#Consulting

Digital Transformation — Vantage points

Ali Hafizji
September 9, 2020

Change is inevitable in every walk of life so is the case with digital products. Customer preferences, usage patterns, and means of consumption have changed over time. Customers now want everything on their fingertips and want to be in control of their data.

Digital transformation, when done right, is the ability to provide products and services to users to meet their ever-changing needs at their pace of change.

Vantage Point

The COVID-19 lockdown has given me a chance to watch a number of movies on my bucket list. A recent one being Vantage Point. If you haven’t seen it before take some time and watch the trailer here.

It’s a story about the murder of a president viewed through 8 different witnesses. Each person views the shooting from a different vantage point and the movie has an interesting play of how they tie together.

This got me thinking about the different vantage points involved in the digital transformation of a business. What is the perspective of each stakeholder? What incentivizes them? and how they all align to make it successful?

Let’s take an example

For lack of a better example, let’s consider a large bank. While some traditional banks have grown over the years and have become giants, many of them haven’t changed their ways of operation, product offerings, processes of training staff, and still follow archaic methods. The technology boom combined with the changing customer needs has forced them to rethink their strategy in order for their business to still be relevant.

In India, the regulator allowed the creation of digital payment banks. These new players started chipping away part of the digital payments business of the traditional banking giants. There are other small fintech players nibbling at the traditional bank’s asset management business and many more such examples.

It’s time to think of a digital transformation strategy you might think!

Vantage Point — The board of directors

The board in any large organization is tasked to create a strategy for the business to gain more market share. They are answerable to their shareholders.

Investor sentiment plays a role in decision making at the board level. For successful large scale transformation, the board will need to gain investor trust. They need to ensure their investors that the moves they have planned and the expenses incurred are for the betterment of the business in the long term.

Members of the board are interested in creating strategies that ensure their product offering has a first-mover advantage. Their goal is to ensure their business continues to increase market share and most of all they want to increase their brand name and stay relevant. Ever thought of banks doing Tiktok ads?

Vantage Point — The CTO

The CTO is responsible for all the IT operations of the bank. The CTO is usually the person who is the thinker and the architect. He’s the most technically strong person in the organization. It’s his/her responsibility to ensure the digitization of all operations are done on time and in a cost-effective manner.

The CTO wants all digital products to be state of the art. He wants to make sure all teams lead by their respective VPs are ahead of the curve.

He may view a digital transformation as a means to drop any kind of tech baggage. This can take the form of maybe letting go of off the shelf products from vendors and bringing things inhouse or thinking of creating a service-based architecture where each department or VP is tasked to ensure they always expose their product offering via an API. He is cognizant about timelines and may decide to break things up in phases where in the first phase he might just focus on certain key areas and rely on vendors for others.

The CTO is incentivized to ensure the transformation is done on time and under cost.

Vantage Point — VP of Engineering

The VP of any department in the bank is responsible for managing teams of developers, designers, and product managers. A VP is a great manager. He is the point of contact to resolve issues and is in charge of hiring the right person for the job. He can foresee the hiring needs for his department and knows exactly what to look for in candidates.

The VP works very closely with the CTO and ensures the architecture he has in mind is implemented in time. He runs teams and makes the delivery happen.

The VP views a transformation from the lens of ensuring the teams are aligned and are meeting their target. He is incentivized to ensure the right person is hired for the right job and teams are able to function at high velocity and always have the information they need to do their job.

Vantage Point — Software Developer

The Software Developer is the person making things happen. He is the one building the product or making the digital transformation a reality.

Software Developers view any transformation as a means to bring more productivity into a system. Any change that makes a process faster, removes friction incentivizes them. They want to build products that touch people's lives or make internal systems that ensure business processes are frictionless and intuitive.

Vantage Point — The user

The user is right at the center of everything.

Users want to access all their information from anywhere at any time. From the bank’s perspective, a user might want the bank to understand their needs and educate them on the different products they offer only when he needs them.

The user views a transformation of a product as a process that brings more control to him/her. They want decision making to be easy and seamless. If a product brings value to them and at the right time they are incentivized to use it.

Takeaways

I’ve been an observer and have worked with large corporations as a consultant for quite some time. Over the years I’ve observed that most digital transformation strategies fail. They fail for different reasons, some aren’t able to execute well, some aren’t able to align different departments, some just take too long to go to market and are hence no longer relevant.

The few organizations that are able to change and transform their product offerings have some common principles. Here are some of the ones I’ve noticed:

  1. Technology at the heart of everything: Programming is a superpower. You cannot digitally transform your business without knowing what you’re working with. Businesses where management understands the language of tech end up adopting change faster.
  2. Customer obsession: Businesses that have a very clear idea about who their customer is, what their age is? what preferences they have? know exactly what to build.
  3. Alignment: Businesses that have a clear goal and a way to measure progress are able to meet changing needs. Doing this at a macro level and then creating small goals and metrics for each department allows alignment throughout the organization.
  4. Hire the best: It’s impossible to build a product that caters to all without being inclusive. Diversity is a must. Businesses that create a culture of belonging are able to attract the best talent. For developers, this might be allowing them the freedom to experiment with the latest and allow them to choose what to work on.
  5. Test-driven product development: Any product division no matter how big or small should be doing as frequent market releases as possible. Businesses that imbibe the continuous deployment culture always know if they’re on the right track.

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