant and there’s a couple of reasons why that’s the case.
Because of the growth in digital and all industries and businesses now adopting digital technology, it now means the bar’s been set at a certain level. Now that that bar’s set at a certain level, there’s certain expectations that clients and consumers are almost demanding from the types of businesses they interact with.
I’ll give you a simple case of that, even down to the way that we book certain things. Think of a doctor’s visit, for example. Going to the GP to have an appointment, the ones that are personally being seen as very busy are the ones that are facilitating an online booking mechanism where you can look at the slots and you can book in to see the GP.
As opposed to some of the different clinics which don’t have any of that technology. They’ll still have a client base and that’s still serving a function. But as we move to a more digital world and the next generation that is growing up in a digital world will come to expect these things as the minimum standard. Which means every business out there should be looking at how they can adopt digital, even if it’s not the way they operate now. It’ll certainly be part of how they’ll have to operate in the future.
And I think that has been exacerbated by the likes of COVID. Even some of those other businesses that have perhaps been a bit more hesitant to adopt digital, they’ve been forced to look at their own strategy and look at trying to adopt digital as a part of their business offering. It’s really forced organisations to look back and think of how they can actually add more value to their consumers and their clients.
I think it almost summarises where we are in terms of the importance of businesses to adopt digital.
The second part of that question, Annie-Mei, the helping businesses that are a bit averse to change. It’s a really important question as well because we don’t like change. It’s something ingrained in us that we come to really like and appreciate routine and habit. It’s very difficult to change.
If you think of businesses and organisations, where a collection of people some with robust processes that have been ingrained into people. If you’re trying to change that, we’re fundamentally upsetting the way people as individuals and the way people as teams have been interacting and what they’ve been doing to be successful in the past. Facilitating change at an individual level and also at a team level and a corporate organisational level, can be difficult. It’s often one of the most difficult parts in adopting large-scale digital transformation projects and it’s the time that warrants the most investment.
A lot of the digital transformation projects we’ve conducted, we’ve made a concerted effort right from day one to make sure we’re communicating what the project is trying to achieve, the way it’s trying to achieve it and what that fundamentally means for the individual. So for the user – what is the impact going to be to me? Is it going to mean that I no longer have to do a certain activity? Even just from the outset, just understanding what the change may mean.
Many digital transformation projects, we’re certainly promising cost-saving and saving in people’s time. What does that mean for the individual? A team that has a team of 10, no longer needs to operate as a team of 10. Does that mean job cuts? All of these things are questions that would go through people’s minds. So understanding that and communicating that upfront is a key part of helping these businesses understand that change as well.
And on that one – is my job at risk by adopting this digital change? That’s often a key concern that we see and come across. In particular, with some of the technology coming out now, in terms of robotic process automation and advanced insight and reporting. It’s actually not about trying to displace a person’s job. It’s more about trying to help the person do their job.
I’m a fan of this AT20 principle. In the past I was having to generate a report. Now that report was for a meeting. Developing the report would generally take 80% of my time and I would spend about 20% actually trying to come up with what I was trying to achieve with the report. So 20% in the analysis part and 80% developing the actual report.
What we find with some of these digital transformation projects, is the idea is to flip that on its head. So that we’re only spending 20% of our time developing the report and 80% of our time actually understanding what that means. Putting real thought into the decision-making process. Real thought into comprehending what does this data actually mean and how is that going to affect what we actually do? And that’s really where we want people spending more time in, is what does this actually mean? H is it influencing our decisions? And how are we communicating that message.
I hope that answers the question.
Annie-Mei: Yeah it did. Ok back to Chris now. When it comes to who’s responsible for digital transformation in a company, is it just the people at the top (the executives) or is it everyone in a company?
Chris: It’s everyone, Annie-Mei.
