In this episode of IT Leadership Insights, our expert Janne Marie Van Vlastuin, reveals some of the ingredients of her formula for success in digital transformation. This is the second of three episodes in our miniseries on digital transformation.
Why is governance important in digital transformation? What are the common mistakes and struggles companies face? How to ensure we deliver change? – these are just some of the questions that Janne Marie, an expert in commercial business transformation, will answer.
The other two episodes of this miniseries cover the preparation stage of digital transformation and explore what happens after a transformation project has finished.
Janne Marie van Vlastuin is the Co-founder of 10DED who support organisations in humanising technology, both ways. They do this by helping leaders and organisations transform in becoming ready for the digital era in a pragmatic and understandable way. Janne Marie has a unique combination of hands-on experience as a leader in Sales, Marketing, Service, IT and HR, combined with extensive knowledge and experience of best practices, change management and various methodologies. This enables her to speak all the languages needed to get organisations moving and providing them with the right tools and frameworks in the right way. She is different, but this has made her a successful expert in transformational programs within the commercial domain. Janne Marie was nominated as the Most Innovative Leader 2017 by the CIO magazine in the Netherlands.
Jaroslaw Granat is Future Processing’s Head of Client Engagement, working to ensure the highest level of services for the company’s clients. He is a graduate of Computer Sciences and Psychology in Business and has worked in IT for the last 10 years.
The transcript of the episode
Jarosław Granat (JG): Hello and welcome to this episode of IT Leadership Insights by Future Processing. My name is Jarosław Granat and today’s episode is about doing digital transformation right and this is the second episode of our mini-series of digital transformation. So if you haven’t seen the previous one, please make sure to do it. Today my guest is also Janne Marie Van Vlastuin who’s an expert in that field and a commercial business transformation consultant. Hello again.
Janne Marie van Vlastuin (JMvV): Hi.
JG: So we are continuing the topic of digital transformation. We started with the preparation phase and now we are into the phase of actual execution. Is there a magic recipe for success and what does success actually mean in a digital transformation project?
JMvV: Yeah unfortunately not, it’s always actually you have to look at the organisation, you have to look at the people, you have to look at the maturity levels and then decide what your approach is going to be. Cultural leadership is very important. They say that culture eats strategy for breakfast, well it is true, I’ve seen it happen. So it’s something you really need to take into account.
JG: So again it’s all about people.
JMvV: It’s all about people, yup.
JG: What do you do if you’re engaged in such a project in your first days because let’s imagine all the papers are signed, the project is getting on track. What are the first activities that need to take place in such a project?
JMvV: Yeah, so when I start I look always for a responsible, so somebody who’s responsible for a function that needs improvement where the urgency is high that really is committed to making it a success. Because change comes intrinsically, it has to come from the insides. You cannot force change upon people to actively really show the behaviour or going into the direction that is needed. So look for support and then look for stakeholders you can engage, and again because sometimes it’s complex matter and it’s another way of thinking, another way of looking at the organisation, you cannot involve all stakeholders. So don’t wait for that, but if you look at your governance model, design your governance model around that. So make sure that the decision makers are the decision makers, and also that you do not allow people from the sides to frustrate or sabotage, even, your projects. So that if they have questions or concerns, they do not let it be done, go through the project teams directly, and frustrate them, have to go back in the line, go to their own steer-CO representative, so it’s brought in the steer-CO, so it doesn’t frustrate the projects. So I think that those – so are having the governance right, that is really important as a starting point because if you do not have that, then it’s not clear who can decide an it’s also not clear that who is allowed to mingle and who is not. The other one is to find a person in the organisation which you are going to touch that is able to function as a kind of a funnel for all the requirements. So get the most knowledgeable person in. One of the projects I’ve done that was the Sales Distribution Manager for a country the size of a third of Europe and the Sales Distribution Manager had I think 10 or 15 direct reports at that time and that guy had a department of 80 people in total. And everybody was thinking, you are insane to ask for the Sales Distribution Manager, but you get the quality of what is being delivered, the quality is being determined by the quality of the people that are being made available. So if you have a person that knows everything, use that person because that person can operationally be replaced by several people or several subordinates, but you cannot get that knowledge into several consultants. So and that is basically if you want if you’re talking about formula for success, those are maybe some of the elements that are common when you’re looking at other successful projects have done which I always use to have that in place and at the other hand I don’t even start if I can’t get that in place because it’s out of control.
