Understanding Digital Transformation with Claudia Meyer-Scott
PUBLISHED: JUNE 2019
Claudia Meyer-Scott, until recently Chief People Officer at Clarasys, has more than 20 years’ experience in consulting and managing the delivery of complicated business transformations.
In advance of two forthcoming webinars with Kimble, she answers some questions below.
Q & A with Claudia Meyer-Scott
What do you think are the most important factors in successful digital transformation?
For me, one of the keys is defining the problem you are trying to solve and turning it into the desired outcome. Often a decision to go digital is taken at the executive level by the CIO or the CEO and considers mainly the technology – it is about ticking that box. More importantly it should be about understanding the whole picture and defining the why and what you are trying to achieve.
When we go into companies, we like to talk to people at all levels to understand where they are at today and how they are working to identify the gaps on how they could do that better. Successful digital transformation is not just about the tech and data, it is mainly about the people and how their behaviours and the processes have to change.
Delivering the transformation in an agile way is another key factor. We like to provide value quickly, in smaller chunks and to continuously iterate our approach based on lessons learnt. This allows us to move swiftly and to deliver outcomes or value in order of priority.
In smaller companies, it is often easier to collaborate with all the parties frequently and to prioritise in a more agile way. In larger companies there is still resistance when it comes to agile ways of working. Even getting the right people around the table can be very slow. With other delivery approaches, for example waterfall, often by the time they you have defined the problem, the market, people or technology has already moved on.
A third factor is the purpose and values of a company and how much the behaviours of the employees reflect them. Are they still fit for purpose to enable the outcome you defined or want to achieve with your digital transformation? If you want to transform your business digitally to empower your employees to drive the customer experience then the technology is one ingredient. The main ingredients for success however are made up out of guidelines or principles, processes, data and people’s behaviours.
To get the best out of your digital transformation you need to consider what’s best for your business, and for your employees as well as the customer.
What are some of the barriers to successful digital transformation?
Sometimes the leadership of the company, the range of people who sit on the board, is not diverse enough – by that I don’t mean just gender and background. For example they might be all people of a similar age and experience, they may have been working together for years and are not considering all of the possibilities that digital transformation could create.
We have seen that recently in the political sphere – in Germany there was a row about a young man who uploaded a YouTube video that went viral just before the European elections. Critics said it showed that the CDU’s media strategy was outdated and rather than addressing the points he raised they were faced with trying to determine how to best respond to the digital challenge. For me it was a pretty clear sign that they haven’t moved with the times.
Organizations have to be alert to address the now as well as ‘predict’ what will happen in the future. They need to be flexible and agile. If you identify a problem you have to find the best solution that will help but ideally you foster ideas to help you to be ahead of the pack and innovate / predict the future.
For instance, at Clarasys, I identified we had an issue with growing our people through individual feedback – not just praise but learning dialogues where constructive feedback leads to new goals for that person. We implemented a software solution which enabled people to share feedback. The software itself was far from perfect and we also had the people-behaviour challenge to manage. However we decided to just kick it off. So now we can not only iterate to enhance and tailor the technology to what we need, we are also slowly changing people’s behaviour. Changing behaviours takes a long time and the tool at least enables us to tackle the challenge one step or goal at a time.
So don’t over-design, over-develop or wait for the perfect solution … once you have a workable solution try things and accept that not everything works exactly as you might want it to immediately. The beauty of this approach is that you can also consider more ideas from your people too.
Has Germany been slow to embrace digital transformation? If so, why?
I think so. Remember the slogan ‘Vorsprung Durch Technik’? At one time, German companies were known for leading the way in terms of tech innovation. But now they seem more on the back foot – or at least it seems to be companies in the US and China which are leading the field. There are of course exceptions.
There may have been some complacency. Maybe based on their success, German companies take the: ‘it if ain’t broke, why fix it’ approach. But be prepared for a surprise from your competitors. I recall the CEO of Blockbuster dismissing and laughing about Netflix – a couple of years later, they were putting up the shutters, and Netflix had become one of the most influential entertainment companies in the world.
Or take the traditional banks – did they predict the challenger banks’ success? These were able to provide a much more seamless and digital experience which most customers embraced and valued more than having access to a branch.
Some of the limitations may also be reliant on great partnerships – for example fast trains that are on time are no longer enough for most passengers to have a good customer experience. WiFi / phone signal are seen as essential.
Germany has a reputation for quality. The world of digital transformation has been very fast moving. I feel that German companies are now beginning to understand how digital transformation drives the customer experience and how the employee experience is also directly linked to a good customer experience. That is changing the world.