How to consider technology in a digital transformation – PODCAST

Tune in to discover how to consider technology in digital transformation from selection to implementation, delivery and arising challenges.

How to consider technology in a digital transformation – PODCAST

Tune in to discover how to consider technology in digital transformation from selection to implementation, delivery and arising challenges.

CX-talks-podcast-featured-image-Clarasys

Meet the author

Tom Carpenter

Principal Consultant

Chris McIvor

Managing Consultant

Lindsay Cameron

Principal Consultant

Moray Busch

Managing Consultant

Considering technology in digital transformation is fundamental to making it a success. 

In our latest podcast, Clarasys’ own Tom Carpenter, Chris McIvor, Lindsay Cameron and Moray Busch explore where to start with tech selection, how to implement it, deal with any external uncontrollable factors, and ensure successful delivery post-transformation. Listen here or read on for an edited transcript.

Tom Carpenter: Welcome to another episode of CX Talks. I am Tom Carpenter one of our CX specialists here at Clarasys, and today I’m joined by Chris McIvor, Moray Busch, and Lindsay Cameron.

Tom Carpenter: We’re going to be talking about how to ensure you think about technology in the correct way when doing a digital transformation. This is part of five podcasts in total. The first one introduced the different angles to consider when doing digital transformation – business, customer, organisation and technology. You can also listen to a deep dive on the other three areas of customer, organization and business in the other podcasts. But today we’re going to be focusing on tech.

Tom Carpenter: So I guess you’re probably wondering who Chris Moray and Lindsay are so we’ll give them a bit of an intro. Chris do you want to introduce yourself to our listeners?

Chris McIvor: Hi Tom, good to be here today. Hello everyone, I’m a consultant at Clarasys. I’ve worked on a variety of digital transformation projects in a range of different industries. So yeah, very happy to be here to talk about my experiences with digital transformation

Tom Carpenter: Great to have you. We’ll go easy on you Chris, don’t worry. And Moray?

Moray Busch: Hello everyone. My name is Moray I’m one of our product specialists at Clarasys. In the private sector, mainly focused on mergers and acquisitions, post-merger integrations and product launches. And in the public sector, mainly looked at launching government services and products as well to help make the life of citizens easier.

Tom Carpenter: Awesome. Good to have you today, Moray And finally Lindsay.

Lindsay Cameron: Hi, I’m Lindsey Cameron. I’m a digital transformation consultant. I’ve worked across a range of industries predominantly the private sector. But working with the HR department, marketing and IT itself on digital transformation.

Lindsay Cameron: I think one of the fascinating things in my career over the last 12 years has been how the convergence between IT and those different departments has transpired.

Tom Carpenter: So the first question, I guess is where on earth do you start with thinking about technology in digital transformation?

Where to start thinking about technology in digital transformation

Chris McIvor: There’s a lot of different reasons why a company like ourselves may be brought in for digital transformation. So things like end of life is a very common one. A business has a classic problem where their systems are quite old. They’re getting clunky, they’re slowing down the user interface, and are not up to scratch up to modern standards. So they’re looking to replace them. So this is a very technology-driven reason to start, but I think it’s also important as we’ve talked a lot about on these podcast series is what is the business driver as well? So although your tech stack is aging during a transformation. What are you actually transforming? Are you replacing a system to replicate it or do you actually want to replace it and transform your business at the same time? So that’s one of the reasons why we may embark on this.

Chris McIvor: There are lots of others. So things like improving CX – obviously for end customers delivering new customers allows businesses to deliver new products or services to their customers more effectively. Are there any other examples that others have seen?

Lindsay Cameron: So I think another example, that I’ve seen, would be operating model driven transformation. So actually trying to be more efficient as an organization. That might involve changing how you work, where you currently work.

Lindsay Cameron: It may also involve moving some of those operations offshore or outsourcing. So that could be another key driver.

Moray Busch: Yeah, in my experience, one of the key drivers of this is just circumstance. So what I mean by that is for example a company wants to expand into a new market or they purchase a new company as well.

