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Europe’s tech leaders share their Digital Transformation secrets

The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown into sharp relief the difference in flexibility and resilience between those companies that are digitally capable and those that are not. Michael Chalmers, MD EMEA at Contino, who produced the company’s recent report alongside TLA, says that in 2021, many expect Digital Transformation to accelerate as the ability to pivot and stay flexible in an unpredictable world becomes business priority. We hear from experts across Europe to find out how they think business leaders should be powering innovation success.

Successful Digital Transformation requires three things: a clear vision; solid alignment of technology with the business; and a powerful effort to bring your staff on the change journey with you.

But who can vouch for this approach? Some of Europe’s most impactful CIOs, CTOs and business innovators have shared their secrets to successful transformation in a recent report; Top 20 Digital Transformation Innovators: Europe, 2021.

Transformation consultancy, Contino, and Tech London Advocates (TLA) interviewed 20 top innovators, representing a diverse range of businesses, from O2 to Compass Group, Nationwide to Green Flag and Sainsbury’s to Best Food Logistics.

The aim: to discover the solutions and strategies they used to achieve real business outcomes, helping to change mindsets, introduce new processes and redefine their business’ digital capabilities for the better. Below, see four key secrets shared by these influential business leaders on how to power innovation success:

  1. Align your transformation goals with those of the business

Now more than ever, organisations are seeing the value in Digital Transformation but not all transformations are successful. In order to produce real business results, your transformation and technology goals must be fully integrated with the business goals and priorities of the organisation.

Debra Bailey, CIO at O2, for example, ensured that business strategies are informed by technologists and that technology choices are always driven by business outcomes. Bailey worked to create a new operating model that focuses on people and processes as much as it does technology. Within a year, O2 reached its 10% targeted lift in speed-to-value and expects to hit 25% and 75% by the end of 2022 and 2024, respectively.

In a similar vein, Fumbi Chima, former Global CIO at Adidas, created ‘true’ product teams in which business and technology are fully integrated, sharing exactly the same KPIs and accountable to deliver outcomes together. Similarly, at AXA Switzerland, Board Member and former Chief Transformation and Market Management Officer, Carola Wahl, established a new team of around 30 data scientists who were physically distributed across the business to support digitisation of the core business and the creation of new disruptive ecosystems. This worked to collapse the siloes between IT and the business.

  1. Win over the hearts and minds of the team to succeed

The world is changing rapidly and technology is key to staying agile and flexible as the business landscape continues to shift at a rapid rate. Taking big risks to stay at the cutting edge of your industry is vital, according to Anne Marie Neatham, Partnerships Director at Ocado. While Neatham’s organisation was already successful, it saw that its future ambitions would be limited unless it took a leap to re-platform its entire tech stack. Neatham’s advice is to give your people ownership and allow them to take reasonable risks.

But even the most revolutionary strategies won’t float without the support of those around you: other leaders, employees and customers. Relentless education is needed to help industry leaders to fully grasp the transformative potential of disruptive technologies, according to Digital Transformation Leader and Blockchain Evangelist at BNP Paribas, Dean Demellweek.

Calls to take your teams with you on the transformation journey are echoed by Matt Davis, Head of Cloud Engineering at Lloyds Banking Group, who made sure to involve the security and control teams early on in the development of a cloud-native engineering platform at Lloyds. Davis highlights that it’s not just about building the technologies, but about building systems that engineers want to use and can scale as the transformation journey progresses.

Once the team is on board, the transformation can progress quickly. Shakeel Butt, CTO at Green Flag, started with a tech team of six and scaled this up to 100. On the way, he convinced the entire company to go agile – and now even HR is working to fortnightly sprints, like the product development teams. Similarly, when Nationwide’s CIO, Gary Delooze, joined the Building Society in 2017 to help rebuild its technology capability and break its dependence on third parties, it often took six or seven hand-offs to get one task done. Now, with a unified and capable IT team, he claims that culture has been the success factor or blocker for everything the company has done.

  1. Embrace public cloud, automation and data

The public cloud is widely acknowledged to be the workhorse of modern Digital Transformation. It provides the scale, power and flexibility required to rapidly add capabilities, deliver services and create products.

Central to Compass Group’s Digital Transformation, Jon Braithwaite, Chief Information Officer, UK & Ireland, developed a comprehensive cloud- and data-led strategy that enabled swift and effective action, leading to great results.

The ability to automate and standardise processes before scaling them across a business is the bread and butter of Digital Transformation. Chris Zissis, Global Chief Information & Technology Officer – Capital Markets and Valuation Advisory at JLL, a global commercial real estate company, shares the company’s approach to integrating its fragmented tech and data stack and automating and digitising core business processes end-to-end. The result was a sophisticated global tech platform and peerless digital capability.

The most common method of generating additional revenue streams was to turn to data. Paul Whyte helped turn Best Food Logistics, a previously loss-making food logistics company operating the supply chains for some of the UK’s best-loved chain restaurants, into a powerful data aggregator, utilising Big Data and cloud-based reporting to optimise deliveries and provide exceptional customer service. The company has subsequently grown and improved commercial rates and was acquired by Booker Group, a Tesco subsidiary.

  1. Actively foster flexibility and resilience that fits you and your company

Even the most monolithic of organisations can work towards the same flexibility as agile, modern startups. Not all transformations will be quick, but their impact upon an organisation’s ability to react faster in the future is worth the ‘hard slog’, as Matthew Griffin, Head of Commercial Telecommunications at TFL puts it. His talent lies in the ability to slowly but surely edge mammoth projects forward in the midst of an enormous, complex network of demanding stakeholders. The travelling public expect no corners cut.

For Hima Mandali, Chief Technology Officer at Solarisbank, the effect of keeping things simple, flexible and independent at the organisation has paid off as customer Vivid Money, a German challenger bank, was able to build a whole new bank from scratch in just five months. And when Carola Wahl began at AXA, there were a huge 400 transformation initiatives in play, which Wahl whittled down to 10. Her advice is to choose a few breakthrough initiatives every year and stay focused.

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