How IT leaders can guide their teams through the next phase of digital transformation

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  • 2021
09 June 2021

How IT leaders can guide their teams through the next phase of digital transformation

As the latest CIO Survey 2020 by Harvey Nash and KPMG puts it, few organisations would have pre-empted and planned for the level of disruption that we’ve seen during the pandemic – and understandably so.

In fact, their data reveals just three in ten businesses felt they had the right digital business strategies and infrastructure in place to deal with the effects of the pandemic when it hit – suggesting the vast majority entered a period of intense digital transformation behind the curve.

The rapid – and successful – implementation of change throughout the crisis has, however, accelerated digital transformation, and effectively put some business myths to bed, not least the idea that IT teams are incapable of responding quickly.

If anything, the past year has proven that when IT teams have the full support of business leaders, and are provided with the tools needed to make digital transformation possible, they play a vital role in driving business resilience and success.

So how can IT leaders build on the successes of the past year, and continue their digital transformation journey?

To find out, we hosted a conversation between two exceptional experts in the field: Leigh Mullin, Head of Service Improvement at Standard Life Aberdeen, who has 25 years of experience in technology and a passion for continual improvement and data-driven understanding; and ServiceNow’s own Evangelist, Innovation, Paul Hardy, whose core focus is to help organisations explore, define, and operationalise new ways of working smarter, better, and being more profitable.

Celebrating past successes to accelerate transformation

First and foremost, while it’s easy to look back and kick ourselves for not being resilient before the pandemic, organisations should instead focus on the successes that led to a quick recovery in a time of crisis.

“As a whole, IT departments are pretty bad at celebrating when something goes right,” according to Paul.

In his view, organisations should instead focus on the successes that saw them become more agile and flexible, like the rapid switch to home-working, in a matter of days, that allowed entire workforces to seamlessly work from wherever they are.

“The switch to work-from-home worked so well it created a new metric of success that put people at the centre of IT. That’s an incredible shift!” says Paul. “We need to make a big deal about it, and use that digital currency they have accured to further more great things as we no longer have to contend with business politics that previously hampered progress. IT is now seen as a broker – not a blocker.”

Backed by a more agile IT team, businesses can look forward to being more proactive rather than reactive, focusing less on disaster recovery and more on business continuity.

By taking a more positive stance and focusing on what worked, rather than what didn’t, businesses can set themselves on a path to delivering consistent, truly great business services. And that resilience will help expedite the next stage in the transformation journey.

Ushering in a new age of work

As we start to look towards returning to some semblance of normality, we’ve seen a lot of talk about what the future of the workplace will look like, especially in the financial sector where work-at-home versus work-in-office is still a hotly debated topic.

A hybrid working approach could be the answer for many. In fact, 60% of ServiceNow employees are looking forward to splitting their time between home and office.

Leigh has witnessed a similar shift at Aberdeen, and the business has leant into the phenomenon by giving employees the right tools to work as they wish. “We’ve had to pivot from being an organisation that definitely did not want to allow remote working, to being one with 2,000 remote corporate laptops. Now, when people return to work, they can just bring in their laptops and work anywhere in the office they’re most comfortable in.”

Whatever balance of home and office working individual businesses decide on, it’s clear that IT will play a major role in making it a success – not only keeping employees safe from the upsurge of cyber threats in recent months, but also ensuring their day-to-day needs are met effectively so they can do their work well.

Putting employees at the heart of technology

If the pandemic has shown us anything, it’s that communication is everything, especially with a disparate workforce. While technology is the solution to connecting them, what actually creates frictionless communication as well as effortless collaboration?

“It’s the people,” says Paul. “Employees are at the heart of everything we do; they’re the doers, the buyers, and the innovators in business.”

And to keep them at the centre of the business, technology must be in the service of your employees – not the other way around.

There are countless ways technology can help organisations create a better work-life balance for people, and there’s good reason for doing so: it’s a well-known fact that productivity soars when employees are happy, which in turn makes businesses more profitable, as happy employees are prepared to go the extra mile.

Paul notes as a result that “...this time is a great opportunity to look past just our old metrics of success and let new metrics come into effect, such as employee satisfaction and employee effort score.”

In the long term, the key to success will be adapting how organisations engage with their employees. Rather than throwing technology at employees and seeing what sticks, the focus should shift to citizen engagement – where employees and IT teams work together to find solutions that work for everyone.

It won't be easy, but adapting to a new way of working and responding to changes is crucial to continuing digital transformation well into the future.

Listen to the full discussion here to find out other tips, advice, and easy wins Paul and Leigh have for organisations on the digital transformation journey.


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