Digital Transformation vs. Technological Change with Catherine Schoendorff
PUBLISHED: JUNE 2019
With three decades of experience in successful and sometimes disruptive business and cultural transformations, Catherine Schoendorff is a recognized senior advisor in digital transformation and technological change for businesses. In advance of two forthcoming webinars with Kimble, she answers some questions below.
Q & A with Catherine Schoendorff
You make an important distinction between transformation and change – what would you say is the difference?
Change has a final destination that’s already been determined – there is a plan, there is a road map that leads to a specific destination: “This is how you can get to X outcome”.
But in a transformation, you don’t necessarily have a final point. It’s an ongoing process. Transformation is a journey, and you have to bring everyone along on the journey. Transformation is exciting. It involves creativity and innovation. It also involves communication – you talk to the stakeholders – customers, partners, employees, etc. You work together to evaluate all the possibilities.
But If you don’t know exactly where you are going – how do you make sure you are going to a better place than where you started?
This is where your vision and your core values come in. You need to ensure that the possibilities you embrace are consistent with your core values as an organization and with corporate responsibility. For instance, algorithms can surface bias – but they can also perpetuate it. You have to consider the ethical implications of the technology you adopt. There are all kinds of uses of technology, some good, some not so good. Robots, AI, ML or Deep Learning can be a great help to humans – but there are many decisions that only humans should make.
How do transformation and change work together?
There is a complex interaction between transformation and change. Once you have looked at the possibilities currently offered by digital transformation and begun to embrace this process, from an organization point of view this becomes a series of changes. The transformation happens in a series of steps and each step is a change project.
There is also a complex relationship between the leadership and the workforce. Communication is very important so that the end users understand the value of each step.
New technology constantly throws up the possibility of a sort of explosive change which alters the individual’s experience of the workplace. For instance, collaborative workplace technology may offer consultants the ability to pick and choose the work they do, according to what is the best fit for their skills or how they want to develop their careers. People always have to be asking at every level, how can we use this new technology to create more visibility and transparency?
It is sometimes argued that German companies have been slow to embrace the possibilities of digital transformation. Do you think this is true and if so why?
Yes, I do think this is true. I would say there is a cultural difference between the US and Germany. In the US, people are more willing to try things – if something turns out to be a flop, they turn over the page and start again from scratch. In Germany, people are more cautious, they are more precise. They want to know all the details before they start.
However, I think German companies are now embracing digital transformation. They are seeing the benefits, in terms of the economics, in terms of increased productivity. For example, Siemens is developing its invent the Internet of Things with MindSphere.
How are Professional Service organizations being transformed?
Many consulting and other PS organizations still operate today pretty much the same way as they did 10 years ago. But now they have the possibility of creating much more visibility and transparency.
We are beginning to understand the value of that. For instance, having complete visibility of the financials around each project from sales to delivery is going to become an absolute must-have for any consulting organization that wants to grow and expand.