The pandemic has accelerated the digital transformation strategies of many a strategically languid organisation. This wake-up call from digital inertia has set leaders on the path of a decentralised approach to IT infrastructure, utilising networks, cloud and data to build a digital advantage.
Senior technology leaders gathered to discuss the post-pandemic journey of digital transformation and leadership, with Equinix and Matheson providing the stepping stones on the path to digital innovation and growth.
BUILDING DIGITAL ADVANTAGE
Matt George, Director of Enterprise Transformation EMEA at Equinix, set the scene for the key trends that are powering organisations to build digital advantage. The pandemic has illustrated the necessity of businesses to pivot, but digital transformation is not new: IT change was necessitated by key macro trends that were happening pre-pandemic. Underpinning these changes were changes in consumer behaviour, demographic shifts, and a data explosion. Those who had strong digital foundations proved more resilient than competitors during the pandemic with the ability to pivot and be one step ahead of those who are now forced to accelerate the transformation of their digital ecosystems. Equinix’s 2020-21 Global Tech Trends survey of IT leaders found that 80% of businesses are now prioritising digitisation with a 42% increase in IT infrastructure investment since the pandemic began.
In order for companies to build digital advantage through digitisation, leaders must prepare for four key shifts in IT transformation:
- The future of IT infrastructure is everywhere. Centralised IT is no longer fit for purpose.
- Future infrastructure is an ecosystem of partners. Cloud is not a singular solution, but part of a wider IT ecosystem.
- It’s a hybrid world. Companies are moving from a digital core to the edge. This is happening with AI, machine learning, real-time data analytics, e-commerce services, and now employees.
- Ecosystems are locally and privately beginning to interconnect. This fosters greater collaboration with those within the digital supply chain.
THE PATH TO DIGITAL LEADERSHIP
Tom Connor, Head of Digital Services at Matheson, then explained the path to digital leadership for Matheson. The legal sector has historically been slow on the journey to digital transformation. However, law firms and lawyers are facing increasing pressure to do more and expand their services with fewer resources. Matheson questioned how it would respond to industry change and changing client needs with a necessary strategic paradigm shift. In 2019, Matheson created the Digital Services Group (DSG) to fill the digital skills gap and create a multi-skilled organisational design for the company. This digital business unit was intended to create a digital strategy that aligned with the existing business strategy and values. The pillars of the strategy were identified as such:
- Generate revenue
- Process efficiency and productivity
- Service delivery
- New products and services
The strategy utilised people, technology, and processes in its approach to keep up with innovative technology and enable Matheson to continue to innovate for the benefit of its customers. The path to digital leadership is for Matheson to become the market leader of integrated legal and digital services by 2025 based upon this strategy.
FOLLOW THE LEADERS
Participants then entered breakout rooms to discuss the opportunities and challenges on the path to digital leadership:
The success of digitisation is dependent on the leaders. It was established that merely changing an organisation's physical environments and tools is not enough to truly launch an organisation to a position of digital advantage. There needs to be an adjustment in leadership style and organisational culture to remove legacy ways of working. Business objectives and strategy need to develop the agility to successfully navigate the journey of digitalisation which is indeed a two-fold process - that of an “operational and product portfolio change”. It was emphasised that building digital advantage is as much a people transformation as it is an infrastructure transformation. This transformation process is driven from the top-down necessitating knowledge and intent, and then the ability and confidence to implement the process.
Collaboration tools are extremely important. As employees are increasingly working remotely, there is a demand from employees that their leaders, and the decisions they are making, are more visible. There has been an integral shift in the power dynamics of organisations with hierarchies beginning to flatten and company cultures becoming more diplomatic. Employees want to be involved in the strategic direction of companies, and therefore, digital collaboration tools are integral to the success of leading remote teams. Many new employees and young people are more comfortable with working with digital tools. This allows employees to use their time more efficiently and become more productive in their output if leaders implement the use of these tools correctly.
The priority of digitisation is cost optimisation as opposed to cost-saving. The journey to digitisation focuses on cost optimisation rather than cost savings with the digitisation process not necessarily loading extra costs onto businesses. However, organisations in both the private and public sector are competing for funding for these initiatives. Although the pandemic has justified and accelerated these transformations, it still remains a financial challenge deciding on what transformation processes are the most necessary.
There is more trust in the increased safety and security of digitisation tools. Organisations have developed a trust and reliance on cloud technologies during the pandemic and there was an anticipation that more restricted and hesitant industries would soon inevitably follow this trend. Companies are still vulnerable to the danger of relying on the reputations of digitisation companies and tools as a determining factor of organisational trust. A focus on the simplicity and safety of these tools remain conditions of digitisation.
The pandemic has produced more positives than negatives when it comes to accelerating the digitisation process. “The risk appetite of companies has changed,” one member asserted. IT managers are now given more freedom to implement digital transformation strategies and the funds to update IT infrastructure, although this peaked during the height of the pandemic and is beginning to wane somewhat. Overall, there was an optimistic perception of the impact of the pandemic accelerating digital leadership and producing a momentum that participants wished to maintain.
People are still stuck in a waterfall mindset. The greatest challenge of successfully cultivating an agile organisational culture is accurate adoption across all facets of the business - not just the technology departments. It was stated that there is too much of a focus on “the rituals of agile” which do not make an organisation truly agile. Agile opens up options for organisations to discover new things with the opportunity to fail and quickly “turn something off”. Being truly agile is utilising short-term tests and feedback loops, and crucially, allowing time for these improvements to be implemented.
This event was in partnership with Equinix, a digital infrastructure company that specialises in internet connection and data centres.