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The future of the organisation 4

The future of the organisation 4

Digital is no longer a nice-to-have as business is fundamentally digital. Moving traditional business to compete with new platforms will require different types of investment strategies, measurement techniques and some brave decision making, to compete with new market entrants. The technical skills and leadership required will also be different, and leadership will be ever more critical to steer the ship forward

For my fourth article in "The future of the organisation" article series, I am delighted to speak with Maz Hussain, Head of Digital Innovation, who leads KPMG’s Digital practice for Corporates Consulting, about building a digital culture within an organisation.

Why does a digital operating model matter?

I think it is less a question of ‘why does a digital operating model matter?’, and more of a question of ‘do you want to do business in today’s world?’ If the answer to the latter question is ‘yes’, then you need to be thinking digitally. You need to be thinking about how technology is inter-sectioning the business that you do in the market and then how you embrace that technology to enable yourself to be more successful in the things that you do.

This digital operating model is quite a hard shift for businesses that have been around for a long time. What are the challenges when moving to a new digital operating model for those with traditional legacy structures?

First is decision-making, because it is a real challenge deciding what to focus on as you’re evolving into this new model. Second is processes. Existing processes in old organisations are often cumbersome and they cut across verticals. The final is pace. People are used to working in a certain way, and today they are being asked to learn new technologies and try something new. That is really accelerating the pace in which we have to work.

With challenges, there are a number of opportunities there as well.

Absolutely. There are huge opportunities to play for such as the ability to go faster, scale quickly, work more efficiently, but most importantly being able to innovate into new markets.

What does an organisation need to think about when moving to a digital operating model?

Organisations are thinking at two levels. The first is the foundation level and it has three key components:

  • Data - understanding your data and how you’re going to harvest and manage your data.
  • People - ensuring you’re educating your people about digital - what it means, and how they can embrace it and become more digitally enabled. 
  • Ecosystem - building an ecosystem of partners that you can work and collaborate with is the way we’re seeing the most success in the market.

What is the second layer you talked about?

That is the softer part. There is the mind-set and thinking about how you go after these things. Having an experimental mind-set within your organisation is absolutely critical. However, with that comes failure. When you are experimenting, you need to be open to trying new things and accepting the fact that it might not work but, actually, learn from that. The final thing is focus. It is really easy to get lost in trying to do everything. Having a focus on where you’re going to exert your energies is paramount.

Digital is naturally associated with fast-paced things moving at speed, but actually even in our TMT businesses, they are still grappling with historic legacy structures. How does an organisation deal with this?

There’s no single answer to this. This is all very new to most people. A couple of things I suggest.

  • Focus. Focusing your energy on high-value interventions that are linked directly to your business goals. 
  • Building teams. Building teams of multidisciplinary unorthodox teams that cut across the verticals of your organisation and are focused completely on creating value for your organisation.
  • Education. It’s all about lifting the level of knowledge and expertise individuals have about digitalisation, and how it fits with the work that they do day-to-day.

From your practical experience, what are the critical success factors in moving along this digital journey?

Well, we have not perfected this because we are learning, and all of this is new. However, one of the things I’m noticing is priority overload - getting focused on what you’re going to focus your energies on. At the moment I’m working with a client where they’ve got 500 initiatives that are digital initiatives, and we’ve just helped them downsize that to 12 priority projects that the organisation is going to focus on for the next 12 months.

The other is the culture. It is easy agreeing with your board that you are going to invest in technology and get this stuff going. However, embedding that technology and realising the value is the difference between being successful or failing. What we are finding is organisations should be thinking about equal investment in people as they are in actual technology.

What skills do digital leaders need in today’s world in order to be successful?

They are more superpowers, actually. First is the ability to learn, so learning to learn. We need to now prime that skill again. Being experimental in their mind-sets and open to trying out new things is a really big deal. Curiosity is one thing that you have got to open up to because things just don’t work the way they did. Finally, being open to learn and be curious about these things is fundamental.

I guess there’s also being willing to try new things.

Absolutely, yes, as well as not knowing the answers to everything - being able to just go into something and feel easy about the fact that you’re going to learn for the first time, and coming out of those learnings being able to recall them and share them.

How are we supporting organisations that are in their digital transformation journeys at the moment?

It is a really exciting time. We are doing some interesting work. Firstly, around the focus, we are helping organisations think about their portfolio based on their business goals, prioritise that and focus on their high-value interventions and get going on that journey.

The other is experimentation. Setting up squads that are both functional and technological in nature, and going after solving some of those big issues that our clients are facing.

Finally is scale. Today we have real focus on how we get each of those experiments and then lift and realise the end-to-end value on each of those opportunities.

Watch the next interview: