Five things I’ve learnt about our digital future
  • Lisa Heneghan, Partner |
5 min read

I was delighted to co-host KPMG’s recent virtual event, where we looked at how organisations could embrace our digital future with confidence. The 1,200 business leaders who attended the event heard from a range of CxOs, technologists and thought leaders. I hope like me, the event gave them a clearer idea of how they can meet the challenges ahead and really harness digital effectively to build resilience and drive growth.

I left the event with many of my own thoughts reaffirmed. I also left with some powerful new insights. I’ll be taking these on board in my own role of driving forward KPMG’s digital transformation and supporting our clients with theirs.

Here are my five key takeaways from the event.

We need to move fast

My co-host at the event, Adrian Clamp, our Head of Digital Transformation, shared some interesting stats from research we commissioned from Forrester Consulting. Over two-thirds (67%) of respondents had accelerated their digital transformation as a result of COVID-19. A similar proportion (63%) had increased their digital transformation budgets.

It was a story that rang true with our guests on the day. David Duffy, CEO of Virgin Money, shared that his company had harnessed digital to deliver new services in weeks where before it would normally have taken years. That’s been our own experience at KPMG too, as we have implemented new collaboration tools and achieved 100% adoption within weeks.

The pandemic has illustrated how quickly we can all innovate and implement digital solutions. But I agree with many of our guest speakers who pointed out that this is just the start. We need to keep up the pace of our digital transformations and create working environments that support continuous change. Now’s also a time to take stock, move on from an immediate reaction to COVID-19 and develop digital strategies that will help us make the most of the opportunities that technology can unlock.

Don’t look back, look ahead

During our first plenary session of the day, hosted by Oliver Shah, of The Sunday Times, Lord Karen Bilimoria, President of the CBI asked whether we’d be going back to the old days. The unanimous answer was that we would not.

Director of Foresightfully, Eleanor Winton’s words resonated with me when she said we shouldn’t just seek to preserve value, we should seek to create it. And IBM’s Tosca Colangeli summed it up well when she said she hoped that we’d take the best of what we’ve learnt and actually make ‘normal’ something different.

There was a word we heard throughout the day that explains what that new normal might mean for how we work: hybrid and a clear consensus that our digital future would see us using digital and virtual tools to get the best from collaborating in-person and online.

Put the customer first

The new normal will also see an even greater focus on customer-centricity. Many of our 12 breakout sessions provided insights into how technology could help in overcoming specific customer challenges. Part of that is its role in seamlessly connecting the front, middle and back office. In a discussion about the future role of the CIO and CDO, we heard how technology is breaking down silos, and enabling collaboration, innovation and streamlined customer service.

I also believe that delivering greater customer-centricity in our digital future is going to require greater collaboration between different businesses. So, in our future of mobility breakout, it was great to hear how businesses from so many sectors – automotive, energy, technology, retail – could  converge into supportive ecosystems, putting the end-customer at the forefront and using technology to bring everything together.

It’s not just about technology, it’s about people too

When we think about digital transformation, we inevitably think about the technology. But what came across strongly at the event was the importance of people in all this.

Lord Karan Bilimoria made the point that ensuring people are upskilled and re-skilled will be vital as technology keeps developing. I couldn’t agree more. It’s why we’ve established Digital Ninjas in KPMG.

Now, whenever a ‘digital native’ joins KPMG they become a Digital Ninja, helping other employees get the most from digital collaboration tools. The initiative is helping engage new employees who’ve joined virtually during lockdown. It’s helping improve our digital skills. And it’s also helping engage everyone with the digital agenda. That’s key as, for many, digital transformation is going to mean a fundamental change to working culture.

What will that culture look like? We heard that when you’re seeking to innovate fast you need to acknowledge that sometimes things might not work out. That means creating an environment where it’s okay to fail. Tim Payne, who leads our People Consulting services for the Financial Services sector, made an interesting point here though. The cycle of experimenting, testing and learning has to deliver at some point and that takes, as Tim put it, ‘brutal prioritisation’ from leaders to ensure resources aren’t wasted.

To navigate constant change, we need purpose

The final session of our virtual event posed the question: How do you lead your team through digital transformation? For me, the key message here was the importance of having a strong purpose. Tim talked about leaders having a North Star to follow. Purpose provides that – something that your people and customers can believe in.

We now need to reassess that purpose and make sure it’s fit for the future. When we’re plotting our digital journeys, we should look at the bigger picture – at factors like climate change, corporate trust and diversity.

When it comes to diversity, gender equality in IT is a passion of mine. But we also need to be focusing on ethnicity and neurodiversity. Having different perspectives will help us innovate more effectively and harness the full value of technology.  

I’d like to leave you with a point that Eleanor Winton made when talking about the skills we need as leaders of digital transformation: curiosity is key.

If you couldn’t attend ‘Our Digital Future’ and you’re curious to find out what you missed, you can listen to many of the sessions from the day on demand.

And please do get in contact if you’d like to discuss your own digital transformation.