Moray Busch: Sometimes you have to bring different departments together as part of the mergers and acquisitions, and that normally involves aligning the tech stack, but also then tying the technology to the wider organizational design and the wider product launches and services as well.

Choosing technology in digital transformation: start with the why

Chris McIvor: So there’s a few reasons there that we’ve all listed, but why does that matter? So I guess it’s really important to understand from the very start within leadership within the business, why exactly digital transformation is taking place. It’s a very nice sounding word and lots of budgets get allocated to digital transformation but from our experience, I think we can all agree that it’s super important from the start to understand the actual why, because that may in effect talk to what technologies you choose, how you want to implement it, how ready you are to implement the new technologies across the business.

Moray Busch: Yeah, absolutely. I think that starting with why definitely makes sense because then that will drive, as you said, all the decisions later on as well.

Moray Busch: But I think having a clear goal as well of where you actually want to go and what you want to achieve is equally important. Because essentially the why gives you the rationale for making better informed decisions or for example, what your tech stack might look like, or if you want to build things yourself, or if you’re gonna use things off the shelf. But equally you need to know the direction as well. Because if you don’t know your direction, you might actually move in the wrong direction.

Tom Carpenter: And playing devil’s advocate as I love doing as you well know, I’m sure we’ve got lots of people listening, thinking. Yeah. Yeah, I’m doing that. I’m doing that. That’s fine. I’m selecting it in the right way. How would they know if they weren’t? What’s the wrong way. Do you think to go about this?

How not to select technology in digital transformation

Lindsay Cameron: I suppose from my perspective, one of the main reasons not to start is because your competitors just happen to have implemented a slightly different technology to you. And you’re a bit jealous or actually because you, as the CTO, for example, have identified a shiny new tool that you are passionate about and got back excited about. So we do see that, but it’s not impossible to then link it back to some better reasons why.

Moray Busch: Yeah. I think that it makes sense to start in the problem space as opposed to the solution space with all of this. I think when you are very solution led, you might not actually have the right tool and you might not actually solve the right problem.

Moray Busch: And actually the problem might not exist in the first place. Whereas actually, if you’re very much driven by what problem are we actually trying to solve? So going back to what Chris was saying around, starting with why you can then increase the chance of actually selecting the right tool because otherwise, and this has happened in the past as well, where you’re very solution-driven and then you retrospectively try to tie it to a problem that you’re trying to solve.

Moray Busch: And that in my experience is very painful to do. And most of the time then actually leads to technical debt as well and means that you have to rebuild a tool to actually solve the right problem.

Tom Carpenter: Are you suggesting a double diamond approach Moray? Cause I think I might come and hug you.

Moray Busch: Haha – yes, Tom!

Lindsay Cameron: I think the reality is transformation sounds exciting, but transformations are really hard.

Lindsay Cameron: So if you’re not doing it for the right reasons, then, it’s really important to make sure you go into it with that clear north star and that clear reason why.

Tom Carpenter: Okay. So I guess our listeners are probably wondering what this actually means in reality. So do you have any examples that we could talk to our listeners about where this has been done properly or done in a good way? And examples of where it’s probably not been done in the best way?

Real-life examples of where technology in digital transformation has been chosen

Chris McIvor: Yeah, I think an interesting example is where we’ve worked with companies that grow through acquisition. So a large business buys other businesses, which obviously have all different types of technologies, processes, people et cetera. By aligning onto a single tech stack and single processes that give them options.

Chris McIvor: So it sounds nice and clean for all of the new businesses to move on to that single say CRM system, for example, but that’s not always the best approach. But actually having that central system does enable them to do that if they want. So when they do buy or acquire new companies, they can easily integrate them into their businesses, their processes, their technologies more effectively and quicker which is better for the full end to end sort of life cycle of delivering their products and services to their customers

Moray Busch: Yeah. As part of the post-merger integrations as well, what we see is that when you bring all these different technologies together, then firms can actually choose the right technology among all their alternatives. So when you are acquiring a new business or moving into a new market and you essentially have to diversify at that stage (some of your tech stack), looking at the various different tools and then drawing the line of how much you want to have a central versus how much you want to have diversified, allows you to maintain the level of flexibility, which also then means that you can be a bit more modular.

Chris McIvor: I guess this is a great way to learn as well. Isn’t it? You can sort of pick best in class from all the customers that you’ve acquired. So, we have examples where you might acquire a business and they do marketing automation really well and have a solution set up that they can deliver end to end marketing really quickly. And you can utilize that system across your broader stack.

Moray Busch: Yeah.

Lindsay Cameron: One interesting example I saw was an organization that was actually planning to separate. So they needed to invest and actually consolidate their technologies in order to do that cleanly. So as they were, they operated in a lot of different markets. They needed to invest in order to actually take that step.

Tom Carpenter: I’ve got a good example of a bad one, which is a new Chief Technology Officer had joined the company and they’d had a really good experience of using Salesforce in their old company. And they wanted to replicate that kind of experience at their new company, but they were very, very new to the organization. They didn’t really fully understand how that organization operated.

Tom Carpenter: So they were fixated by the fact that it was so successful before that there must be a way to make it successful now. And I’m not suggesting that there aren’t great uses for platforms such as Salesforce, for example, but it was a fixation on the fact that it was so successful before that it must be successful where they are now without looking into it in too much depth.

Tom Carpenter: Now, fortunately, we did manage to work out a way where it could be implemented in a successful fashion, but it’s important to just really check your biases, I guess, on selection. Just because something went well before and was good in one scenario, it does not necessarily mean that it’s fit for purpose in a new organization or in a new scenario.

Tom Carpenter: So we’ve talked a little bit about how to think about why you would do the transformation, but what about how you actually select the technology? What things should we be thinking about, about selection?

How to select technology in digital transformation

Chris McIvor: So I think one of the key things is that modern-day solutions can provide a lot of great technology out of the box. So CRM solutions, marketing solutions they’re right off the shelf. And for a lot of businesses, they can probably do 80, 90% of what they actually need them to do. This enables businesses to deliver a technology that they need at a lower cost.

Chris McIvor: You don’t need massive development teams to build out custom solutions. So think it’s really important to firstly understand where you are special. Where do you potentially need to customize? And there are a few ways to do that. So, firstly, you need to look at where the value is. So what is valuable to you?

Chris McIvor: What is valuable to your customers and maybe that’s where you can put a lot of your focus in terms of building out new technology. For example, managing opportunities, lots of companies do it the same way. Maybe don’t need to heavily invest in doing that because out of the box solutions can do very well.

Chris McIvor: A couple of other things consider so flexibility. How much are you going to need the solution to change over time? This comes into tech debt. You don’t want to build something fully customized. And then two, three years later, you’re going to need something completely new. So we see that a lot where something nice and shiny is built. The delivery teams left and then another delivery team comes in to rip it out and put in a new solution. So those are two things that are worth considering.

Moray Busch: I think the point that you mentioned around special is a really interesting one because what we find is that a lot of organizations think that have very, very specific needs, but actually out of the box solutions, as you said, can most of the time, do like 80 to 90% of what they actually need. And then a difficult conversation that then businesses need to have is, is that good enough? Because actually by not building something completely from scratch and not having something which is completely tailor-made, it makes maintenance, infinitely easier.

Future proof your tech stack

Moray Busch: Going back to the conversation around having a modular tech stack, as well, it’s much easier to integrate. And also as things evolve, if you go with something which is out of the box, upgrades, enhancements will be applied much easier as well.

Moray Busch: We had a couple of projects where we essentially had to look at an old tech stack where years ago decisions were made to build something completely from scratch.

Moray Busch: And those things are very rarely scalable or changeable. So actually what you then have to do is rip those things out, as you said, Chris, and actually explore out of the box solutions.

Chris McIvor: I think what you’re talking about with upgrades, is really interesting as well. Lots of solutions now are cloud-based, they’re constantly getting updated multiple times a year, so that’s really, future-proofing it, especially if you’re looking at solutions that are leaders in their market. You can expect to get new bells and whistles, new features and you can almost grow along with those companies.

Chris McIvor: I think it’s really important to consider that when you’re doing your vendor selection is – what does this company look like in 10 years time? Are they going to be a market leader? Are they going to be bringing me the newest and best technology as part of the fees that I’m already paying?

Chris McIvor: Or are they not going to evolve and I’m going to have to actually replace them with something that’s better. So even though they may be slightly more expensive potentially. I think it’s important to think about that future-proofing element of it and, what upgrades are you getting as part of that package?

Tom Carpenter: So I guess what you’re saying is you should try not to be special. Is that right?

Moray Busch: And this is so hard. Yes, Tom!

Tom Carpenter: It’s difficult because I think that there’s a balance isn’t there between how tailored your processes are to make it as efficient, and effective for you as an organization versus how much effort that is to do.

Tom Carpenter: And I agree with you. I think it’s important to understand that balance at selection point rather than try to build for it later.

Other considerations

Moray Busch: Yeah. You can also think about where you’re actually really differentiating yourself and what is really your competitive advantage? I mean, For example, you’re not going to build your backend process like SAP completely from scratch, right?

Moray Busch: That is, that’s not your competitive advantage. You’re not going to build everything from scratch, but it could be that you have some very cool user-facing technology, which you definitely don’t want to take off the shelf because you have some kind of IP that helps you to differentiate in the market.

Moray Busch: So actually thinking about what are my key differentiators, can I be a bit more special in that area, allows you to then move some of the, let’s just say platforms and utilities further into the space where you can actually scale and automate in the backend. So it’s then not just the question of how special are you, but also where in your tech stack do you need to differentiate yourself?

Lindsay Cameron: I think another angle is also compliance and that could be your GDPR compliance or your regulatory compliance. If you’re in a highly regulated industry like pharma or in finance. An example that I had from that perspective we were implementing a HR solution HRYS globally, and we needed a solution that would allow us to drive standardization in process across 27 countries around the world.

Lindsay Cameron: But actually each country has different HR regulations. So we had to have a solution that allowed us to readily fit the local market and add new markets as required. So I think that’s a very important angle not to overlook.

Moray Busch: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, sometimes you don’t have a choice, right? When it’s around compliance or regulation, then those decisions are normally quite easy because you just have to be, well, you have to be compliant in order to operate. Right? So then the question of, yes, what are your absolute non-negotiables so to speak where you need to make a decision to actually build something which is more potentially tailor-made and it works in the market.

Lindsay Cameron: And does the solution that you’re looking at actually have proven credentials in, that. So in the example of the HR implementation across 27 countries actually, have they proven themselves able to support internationally.

Tom Carpenter: I think I’ve seen with some clients as well, that there’s a, almost like binary push to adopt versus adapt and clients will go heavily in one direction versus another. So by that, I mean, adopt standard ways of working in the tool that you selected versus changing the tech to work the way you work. Now, in reality, there’s obviously a balance between those two things, but yeah. Good things to think about.

Technology drives change

Moray Busch: It’s interesting how then technology can actually drive other things in the business. Sometimes what happens is you start with the problem, you then explore what technology can achieve that thing. And then you implement it, but technology, evolves so quickly and sometimes you don’t know your unknown unknowns, which means that something new comes along and actually you find an amazing tool.

Moray Busch: And then you actually find really good uses for it, which can really change how your customers engage with you, for example, or how you can scale and optimize and automate in the business. So there’s definitely a two-way conversation to think about what’s out there. What can I use, but also what is it I’m trying to achieve and why.

Lindsay Cameron: Just to add to that as well. I think some parts of your business change faster than others. So in the likes of HR or finance division tend to move slower. Historically. and on average than, for example, marketing or sales where you have a much faster pace of innovation. So making sure your technology considers that in selection.

Moray Busch: The pace at which you move also makes a difference in how much flexibility you want as well. And I think that actually also influences the cost of ownership.

Reducing cost of ownership

Moray Busch: So if you want more flexibility and pace, and control, you might be more inclined to actually take more ownership of it and actually build something from scratch. But actually, if you say I don’t need all of this control, I can find a partner that I can work with – that might actually reduce your cost of ownership because maintenance, updates, the actual implementation of it, the servicing of it, can be licensed.

