Driving digital transformation: Collaboration is key

Delhi roundtable

It might be the newest buzzword in industry, but do organizations understand what digital transformation really means? Have companies unravelled the secret to driving better outcomes at work using technology? At the last edition of the roundtables hosted by ServiceNow and organized by Jicara Media, a panel of top IT leaders came together in Delhi to provide insights into their digital transformation journeys and where they see the future of work heading.

Peter Doherty, Principal Solutions Consultant, APJ ServiceNow, kicked off the discussion by explaining that digital transformation means different things to different people. “The focus is on internal digital transformation of the organization. Has IT taken on a leadership role and been able to deliver?” he asked the panelists.

Decoding digital transformation

Jai Prakash Sharma, Executive Vice President – Technology Operations, Info Edge India Ltd, explained that his organization is an online classifieds company in the recruitment, matrimony, real estate and education space. “For us, digital transformation was more a question of defining the business problem first before we jumped in to solve it. Data, processes, automation are all tools that aid in problem-solving. In our recruitment business for instance, the ask of the job-seekers and recruiters has changed over the years. Yet the basic problem has remained – matching the right job to the candidate. We are trying to move away from a contextual search to a behavioural search. With digital transformation, the job should chase the right skills and hunt out the appropriate candidate instead of the reverse.”

Upkar Singh, Director IT, FIS said that at his Fintech services organization, the main drivers for digital transformation are increasing efficiency in the operating model and enhancing customer experience. “From the waterfall method, we moved to the agile method of deployment. With agile methodology we were able to deliver quicker solutions to our customers. We also redefined systems such that a developer also does security testing, and testers are also doing development. The gel between the teams is bringing a noticeable change at our workplace.”

For Achin Sharma, Group Manager – IT, Royal Enfield, the journey began with external transformation first, while Sumit Puri, Director – IT & Chief Information Officer, Information Technology, Max Healthcare Institute Limited is of the opinion that digital transformation is not about technology. “It’s about how digital technology can solve people problems. The idea of working in a siloed construct – that has to change.”

Prashant Mishra, Director IT Management – Digital Channels, Sales & Marketing Enablement, Aon, defined the process of digital transformation as involving two steps. “The first step is automation and the second step is digitisation. Digital transformation is when you move away from technology and go to the business and say – this is the problem and the business case – can I get some value out of it? Then go back to technology and ask IT whether they can design something around it.”

According to Vivek Saha, Digital Transformation Leader, Asia – Industry Digital Strategy & Consulting, DXC Technology, digital transformation meant changing the culture of his organization. “When I joined, my charter was digital transformation. I was told to drive the internal transformation first. That was a turning point for the organization. Digital transformation indicates an innovation culture where everyone thinks of digital. If you can’t take care of employees, the employees will not take care of you. You have to transform internally first and put that experience back to the client.”

Interconnect and integrate

Outdated processes and siloed constructs have to go in order to make way for transformation. But is there a way to successfully interconnect and integrate the disparate systems?

Achin Sharma elaborated that there is no clear-cut demarcation at his company between internal and external transformation. “Steve Jobs said that when you are introducing and sustaining a new product, you have to start from the customer lens and work backwards. You cannot put up a technology solution first and then think about customer. We started with the business KPIs first. We sat down with business and told them to tell us what they wanted to measure, map their systems and what they wanted to transform. Then we worked backwards with that information.”

Singh added that it is all about how well technology gels with requirements. “Else stakeholders will not support you in execution and approval. One also has to involve user experience. There has to be an ecosystem in place and team members can leverage their performance if they do well.”

Saha said that DXC Technology’s approach has been to listen to their clients. “The first thing we did was to ask the client what digital means. If he has a definition, as a service provider and as a business, you have to create a parlance in terms of what maturity he has. That maturity is his internal maturity.”

Sumit Puri, Chief Information Officer at Max Healthcare, added that one must just step back and understand why digital is becoming so important. “I think the big chance is that IT is no longer backend. It has started to generate revenues. This is why the outside perspective is important. One has to understand the customer and then measure internal processes.” ra

Future of the workplace

Does the focus on data and efficient processes mean job losses for employees? If that is true, what are the cultural and organizational changes that underpin the transformation process? Throughout history, there have been instances of protests against the perceived job losses due to automation. Rahul Joshi, Head of Content at Jicara Media, who moderated the roundtable, elaborated on the automation versus jobs debate that had its origins some 500 odd years ago with the riots in Paris over feared job losses with the first printing press and later, with the arrival of Henry Ford’s stage coach.

According to Puri, the key to addressing this is employee engagement. “Today nearly 70 per cent of employees are disengaged from work. Their hands are in the workplace but their hearts and minds are not there. Somewhere we have to start incentivising them. Collaboration is key and we have to start breaking the siloes”.

He added, “The future of the workplace will be different. Boundaries between sectors and functions will shrink and there will be a lot more orientation towards the customer. Only the customer-oriented companies will survive.”

According to Achin Sharma, workplaces will become boundary-less. “It will become location-agnostic. Enablement from backend will help the work get done seamlessly. One will be able to operate from anywhere in the world.”

“Hyper specialisation, sandboxing, connect and collaborate, these are some of the things we will see,” said Mishra. “Systems will prompt human beings.”

Saha felt that organizations will have data-driven KPIs and collaboration will be key to achieve the goals. He provided the example of Uber. “They don’t own taxis, they are not an IT organization, they run it from the public cloud without any liabilities. That is what the future of the workplace will look like,” he concluded.