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Intelligent Digital: Three letters for transformational success

Key takeaways

  • Many transformations are approached from a purely technological implementation angle, which is ironically often the easiest part.
  • People experience, mindset and the political aspects of business are far trickier to change.
  • PwC uses a three-pronged approach to implementing ‘intelligent digital’.

Most business leaders have long recognised the importance of a digitisation strategy. The problem is that the prevailing wisdom of a transformation frames the challenge as one to be undertaken via a series of technology updates, focusing solely on one area of change.

Business leaders need to view digital transformation as a cohesive and ongoing whole. We call this ‘intelligent digital’ and it starts and finishes with businesses putting digital at the heart of their business.

The way we do it, is via our BXT philosophy. This stands for business, experience and technology and represents the three ingredients we believe necessary to solve the business challenges of today. Digital is a whole-of-business concern so it’s essential that all perspectives are brought to bear if you want to enact a successful, genuine transformation.

These include reassessing business strategy, operating models, capabilities and process (B), optimising the customer experience (X), and the technologies and technical understanding required to enable change (T).

It is a model that we at PwC live by and it’s one we believe is essential to intelligent digital transformation.

The technology part is easy

In late 2016, PwC Australia opened new flagship offices and co-working spaces in Sydney and Melbourne, augmenting our digital transformation with physical transformations, too. We embraced new ways of working, enabled by digital, and began to truly live our beliefs.

Part of that process included moving our collaboration platform to the cloud, using Google’s Apps for Work platform for everything from emails to meetings, to sharing documents. From a business perspective, it made sense to use cloud technology. For one thing, it was much easier.

Going back ten or 15 years, large technological change meant you had to build it, implement it, host it, configure it and get it all going. The service we were moving to was cloud-based, software-as-a-service. As such, there wasn’t a lot to do technically.

The technology issues we had to deal with were around security and infrastructure. Mostly, did we have enough bandwidth to use the product? Basically, pipes going in and out of buildings and good wifi: that was the number one technology issue and it was easily addressed.

If the project had been seen from a solely technical lens, it would have been a supremely easy roll out.

The effort, it turned out, had to be put in elsewhere.

The experience is harder

In our personal lives, the Google suite of products was something we’d been used to for over a decade, so the interface and the foundation were nothing new to most staff. Not only that, we were used to digital transformation projects and had created the PwC Digital Services business. So you’d imagine that turning our own ship, albeit a firm of over 6,000 employees, would have been relatively straightforward. In many ways it wasn’t.

One of the key elements of the project turned out to be rebooting the experience of working at PwC, and that meant changing the prevailing mindset. Our mission wasn’t to replace calendar with calendar, email with email. We were taking an email and calendar solution as well as a suite of other productivity tools and moving to a fresh paradigm.

The new platform would enable users to collaborate, engage and communicate in a different way. If done properly, it would in fact lead to less email and less reliance on those traditional tools. Combined with our new offices, it would enable flexible ways of working, boost productivity and remove the physical tether to old school office-thinking. Getting people to understand this paradigm shift to the new experience was the essential first step to true buy-in.

The problem we encountered was that people do not like change, and no matter how bad their experience previously, a new one is often seen as inherently scarier.

In our case, we had an email system that PwC employees globally hated. We knew for a fact that staff and partners hated it. Yet, when we announced that we were moving to a new email platform, there was resistance. They didn’t want change and they feared the unknown (even when it took the form of something very familiar).

Now, imagine if we were asking users to ditch a product that they actually liked. From an experience perspective, if it’s that hard to move people on from something they don’t enjoy, normal change presents an even bigger challenge.

Eventually, by removing the policy constraints that made it difficult for our people to use the new collaboration platform, adoption followed. We had to think about the experience of our people and the way in which they worked – especially remotely – and adjust or remove outdated policies that impacted this.

The business implications

We also found we were beholden to our own business captors: risk and global policy. During the pilot scheme, we weren’t permitted to roll out the new technology in all its glory. We took a product that normally works out of the box, on any platform, on any device… and then we broke it.

By chipping Gmail into a risk-averse shape, the platform was confined to certain devices and subject to policies that restricted the use of it, such as limiting who you were allowed to message. Staff did not rush to sign up.

This is where the business lens of the BXT model must be used, and it must be done for any technological project to be embraced. In our case, the silos between risk, global and tech teams had to be broken down before the technology could be allowed to work.

A dogmatically imposed blanket policy means that staff are going to break the rules. In that situation your actual risk profile is huge, because all the policies in the world won’t save you if they’re ignored. As we did not want staff breaking policies we got rid of the ones that weren’t contributing to a realistic position. Many of them were written pre-digital and simply didn’t make sense in today’s world.

B, X & T

Implementing technology is relatively easy. Encouraging acceptance from all parts of the business, maintaining engagement via experience and adopting a commercial, pragmatic and realistic approach in the face of dogged frameworks – now there’s the real effort!

A large-scale digital transformation journey requires solid leadership that’s willing to challenge the status quo and able to champion tomorrow’s world. Otherwise, modern technology will just be overlaid on outdated thinking.

By having a balance between business, experience and technology using the BXT mindset and philosophy, companies in any sector can be brought into true innovation and industry disruption mindsets. It’s not easy and it won’t happen overnight, but it’s necessary to cultivate the necessary environment and culture of innovation and disruption.

After all, if you change the technology but not the experience it will ultimately fail the business.

To start a conversation or find out how we balance business understanding with technology innovation and human insight, visit the Intelligent Digital website.