Moray Busch: And if you’re doing that at the right scale, you could find the model at an enterprise level where it’s cheaper to actually work with a partner to reduce the cost of ownership, but that then comes at the expense of, to some degree, control and ownership of course.

Chris McIvor: Yeah, a couple of gotchas that I’ve seen at a few clients. One is when you’re looking at license costs, you really need to dig down into what you actually get per license and think about who across the business may want to access and use the solution that you’re building.

Chris McIvor: So let’s say you’re building a CRM for your sales teams. There are probably obvious people that you want in there managing data, managing accounts, things like that, but who else across the business need visibility of it? And do they need to change that data? So think about marketing, finance, your service teams, for example, that can all increase your ongoing running costs in terms of license.

Chris McIvor: So really important to consider those. And I guess the other thing is often transformations happen in a project mode where, six months, two years, whatever it might be loads of resources and budgets thrown at the digital transformation. But then what happens after that?

Chris McIvor: So are you going to be happy and settled with that exact solution at the end of the two years? Or do you need to bake in some costs for ongoing upgrades, changes? You do want to have that sort of flexibility that if in two years time and the business demand changes, then you may want to actually change your solution as well.

Chris McIvor: So that whole cost of ownership over years really needs to be thought about, especially when comparing against the expected benefits from the start.

Lindsay Cameron: I think yeah, just picking up from two points there Chris. I think one around the solution might be a certain size now, but actually what are your potential aspirations to scale and what might that mean in terms of costs in the future? But also seeing clients fall into a trap of implementing something, but not really with a view of who can support that. They don’t have the skills, say the capability in-house or the capacity to support it.

Lindsay Cameron: And then that becomes a problem at the end of the project that it can really affect actually the early success of it because, it massively reduces your flexibility post go -live.

Tom Carpenter: Also thinking back to your points on how complicated a solution you create because of your special processes that the longer you keep a piece of tech, obviously the more you do to it and the more expensive it becomes.

Tom Carpenter: A lot of people think about the initial implementation, but you’re still developing quite a lot of technology post the initial implementation. And that’s often where some costs that you don’t think about come in. If you’re considering total cost of ownership there.

Flexibility must be built into your vision

Moray Busch: That just triggered a thought actually. One of my favourite architects is Daniel Libeskind, he’s the one who designed the new world trade center. And one of the things he said when building something long term is that you need a strong foundation, a clear vision, but you need to leave room for interpretation along the way, which I really loved because there’s no way that you can have all the answers at the beginning, but you need a clear direction of where you’re going and make sure that you build in flexibility as you go along.

Moray Busch: Because if you try to make all decisions up front, you lock yourself in a very certain way where unless you have all the answers there’s very high chance that you are not going to actually hit the target that you want to.

Lindsay Cameron: Yeah. And just drawing on that Moray, an interesting example, in marketing at the moment we’re seeing is historically in the last few years, it’s been a lot of monolithic solution. So one, one system doing lots of things and a big shift away from that at the moment, a big trend towards inbuilt flexibility. So trying to use more small solutions that modularize and that allows you to scale, it allows you to flex, there’s increasing amounts of open-source software that’s becoming enterprise-ready. So I think that’s a very interesting trend and it does that from day one.

Moray Busch: Yeah.

Moray Busch: I think definitely one system to rule them all. I think even though for some people that might make it easier to maintain it, or it might be perceived as such, I think where that you build potentially a bottleneck as well.

Moray Busch: And actually, if every change that you do has to go through a single system that can be sometimes quite difficult as well. Instead, if you almost create little, say microservices and build in that modular approach into it, it means that you can switch things out and actually change course and change tact as well.

Chris McIvor: I think with a single solution it’s also important to consider how big are you as an organization and can you influence the provider? So if you’re relatively small, then you’re probably not going to get your needs on a roadmap of something like a Salesforce or Microsoft dynamics. But if you’re a massive global organization, there is potential there that you work hand in hand and you have influence on the roadmap and things like that. So I think it is something that’s worth considering when you’re looking at your own business and your own needs.