JG: Okay so how often do you struggle with finding the right people or there are some issues with people not being engaged or do not have the right motivation?
JMvV: The second one is actually a rule, so that’s something that I warn. This is why you need executive back up all the time. So top level, people have to be aware that this is going to happen, that people are going to sabotage. So they have to be aware. HR needs to be actively involved to really guide some of the people into the change that if they’re afraid of change, knowledge or being intimidated by a different way of working, that you can give them other tools or handles or trainings to at least keep up with the pace or maybe give them an official warning or maybe if they cannot be part of an organisation and not support your organisation, find another way to convince them. But because actually if you are frustrating a program or a project that is so important, you are frustrating your organisation. So you’re keeping the collective away from success. So that’s always actually the resistance and it’s your task and your duty to come up with a program architecture and approach and a strategy to make that resistance as low as possible and limit actually the damage because all change is damage. Limit the damage you’re causing by changing. So yeah that’s the second point is always, and what was your first point again?
JG: Lack of engagement.
JMvV: Lack of engagement, yeah, but that’s a, if you really can get people to see what is going to happen and how it’s making them better, because you always have to think, people always think “what’s in it for me”. So find the what’s in it for them and show them what’s in it for them and yeah, they will support you. So if it’s in it for them, so transparency, you’re always going to bring, some people do not like transparency and a transparent organisation because their success was based on not being transparent but the great stories that were told, those people usually start frustrating the projects or not understanding it, but engagement is showing what’s in it for them personally so not for organisation as whole, for them.
JG: So is it one of the reasons why companies employ external companies, external consultants to make things possible, to have some kind of external power to make the change?
JMvV: I think so, yes, but what I see too often happen is that a whole army of consultants is brought in, and they are dictating what needs to be done and nobody in the organisation is understanding what needs to be done because it really needs to be done at the pace of the organisation. Again, the people need to see what’s in it for them and the people have to drive the change. Actually the people sometimes have to change. So you can’t do it with externals only. You can get the advice and have an architect of a program or change manager in to support the people in the change but you cannot dictate and this is they way the organisation is going to work and voila, switch switch, clickidy click, and now you work like this. Because this is not how you’re going to really make that change that is so needed.
JG: Yeah I can imagine many companies will struggle with this. What are the other common mistakes or problems or struggles that companies face during the digital transformation projects?
JMvV: Yeah, there is so much. It is full of, actually, taking silos out of an organisation means that you have to start with looking at your external world in a different way and this is what they mean with digital transformation. It starts from the customer perspective and translates it back into your organisation. So that means that where you used to have sales and marketing, because top down you needed to give direction bottom up there used to be a reporting line because it had to go through people. All of a sudden the technology enables you, that hierarchy is no longer so needed and I think that a big mistake that’s being made is that it’s only the way of working and the solution is being put into scope but not the whole impact on what it can be for the organisation, so how you can restructure. Give you another example where if you start talking, not about sales and marketing but strategic commercial activities, tactical commercial activities and operational commercial activities, all of a sudden service is brought in, as an example. And there was this one company, we even changed their whole leadership team who had a CMO, who had a CSO, and a Chief Innovation Officer and now they have a CCO and a Chief Innovation Officer. And the CMO has been made responsible for all the different locations on the people level because they saw, “yes, that’s true, it’s not sales and marketing, it’s one whole commercial process and cycle in order to reach the customer”. And, yeah, if you really want to benefit you have to look at it holistically, I think.
JG: You mentioned earlier about the power of communication, about showing the results so that we could have a buy-in from the people in the organisation and I was thinking what are the other tips and tricks to make sure that we are on track, we deliver the great change in the organisation?
