Welcome to The Week in Digital Transformation, our weekly round-up of newsworthy developments, research and ideas from the realm of digital transformation.
This week, we’ve got digital transformation case studies from BAI Communications and General Electric – one good, one not-so-good – plus two separate pieces which look at the human side of public sector digital transformation.
Plus, we look at why JPMorgan is going all-in on blockchain, and why data analytics is the lifeblood of digital transformation.
(Remember to come along to the Digital Transformation Stage, hosted by Econsultancy, at Festival of Marketing 2018 on October 10 & 11 for inspirational digital transformation case studies and insight into best practices.)
Why digital transformations fail: Lessons from the decline of General Electric
Digital transformation case studies are many and varied (we cover at least one in this roundup every week), but most tend to be success stories – or at least, tend to focus on the benefits of digital transformation along with the challenges.
However, stories of failure can be just as instructive (if a bit of a downer). This week, IT Pro Portal published a dissection of the implosion of General Electric’s digital transformation strategy and what we can take away from it.
A few years ago, General Electric embarked on a huge digital transformation plan that was intended to build software capabilities that drive business differentiators and ROI across supply chains, transportation and power – and save billions of dollars in operating costs. Instead, the company’s revenue nosedived from close to $124 billion in 2017 to a projected $12 billion in 2020. Its CEO, Jeff Immelt, resigned late last year, and his successor John Flannery is pursuing a much more cautious version of the company’s digital strategy.
What went so badly wrong? The article, by Vamsi Chemitiganti,Chief Strategist at Platform9 Systems, highlights four major problems that can bring down even the best-laid digital transformation plans: a lack of business focus on solving quantifiable challenges, pigeonholing technology investments, holding back developers, and a lack of experimentation along the way.
He concludes with a list of recommendations for businesses embarking on digital transformation, based on his experience working with clients at Platform9 Systems, a hybrid cloud SaaS solution. Unsurprisingly, these recommendations include a focus on cloud architectures and solutions. While not the be-all and end-all of digital transformation advice, they’re useful points to bear in mind – as are the pitfalls of the ill-fated General Electric.
Blockchain is a key landmark on JPMorgan’s digital transformation roadmap
Over in the banking sector, a new report published this week lays out the steps being taken by JPMorgan Chase to digitally transform and stay ahead of the curve in the competitive banking sector.
Cointelegraph has the low-down on the report, ‘Digital Transformation and Fintech Strategies of JPMorgan Chase’, published by ResearchAndMarkets.com. The 52-page report enumerates the “bleeding-edge” technologies being pursued by JPMorgan in a bid to become a leading digital bank and fight off the threat of fintech start-ups – foremost among which is blockchain.
Cointelegraph notes that JPMorgan’s senior executives have blown hot and cold on cryptocurrencies, with CEO Jamie Dimon making numerous anti-Bitcoin remarks, but Co-President Daniel Pinto stating that the bank was “looking into” Bitcoin earlier this year, indicating a willingness to invest in the technology.
Either way, the bank’s stance on blockchain seems to be more clear-cut: just last week, the Financial Times reported [paywall] that JPMorgan had expanded its blockchain payment platform to more than 75 banks “in what could be the regulated banking industry’s largest application of the distributed ledger technology underpinning cryptocurrencies”. The report by ResearchAndMarkets.com sheds light onto how these new ventures fit into JPMorgan’s overall digital transformation roadmap.
Altogether, JPMorgan has allocated $10.8 billion for technology spending in 2018, $5 billion of which is earmarked for fintech investments – giving it plenty of resources to funnel into the next generation of payments technology for banks.
How BAI Communications is tackling digital transformation
BAI Communications is a designer, builder and operator of communications infrastructure – cellular, Wi-Fi, radio, broadcast and IP networks – with presences in New York, Toronto, the UK, Hong Kong and Australia.
While this might sound like the opposite of glamorous and exciting, it hasn’t held the company back from pursuing an impressively ambitious digital transformation programme. Gigabit Magazine published an in-depth profile this week of BAI Communications’ digital transformation strategy, and how the company set out to “realign the perception of IT” within the business, and move its technology to the cloud.