Chris McIvor: And that’s why it’s important not to just follow what is competitors doing or just anyone else in the market is doing.

Tom Carpenter: So we’re leading on a little bit now into how would we actually implement said technologies. What would be your advice to our listeners on that?

How to implement technology in digital transformation

Chris McIvor: Well, I think the number one rule is to iterate when you’re delivering new technology platforms. So you want to define upfront as we’ve talked about, where is the value. So why are you doing it? What’s the purpose and then defining an MVP. So what does the first iteration look like?

Chris McIvor: What’s usable by your teams, by your people and how quickly can you deliver that value? This makes it a little bit easier to deliver. It’s smaller chunks of work, smaller pieces of technology. And as we’ve said, if you go modular as well, potentially that aligns better with what your overall architecture strategy is.

Chris McIvor: Another reason to iterate is obviously getting feedback. So rather than waiting a few years to implement, and then getting feedback from your teams when it’s really too late because your implementation partners left, you can deliver something to them, ask for them how it’s going, ask your customers how it’s going.

Chris McIvor: See what’s working, see what’s not working and it gives you a chance to then change what you do as you go forward. So, as Moray was saying, it’s important to have a north star revision an agreed way that you’re heading, but you want to be able to change it along the way if it makes sense and iterating really allows that.

Lindsay Cameron: I think we see organizations now falling into two main camps. So one is they’ve actually already made the adaptation to being more product-led, being more agile or iterative. We have other organizations that are still stuck in projects, boom and bust land of delivering a project, spend years doing that – finish that, have to implement another project to upgrade it a couple of years down the line or change that. And I guess if you fall into the former great that makes actually delivery easier, you’ve got a precedent. If you don’t, how can you use a digital transformation to actually shift you in that direction?

Lindsay Cameron: So can you use a big digital transformation project to build capability, build capacity in being more iterative, being more agile, develop your people, prove a different way of delivery.

Moray Busch: Yeah. So I have to admit I’m a, I’m a tiny bit annoyed now because you guys actually picked the best two pieces of advice.

Moray Busch: I think treating it as a product and iterating and working agile are definitely absolute core principles, which have worked well in multiple environments. I think the next thing for me then would be to have a think about how you can make architecture work for you instead of working against it and having to think about the wider environment.

Moray Busch: So a good analogy there is, if you, for example, say you have to design a chair, right. You don’t just want to build a chair but you want to think about what’s the room that the chair is in and actually what is the house that that room is in? So if you then actually going to implement it, have a think about what is the environment that I’m working in and how can I actually fit into that and also potentially invest into the architectural runway. I think if you are introducing quite a lot of tailor build solutions, you essentially take Goodwill away from architectural one-way and make the entire environment less maintainable. But actually, if you look at what already exists. How can I plug in, in different environments? You can make the environment work for you and actually make life infinitely easier.

Moray Busch: So working with architecture, not against it, and having a wide understanding of the environment that you’re in will definitely pay dividends.

Tom Carpenter: So we’ve talked quite a lot about scenarios where we have a lot of choice in what we’re doing. Maybe we have lots of time to think about it and do it in the right way, but let’s say there’s a disaster or something happens that forces us to change. Let’s say maybe it’s a global pandemic, for example.

Moray Busch: No, that can’t be right that can never happen.

Tom Carpenter: Then what, advice would you give for scenarios where something changes very rapidly and you have to react to it? How would you do a digital transformation in that sense of what, different things are that to think about there?

How to consider technology in digital transformation in the aftermath of rapid but essential change

Moray Busch: I think the reality is that when you have to achieve outcomes very quickly and you can’t build things in the way that you want to, it is very important that you essentially take note of those decisions that you made and the shortcuts you took, because sometimes you will have to essentially put in a tactical fix to achieve an outcome, but you know full well that’s not maintainable or scalable.

Moray Busch: And later on say three months down the line, six months down the line, two years down the line, if a team changes, they might not know the context of the decision that you’ve taken, which can lead to problems later on. But actually if you make those quick decisions in order to respond to say COVID, as Tom said, you might have to build a government service very, very quickly, and you will have to potentially change at a day’s notice how something looks like.

