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December 7, 2017

Digital Transformation Roundtable Lunch

The CIO Digital Agenda: Transformation, Infrastructure & the Customer

Digital transformation is a mainstay on the agenda for all enterprise CIOs. However although CIOs are adept with technology transformation projects, often the culture and environment of the business is what challenges a true ‘digital  first’ environment.

To discuss this, 16 of Sydney’s leading IT and digital executives came together at Ivy Penthouse for an executive luncheon hosted by iQ3, DellEMC, and OmniChannel Media.

Entitled ‘Digital Transformation: Enabling the Enterprise  of the Future’, the luncheon provided a springboard for candid disucssion around what has been working, as well as what has been challenging with regards to digital transformation projects.

The discussion was moderated by Craig Humphreys, the Managing Director of IQ3, and featured insights from industry thought-leader Ani Paul, the CIO of ING.

Servicing Your Customer’s “Implicit Needs”

The customer should be at the heart of an organisation’s digital transformation; however, this is often lost in the hype of driving company- wide change.

The need to maintain its original approach throughout the duration of change is a key identifier for a successful transformation. Adding to this concept, a member of the discussion noted that “if you can’t justify a customer benefit, it will ultimately fail in the long-term.”

In driving customer-centricity, the table also identified the need to create and provide a seamless digital experience as a key point of differentiation between your organisation and its competitors.

“If digital channels are not enhancing the customer experience, they are making it more complicated which is worse than not having the channel at all,” noted one attendee.

With the level of quality in digital delivery online, customer expectations are at an all-time high and companies are no longer fighting with their own competitors for attention, but fighting with their customers entire digital ecosystem.

To overcome this, Ani Paul from ING emphasised that it is all about actionable insights, posing two questions to his fellow executives: “What are you offering to your customer beyond the obvious? How do you service your customer on the implicit things?”

Through leveraging those ‘implicit things’, companies can enhance their customer’s experience. With Paul reminding those in attendance that “attention to detail doesn’t come from technology alone.”

Humphreys made the point that it comes down to fostering an innovative mindset, stating “every business that wants to be competitive needs to be forward thinking.”

 

Keep Culture Simple & Improve Infrastructure

The discussion revealed two major changes that needed to occur internally to enable complete digital transformation. Transformation in infrastructure, as well as transformation in culture.

Encouraging a collaborative culture around the IT function was identified as essential in assisting the restructure of this function in order to break down existing internal barriers. Paul emphasized that “IT is not siloed anymore”.

He also noted that becoming “lean and agile” doesn’t mean doing everything at once. It can also be achieved by simply choosing not to undertake certain actions in the first place.

Empowering the team you are working with, finding the solutions that are worthwhile, and not working on ones that will be irrelevant was Paul’s steadfast approach. Paul summed this up best when he said: “simplicity is the things that you choose not to do.”

The discussion also explored the need for the business to support any modifications to the IT infrastructure. This was explored throughout the luncheon as it was discussed that rapid advances in technology were occurring too quickly for the infrastructure to keep up with.

One interesting opinion that was shared by an attendee was that there has been a significant and substantial underinvestment in IT infrastructure in Australia.

They noted that there had been a necessary drive towards investment in IT that’s been happening over the past 15-20 years, but that hasn’t been happening in Australia until more recently.

They also mentioned that along with the rise of cloud, and similar changes in the delivery cycle, investments are having to happen now to get us back to where we should be.

This is a thought-provoking insight to consider, and one that may explain some of the frustrations shared around the current state of the IT infrastructure in Australia.

Without revisiting the foundations of the IT systems within an organisation and adapting them to prepare for innovative technology, the infrastructure will remain a barrier to achieving transformation.

Technology is Just an Enabler

Despite all the talk about technology and its potential, it was widely agreed that it was not the be-all and end-all in the process of digital transformation.

Humphreys said that “technology is just the enabler, it’s something that allows business to take place.”

Paul noted that, fundamentally, a digital transformation may utilise technology, but the purpose of why it’s happening is deeper than many realise.

“Digital is not a technology challenge – it’s an organisational challenge. There’s only so much you can do with technology, but it’s about the way you position yourself to the customer.”

He shared an interesting anecdote whereby artificial intelligence is utilised to provide deeper insights into the customer through personalisation.

“The conversation can change from one of ‘your account balance is x’ to ‘your account balance is x, we can see you’re on track with your monthly expenses, I know you’re standing in front of that bag you want, so just go ahead and buy it.”

Conclusion

Humphreys concluded that “we’re all on this constant journey of evolution”, and it’s clear to see that everyone was struggling with the same challenges around digital transformation.

Organisations need to be entirely focused on the customer, while also ensuring they have the right culture and infrastructure in place in order to succeed.

The biggest takeaway may have been that of digital transformation being a necessary part of doing business, and if companies fail to undertake one, not only will they be left behind by their competitors, but also by their customers.

Keeping things simple and doing what the important things well is an imperative. On an IT infrastructure front, it was concluded that it was time to be innovative. Large-scale enterprises can no longer afford to do what they have always been doing, it is time to take advantage of the innovative solutions that the technology market is offering.

 

Original Publication by Tech Exec. written by Matthew Egan