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The digital transformation journey – four IT leaders share the lessons learned

CIOs discussed the best practices in driving digital change at the recent Gartner Symposium event in Barcelona

Leading digital transformation initiatives might be crucial to business success, but that doesn’t mean driving change is straightforward.

What is certain is that IT leaders will play a key role in the change process, with analyst Gartner suggesting 46% of European CIOs are responsible for digital transformation in their organisations.

Four technology chiefs spoke about their transformation journeys at Gartner’s recent CIO Symposium in Barcelona. Their stories contain a mix of best practice tips for overcoming the challenges associated with digitisation and for delivering lasting change.

Building the foundations for lasting growth

Patrick Maes, group chief technology officer at Credit Suisse, says CIOs who want to drive a digital transformation programme must create a “burning platform”. Maes says he took the management board at his firm to Silicon Valley and showed them the level of disruption in the region.

He also introduced these senior executives to a range of advanced technologies, to crowdsourcing and to the concept of agile delivery. But while technology is important, it is just a conduit to change. Smart CIOs ensure the systems and services they use provide the foundations for growth, including legacy IT.

“There’s always a burning platform, yet it is not the real reason for change. If being customer-centric isn’t the holy grail, you’ve missed the boat. Digitisation is about creating an organisation that is smooth-running, where the customer is happy with the services you offer and your people really enjoy working for you through the technology you use,” says Maes.

“The key to digital transformation is using technologies – like cloud, artificial intelligence and blockchain – in combination to create practical applications that can help the business. You also need to work bottom-up. We have 3,000 business applications, so you must deal with legacy – how you deal with that estate will be crucial to success.”

Delivering more with less again and again

Martyn Wallace, chief digital officer at Scottish Local Government, says his organisation has to ensure it continually delivers more with less. As public sector organisation resources are tight, yet Wallace and his team must work to ensure citizen services improve on an ongoing basis. As part of his role he works with 32 Scottish councils to help them make the most of the digital opportunity.

“Understand in order to be understood,” he says, referring to best practice advice for other IT leaders. “We’ve gone around the councils to ask them what digital means to them. Fundamentally, digital is about people and outcomes, either for citizens or staff.”

Read more about digital transformation

The good news is Wallace says his organisation has already created a buzz among councils that often work in silos. He says creating a hub, and showing how people can work together to innovate, helps create conversations and can even help executives to cut better deals with suppliers.

“Local government is traditionally risk averse – we’ve tried to myth-bust and use something like GDPR [General Data Protection Regulation] to help councils share data, rather than create another barrier,” he says. “Change is never going to end, but you have to put your stake in the ground at some time. Think about what your customer needs and work back from that point.”

Disrupting business models through a brand new approach

Anders Torell, head of business transformation at construction specialist NCC Industry, is responsible for starting new businesses for his firm across the technology ecosystem. Torell was previously a CIO and is using this new focus on entrepreneurship to transform into a business leader.

“Construction is a very analogue business,” he says, referring to the challenge he faces. “We want to really change the model and deliver new ways of working. That’s very difficult in construction – you have to come from the outside-in to truly disrupt.”

Torell and his team generated 15 new ideas and took the first concept – which centred on understanding demand for materials in the construction sector – and created a new business in 16 weeks. “That’s incredible in our industry, but you really need to get your ideas out and tested,” he says. “You have to get a business out of your great ideas to be relevant in the future.”

Pushing a culture of transformation across the organisation

Anna Eriksson, IT director at Lantmateriet, the Swedish land registration authority, says digital transformation in her organisation was driven by a need to deliver better citizen services for less money.

“That was the beginning of a cultural transformation five years ago, where we started working in a more agile manner, using sprints, user stories and organisational objectives,” she says. 

Eriksson says the organisation holds hundreds of years of analogue information. She says it was a challenge to explain to the rest of the business that digitisation is not simply a process of making paper records digital, as it might have been during the 1990s.

“Digital transformation now is about creating brand new services that make things much easier for the customer,” she says.

“Five years ago, my aim was simply to deliver more value from less with IT. Now, we’re transforming the whole agency – that was an unintended but great consequence. Our success has allowed us to push a culture of transformation across the business, and we’re now working in a new, innovative way where we try out new technologies, like blockchain, in order to learn.”

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