Moray Busch: And if you then capture those things, you can then later on when you have a bit more breathing space undo those to make sure it’s much more scalable later on.

Lindsay Cameron: That’s great Moray. Another thing we saw with the pandemic was actually organizations – they had to transform overnight, but actually, in reality, did they deliver digital transformation or did they replace an in-person thing with a digital thing? So was it really technology replacing that. And if that’s the case, I think that’s fine. So a zoom meeting rather than a meeting room, but that’s not actually implementing technology in digital transformation. The transformation is the behaviours that sit around that, actually the upskilling of people to be able to meet in a different way and collaborate in a different way.

Lindsay Cameron: That’s the transformational element. The technology there really is a replacement.

Moray Busch: Yeah. If you are then in a, say, pandemic and you have to quite quickly adapt. I think that is when essentially then the wheels are coming off, right. From a training perspective, because there’s no real shortcut for experience or training or embedding things.

Moray Busch: So I think actually just building on that point, I think it’s really important that you invest even more into training and embedding those things when you change the environment. So that people can essentially use technology in the right way. Because you’re only really going to get your return on investment, not when the technology is delivered, but when people change their behaviours and can actually use it in a much more effective way.

Chris McIvor: I think it’s also important not to throw out things that you’ve done before in this scenario. So for example, having good foundational architectural principles, I don’t think necessarily should be impacted by a COVID pandemic. You need to remember to go back to basics. What are the core decisions that we need to make and how do they impact the benefit that we’re getting?

Chris McIvor: And the other side of that is how do you then prioritize? Because I think lots of businesses with COVID had to very quickly determine where they should put their focus, their budget, their effort, their people who may be on furlough and not around, for example. So that process and that team of who decides priorities?

Chris McIvor: What are the priorities based on, I think that can still be retained, even if there’s a shock, like COVID because those things are valid beforehand and they’re valid afterwards, but obviously the outcomes of those prioritizations may be different. So for the example of implementing zoom may not have been high on the list before COVID, but after COVID obviously implementing zoom becomes extremely high. But that doesn’t mean we have to do a super quick and dirty implementation of it. There should still be principles around security, around how do we manage license costs, that sort of thing. So it becomes more challenging, but I think there’s things that still do need to be retained in a, in a scenario like this.

Lindsay Cameron: And I think to that point, Chris, I think during the initial pandemic, there was a degree of forgiveness over some of those elements because of the nature of it.

Lindsay Cameron: But actually I think if you’re a client that maybe did have to move quickly. You didn’t maybe take account of all those things at the time. It’s okay to retrace your steps. It’s actually important that you do because then you can actually tighten up the security, tighten up the solution and actually make it genuinely transformative.

Chris McIvor: Yeah. And another thing is documentation. I know lots of technical people hate doing documentation, but this shows the real importance of it. So making sure it’s up to a good standard that can be reflected on, down the track when you’re trying to unpick what you’ve done. I think that’s really important as well.

Tom Carpenter: I think the benefit of disaster type situations like this one is it proves people’s ability to be able to change fast. Like everyone has lots of belief that things have to take quite a lot of time, but I think many organizations who historically would have thought they needed to be slower about typically tech change, can probably now see that there is a way to do things faster. And some of the methods they’ve used during Covid, I’d encourage them to use during normal times as well to enable faster change.

Moray Busch: The point around faster change, I think is a really interesting one, especially because people have been, in my experience, much better prioritizing and making decisions and actually something that took a long time beforehand was, the reviews, the consensus the, essentially jumping through the loops in order to make a decision, which sometimes can be quite a hindrance to actually implementing technology in digital transformation.

Moray Busch: But when you have a pandemic, you have to be quite ruthless in prioritizing and something that has actually been quite timeless. I think in my experience is how you balance essentially what’s desirable. I,e what does a customer want. Having a think about what is viable from a business perspective, but then importantly, what is feasible from a technology perspective and those three things together, I think have driven a lot of really fast responses and decisions, which essentially have aided faster implementation of technology.