Gigabit describes how Peter Turnbull, the CIO of BAI Communications who joined the business a year before it embarked on its digital transformation strategy, realised that the biggest challenge ahead of him was a cultural one:
“Like many traditional IT organisations, IT operated as a service provider with a contract to ‘the business’. Switching this mindset and moving the conversation from ‘IT and the business’ to ‘IT is part of the business’ that continues to enable, but also contributes to business strategy, has been fundamental.”
BAI’s digital transformation is founded on four pillars: infrastructure overhaul, building a modern workplace, data and information management, and the progressive transformation of business capabilities. Gigabit’s profile describes in detail how BAI is tackling each one, from the technology stack it has built to the devices and software it uses to enable collaboration across international timezones.
The description of how BAI Communications’ used a combination of digital whiteboards and Skype to hold meetings that employees could attend anywhere is particularly intriguing, as are the details of its “Choose Your Own Device” workstation scheme, and the Yammer communities it created to answer employee queries about the business. The piece is an instructive read for anyone looking for ideas on how to enable more digital ways of working within their business, as well as an interesting case study in digital transformation from the communications sector.
The human factor: Five case studies in public sector transformation
Vast numbers of people are employed in public sector jobs worldwide, with public sector organisations making up six of the ten largest employers in the world. We’ve covered a variety of public sector digital transformation developments and case studies in previous weekly round-ups, demonstrating that digital transformation concerns the public sector as much as it does the private sector.
Yet in spite of this, precious little research has been carried out into the effect of governmental digital transformation on the people who deliver it, as Sami Mahroum, Senior Lecturer at INSEAD business school, pointed out this week. To remedy this, INSEAD’s expert opinion and management insights portal INSEAD Knowledge partnered with Ernst & Young to carry out an in-depth study of five major digital transformation projects in five different countries.
From the introduction of a new online portal in Abu Dhabi, to the modernisation of the federal tax system in Russia, to the creation of a secure public services payment platform in Italy, the study set out to capture the experiences of the individuals and teams responsible for delivering huge and ambitious digital projects, using rich pictures and journey mapping techniques.
Mapping the journeys of each country’s digital transformation project
Mahroum’s summary lists six key lessons that emerged from the study by INSEAD and EY, including the fact that digital transformation teams consist mostly of “maverick” risk-takers, but always need a small number of risk-averse traditionalists in order to get things done. Or the fact that the strong team bond generated by adversity can create a “uniqueness bias” that leaves teams prone to viewing their projects as unique and superior, and prevents them from learning from others.
The piece and the report are an important reminder not to lose sight of the fact that, although digital transformation might be enabled in large part by technology, it depends on people to carry it out successfully.
How to build better digital services teams
Speaking of people power: on Wednesday Digital HKS, an initiative of the Harvard Kennedy School (HKS), published the third instalment in its series of takeaways from a convention of digital services teams from around the world at HKS in June.
The blog post, published to Medium, explores how to build better government digital services teams and overcome challenges like finding qualified hires, building a diverse team, and breaking down silos within public service organisations.
Author Matt Spector lists four ways to build more effective digital services teams: hire diverse teams reflective of their user base, recruit members with consultative and management skills, elevate digital competencies as critical roles within ministries, and broadcast achievements in culture change.
He also predicts that if digital services can successfully influence the culture of other government departments, in the future we may well see them deploy their own independent agile digital service teams, leading to digital transformation at greater scale across government.
The key to digital transformation: Data analytics
As usual, we conclude our roundup with a reprise of our regular feature, “the key to digital transformation”. This week, Enterprise Mobility Exchange highlights the importance of data analytics to digital transformation.
“Data analytics is often the driving force for those organizations embarking on a digital transformation,” writes editor Steve Lerner. He notes its importance to key components of digital transformation such as cloud computing and the Internet of Things.
The benefits of data analytics are too numerous to mention, but Lerner specifically mentions its value in managing the flow of ingredients on an assembly line in supply chains, as well as their role in aiding enterprise automation processes by providing insight into when a machine or system will fail.
As for the drawbacks, the biggest challenge posed by data analytics is the need for interpretation and organisation by employees (though AI is increasingly stepping into that role). Additionally, Lerner notes, “In some enterprises, that additional data is only beneficial if it is acquired, organized, and shared in real-time” – a challenging endeavour which can require the use of cutting-edge emerging technologies like edge computing.