They are among the world's leading practitioners, protagonists and researchers of digital transformation — Didier Bonnet, Ray Wang, Kristine Dery, Gerd Schenkel and Bill Ruh. And for the launch of Digital Nation Australia, we brought them all together to interrogate the key learnings of a decade's worth of digital transformation in a unique mini-documentary.
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Digital transformations are not characterised by the kind of creaking incrementalist gains often delivered by traditional technology projects, with which they are too often incorrectly compared.
Instead, when we spoke to some of the world’s leading experts they stressed the need to deeply embed cultural change, scale up the use of workplace productivity tools, acquire and reskill new capabilities – and be prepared to keep doing so because change never ends. It simply accelerates.
The review of the impact of a decade’s worth of digital transformation, topped off since the start of 2020 with a huge acceleration in innovation fed by the COVID disruption, we spoke to researchers, management consultants, CEOs and other C-suite executives here and around the world.
Lendlease Digital CEO Bill Ruh demonstrated the scope of changes required. “We're completely revamping, and modernising. We're prepared to really help the business transform, that means moving to 100 per cent Cloud, getting out of our eight data centres, migrating our applications on top of it, and then building out our infrastructure on this modern set of capabilities."
The company believes it can cut the time taken to design some builds from more than a year and a half to just a few months, improve customer experiences by analysing the billions of data points with increasingly digital buildings, generate – and importantly operate them securely in an age when physical infrastructure is coming under attack from cybercriminals and state-sponsored actors.
“Through digital twin technology, the idea that you have a twin of the building, know everything that's going on, and now begin to respond in real-time to events. Usually, those responses are measured in months, not days, not weeks – months before you go take action, whereas you're now taking action immediately."
Lendlease will be able to provide more liveable spaces, he said. “So cut the costs of design, open up the opportunity for these environments to be better operated, more efficient, more pleasant places to be.”
Both Kristine Dery, Researcher, MIT CISR, and Ray Wang the CEO of Constellation Research stress the critical importance of culture – and leadership by boards and executive teams.
A willingness to try and then to fail, but not to be discouraged by failure is important, says Dery But it is not something that comes easily or naturally to many businesses.
“It’s not learned overnight. And it's very hard when you've got senior leadership and a board that is still working a lot around the old ways of thinking – command and control."
Wang meanwhile described the misdirected incentives for large incumbent businesses that are created by their shareholders.
“Your investors are taking your cash while telling you to compete on EBITDA. They're taking that same cash and investing in your future competitors, who will beat the crap out of you. That's why you're failing. That's the only reason you're failing. From a structural perspective. Now, the rest is up to you."
Didier Bonnet, Affiliate Professor of Strategy and Digital Transformation whose book Leading Digital (co-authored with Andrew McAfee and George Westerman from MIT) is considered a seminal work in the field of digital transformation, said the COVID disruption and particularly new ways of working stripped away some of the guardrails in corporations that impede innovation.
The very absence of a game plan and the constraints of business-as-usual fuelled innovation, he told Digital Nation. "Under constraints, people tend to be more innovative."
Gerd Schenkel, a partner at management consultant firm Kearny described three mistakes large enterprises often make with digital transformation.
These include; treating it as a traditional technology project, buying into vendor messaging that a platform replacement constitutes a complete transformation program, and relying too much on an individual leader while not driving change throughout the organisation.
Credit: This video was produced by Josh Lundberg, Matthew Ryan and Tejas Bhat