Moray Busch: And I think that is something that organizations have really taken on board now and actually learned from, and want to keep as well, because I don’t think anyone wants to go back to really long, slow, dragged out decision-making processes and implementations. There’s much more evidence now, as Tom has said that people can actually see we don’t have to build this in a year. We can actually do it in three months if we put our mind to it.

Lindsay Cameron: I think another thing that the pandemic did and lots of businesses have been moving in this direction is actually bringing the business closer to IT. So whether that is, the marketing business, the HR business, the sales business. We’re seeing that convergence. And that shock last year, really pushed that closer. And that’s where you can unlock a lot of value, I think, and organizations that are still working in silos like that. That’s where you’re going to not satisfy customer needs, not implement the right technology fast enough, because how can you genuinely work together and not see the divisions and the silos and actually span those

Tom Carpenter: So taking us to normal transformation, not necessarily one of our disaster situations, what do our customers and our listeners need to think about post the actual transformation occurring?

Things to consider post-transformation

Moray Busch: I think the key thing is treat it like a product. And when you’re done with the transformation, have a think about how you can maintain on an ongoing basis.

Moray Busch: So Lindsay’s point around not just have one big project every five years and rip everything to shreds. Instead have a think about how you can continually build on it and refine it so that you don’t have to go through those massive transformations, but can actually have something that is fit for purpose on a more regular basis than once every five years.

Chris McIvor: Yeah. And, and that’s absolutely right Moray and the detail behind that is really important. So who is responsible for that? Who defines it? How do the users feedback on the product on an ongoing basis? So having things like a live roadmap that someone’s managing that can be fed into from various users customers is extremely important. To enable that you really need to have a good handover as well.

Chris McIvor: One thing that I’ve noticed that’s often forgotten is how do you transition from a project team that has lots of resources, lots of people working on a project to more business as usual processes, and support. A good way to do this is actually take whoever’s going to be supporting the long-term on the project with you.

Chris McIvor: So embed them in the teams that they can learn why the solution was built in a certain way and how it works. And then they have that better interaction with the business because they can actually explain why things are a certain way and they can come to a resolution of a problem a lot quicker.

Lindsay Cameron: So just building on that point, Chris, I think two key things from me. So transformation programs build a lot of capability in-house often. Even if you have supplemented that with third parties, So How do you retain those employees that have just gone through a tough, but hopefully incredibly satisfying journey.

Lindsay Cameron: I’ve seen lots of organizations where they don’t invest enough at the end in retaining those key people and that knowledge goes out the door because they’re suddenly hot on the market cause they’ve just done a massive transformation. The second piece for me is have you transformed your operating model alongside the digital transformation?

Lindsay Cameron: So, some organizations change their operating model before. Some do it alongside, which is hard but it is possible. But you may need to do some of that work afterwards. The reality is there may be people in your business that need to rescale or need to need to move into different roles because that role is no longer required now you’ve transformed. So I think that’s a very important thing to look at.

Conclusion and recap

Tom Carpenter: Well guys, thank you so much for coming and talking to us and our listeners today about how to consider technology appropriately in a digital transformation.

Tom Carpenter: Just a quick recap then. So we spoke initially about where to start with tech selection, and also how to select technology in digital transformation in the right way. Then we spoke a little bit with you about how to deliver it in an effective manner.

Tom Carpenter: What happens if you’re in a kind of shock or force situation such as a pandemic. And what to think about post the transformation.

Tom Carpenter: Hopefully you enjoyed this podcast. Please do listen to some of the other podcasts in the series.

Tom Carpenter: It’s been great speaking with you guys today, so thank you so much to Chris Moray and Lindsay.

Moray Busch: Bye-bye

Lindsay Cameron: Bye

Chris McIvor: Bye

This podcast series started with four key areas to think about to ensure a successful digital transformation. This episode gave a deep dive into 4/4: how to consider technology in digital transformation. You can listen to 1/4: ‘Why is considering customer experience in digital transformation essential?’, 2/4: How to consider the business in a digital transformation, and 3/4: ‘Key considerations of digital transformation: organisation‘ now. If you’d like to speak to Tom, Lindsay, Moray or Chris about anything discussed, please get in touch!

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