18-20 November, 2019
Sheraton Stockholm Hotel, Stockholm, Sweden

The 4 Drivers of Digital Transformation by SSON

Today’s enterprises are targeting digital transformation to remain competitive, viable, and successful in an increasingly digitalised marketplace.

While digitalisation is generally associated with technology, that is, in truth, only one of the levers that drive the enterprise forward. Successful transformation is still based on the holy trinity of people, process, and technology – but today these competencies are redefined for the digital ecosystem: “People” translates to a hybrid workforce in which value-adding human work is done alongside digital work (aka automation software or “the digital workforce”); “process” is managed end-to-end, starting beyond the walls of the enterprise; and “technology” translates to software that is automated, intelligent and able to react like a human (including machine learning and cognitive processing as well as the as-of-yet-little-understood-but-fast-approaching reality of artificial intelligence). Added to these three is a newcomer: Data – perhaps the key differentiator in the digital enterprise, fuelling smarter people, integrated processes and automated software.

Transformation: What Does It Mean?

Transformation is inevitable and necessary, but each enterprise is impacted differently. Giacomo Parato is Head of Digital Product Management and Solution Design at a Scandinavian Biotech company. The digital product, Giacomo explains, is today defined primarily through data-driven insights that can be monetised. It’s whatever has value for customers or the ecosystem. For example: “We have data scientists today figuring out wastewater solutions through technology, instead of traditional approaches focused primarily on lab work. And our solutions are increasingly delivered via applications that support the process via a user experience that reflects the one we are used in to in our private lives.”

Whatever the pressure to transform, pull or push, success will depend on getting people, process, technology and data right. These four factors enable transformation, but can also disrupt it. Here is how to make digital transformation work.

How to Drive Successful Digital Transformation

1. People & culture: Developing the future-fit workforce

The future workforce will be digitally aligned to the enterprise reality as well as external ecosystem to take advantage of all opportunities. Integration, cross-pollination, innovative thinking … these are all facets that make up the human workforce of tomorrow, as automation takes over the mundane and transactional work. 

Skill sets are shifting to automation and analytics, whereby the focus will be less on siloed expertise than on broadly integrated capabilities. The modern-day worker, in other words, needs to be well-versed in automation and analytics and thus able to identify opportunities across his or her own workspace. Automation will become everyone’s responsibility.  

The ‘Kaizen” philosophy of the past is effectively being reapplied in an automated, data-driven environment, empowering employees to take ownership of new tools at their disposal, and using digital workers to support humans in delivering more value-add. SSON’s 2019 survey highlights future success as being dependent on the ability of employees to understand the true nature of the work being done in order to come up with “innovative solutions and insights.” “Innovative thinking,” in fact, emerged as the biggest skills deficit today.

The challenge, therefore, is to cultivate the ‘right’ mindset and skillset that supports digital transformation. This means defining, implementing and leveraging a culture in which automation, analytics and seamless collaboration all go hand in hand. 

The driving force for cultural change is found more easily in recruiting new talent than it is by retraining existing talent. That, at least, is the experience of  Giacomo Parato in leading the digital reinvention of his business. A digital culture is down to people, he says, so you need to encourage a workforce that is comfortable with disruption. 

Many large organisations tend to have a mental block around this, says Giacomo, and find it difficult to transition from traditional business models based on face-to-face meetings and lots of human interactions, to a new way. “But that traditional approach misses a lot of insights that can be gained through social media and the Internet of Things,” he warns. “Customers want a different experience, but companies are struggling to deliver it. So that’s what we need to focus on: Embracing digital change.”

While training and communication have a role, the make or break of digital culture is down to hiring employees with different backgrounds, says Giacomo. “We’re not focussed on recruiting biotech experts as much as we are on recruiting people who have experience of start-ups or who have already gone through digital transformations. They bring diversity and boldness into our culture and are far more open to disruption.”

Effectively: the ‘hipsters’ of the modern corporate world.

Particularly valuable are product managers with a start-up background, he says. They don’t see transformation projects as IT implementations. Instead, they view them as business-enabling disrupters. “And that is how we should view this opportunity: As a start-up digital business.”

While resistance is inevitable, the best way to overcome it is by proving the business value of adding a digital layer to existing products, believes Giacomo. 

“You have to talk to the businesses in the language it understands, and that is revenue. So, wherever we can present data or results that prove the business value of digitalisation, we gain support,” he explains. “The short term may be painful and early transformation attempts might not succeed, but in the long term they will because we are all becoming digital natives.”

2. Re-evaluating “process” for the digital business

Agility and transparency are the name of the game in digital operations. What this means: Instead of addressing and optimizing separate parts of a process, the objective is to drive a seamless and integrated workflow end-to-end, whereas ‘integration’ delivers a lot of value.

To do so will require reviewing the process as is, to ensure it makes sense; then applying Process Discovery and Process Mining solutions to identify bottlenecks through visual heatmaps; and finally, automating what can be automated.

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