The reason being is that it might be driven from the top down, but it needs to be taken seriously by all people. Even from end user who might be the office administrator all the way to senior directors of a company or organisation. Reason being is that it can be a large undertaking. It can take a lot of time and effort. And it needs to be done in a responsible manner where everyone does play their part because if there is a bit of consent about ‘why are we doing this again?’ or ‘why are we rolling out this tool? Things were working well as they are’, it starts to make the process quite tiresome and tedious.
The process doesn’t need any extra impediments or things cropping up. Business can be difficult on its own, even when everything is running smoothly and running well. There needs to be a willingness on everyone’s behalf to take part in training, to actually spend the time to implement it, to go through those teething problems and put on a positive look on things. Because you will get through it, you will get to the other side and you will reap the benefits of that.
There needs to be a commitment from senior management to actually roll things out properly and do everything within their power to make sure it’s a well implemented transition or transformation. That includes proper training.
Anywise has learned this as well, the hard way. We implemented a tool, probably 18 months ago or so. We didn’t really invest in as much training as we should have. The adoption of that tool suffered because of that. We’ve learned from that and we’ve adopted a new tool to help with our agile project management, just recently in the past several months.
The way that that was done was totally different. We had a dedicated team that was involved with that. They were involved with everything from coordinating of the training, of setting the tool up, of templating, of setting up processes and control of how it would be rolled out. This has been undertaken in a far better manner and a more thoughtful manner. It’s a team effort to have a really successful digital transformation.
Annie-Mei: Ok thanks Chris. Steve, did you want to add anything else? Chris touched on why it can fail due to lack of training and investing in time and lack of commitment. Yeah, was there anything you’d like to add to that?
Steve: I just want to harp on, taking over on what Chris said and diving a bit further into it.
The key thing there I think is when you do fail, understanding and actually taking a learning from that. So cliché quotes: ‘You never fail, but you learn’. That quote really rings true in the digital space. It’s having that ability to not be dissuaded by any perceived failure, turning that into a learning opportunity and putting that forward to the next digital opportunity and next digital iteration for adoption.
So some organisations may actually be dissuaded from an investment in a tool that they perceive to fail, and they might be hesitant to adopt a similar tool because they failed once. I would hope that does not dissuade people. By failing at one of these missions, it actually really helps the next time you do it. It’s certainly worth that extra investment to go at something differently and figure out why things didn’t work the first time around and go at it again.
Having that ability to recognise that something did not because of certain things, I think that’s a real sign of a mature business that still has a vision and still knows there’s something there. They still have the tenacity and persistence to try and achieve that vision, even if they failed the first time around.
My key message there on making sure organisations understand the nuances on how they go about digital transformation as well.
Chris: Maybe I’ll add in there, Annie-Mei that sometimes organisations maybe underestimate what they require of a tool or a process. They underestimate what they want to get from it and how their business would actually change.
If you have adopted a tool previously and you’re going along your merry way, their requirements might change. Hanging on to some legacy tool or process could be hindering their ability to change and grow. When you realise that you should actually be proactive and actually look to make a change and not be fearful of that. That’s the thing which can hinder that transformation, that being stuck in the past.
Tools change, organisations change. It’s not a ‘for life’ type of arrangement.
Annie-Mei: Just on that note, Chris. So when does digital transformation stop? Or does it ever stop?
Chris: I think you’ve probably answered your own question there, Annie-Mei.
I don’t think it ever stops. Things are changing. The use of technology in our everyday lives, that seeps into how we do business. Look at the impact of COVID, it’s changed the way a lot of businesses conduct work. Large organisations like Google, Microsoft and Facebook are offering staff the choice of whether they want to stay and work at home. So even when things go back to pre-COVID days, they’re not actually forcing workers to come back into the office. They’re quite happy to offer them the choice to actually work from home because they’ve seen benefits to their business from that arrange.
So things are always changing and always moving. Sometimes it’s not always for the better though, but it’s always changing.
Annie-Mei: Alright, well thank you Steve and Chris for talking today about digital transformation.
Chris: Thanks Annie-Mei. Thanks Steve.
Steve: Thank you Annie-Mei. Thanks Chris.