JMvV: Yeah, how we clear KPIs is a very important one. So you communicate, but you have to communicate about something and if you look at your organisational strategy, there are usually some, I call them, some people call them the Mission Vision, I call them also Purpose Objectives you can take out of that on which your KPIs are drilled down. Those Purpose Objectives they should be measurable in every project you do. Also given as a set of requirements to the person who’s going to the party, that’s going to implement it for you. So switching on is not something you measure your success on, so that used to be the old definition of success. Yay, “we can turn it on, and yay we can push buttons” and nobody knows how to work with it but “that will come, that will come”. So now the whole definition of success is the business value because you have defined what value you want to get out of it. You have to measure if this value’s really going to be delivered. For example there was this one project I’ve done where we started with getting, so they wanted to be the best supplier in that area. So okay what makes you the best supplier? So yeah we need to satisfy customers. Okay, so what does it mean, how do you get your customers satisfied? Yeah we have to measure their satisfaction but also make sure we can prevent them from becoming unsatisfied. Okay how do you prevent them from becoming unsatisfied? Yeah whenever there’s a complaint, you have to react within two hours. That type of complaint, within six hours. This is how we build the landscape and this is also the KPIs were sets. So if you now look at how, and they wanted to be the most reliable supplier as well, so and now if you look at the definition of success for that program they are measuring, how is customer satisfaction? How is the response time for sort of how you drill down, response time for giving an answer to a complaint and then at the end of then we’ll understand your percentage as a customer facing person and contributing to that. So you drill it all down and that is the definition of success is if you can actually show your customers are more satisfied and that you are the most reliable partner.
JG: I think that there’s a quite important thing that you mentioned because bringing a partner, a vendor to do some part of the work brings a whole lot of new challenges and issues, etcetera. Especially if the vendor is not familiar with those KPIs, measures and the business justification around the project. So how often do you see that the companies share everything with their suppliers and partners, and how often is that you do this piece of work and do not get interested in all the background?
JMvV: Yeah, well the thing is that if you look at the past, that’s what I’ve seen is that in the past, if you as a company shared that information with your vendor they could calculate and now I can ask this for the licenses I’m selling for example. So people from the past have become very a little bit careful about sharing information. That whole business model of just selling licenses, that’s not relevant anymore, because if you look at digital transformation or at least being relevant in this day and time, it doesn’t ask for just a solution seller, it asks for someone or some company or partner that helps you with bringing in the right innovations at the right time in the right way. Where you are lacking the knowledge usually as an organisation to understand which innovations are all available, and your partner is lacking the knowledge of how you can link it or to how you can grow the business and so both worlds have to grow together and you see it also with the other larger companies already. That they’re starting to pull back and get consulting also in-house to really put effort and time in their partner accounts or important accounts to really understand those needs and where the opportunities are. So like Value Engineers and things like, roles like that. So that world is also changing so they’re also building bridges to understand the customer better, but it is even better if you as a customer understand the importance of architecture and price architecture information management and business-IT alignment roles that you have people in your organisation, yourself that can translate business, sales into IT and the other way around. Have Product Owners for example for certain customer domain or function. So, that makes the working together a lot easier than if you’re both trying to bring it together.
JG: Yeah, yeah, yeah, I understand. So to sum up this conversation, what would be the advice for the companies that are in the middle of their transformation process what to look for, what to take care about.
JMvV: Yeah I was thinking about that one before also. Implementing starts while you’re drawing the plans. So if you’re drawing your plans you’ve already started about the implementation and the handover. And it’s better that that already has been done and if you’re in the middle of the project and you do not have a plan of how you’re going to trade, if you do not have nice trainings that are not going to just show the clicks and the buttons and but have developed trainings with HR on how people, their own work is going to be made easier, more successful, how they can have better customer physics because of all the information that is available will prevent the customer from becoming dissatisfied for because all the information that is available give those types of training, commercial trainings. If you just do click, click, click it takes months longer before it’s being used as it should be used and the second one is only if you are defining and designing a single point of truth, really treat that as a single point of truth. So if people are still working around it, don’t accept to reward them based on other data than the data that is coming out of the system. So if it’s not in there, it doesn’t exist. And this is really important you have to be very strict with that, because it’s difficult to break old habits even if you bring it in a nice way but it’s, yeah, sometimes you have to force it with a little bit of a punishment and reward system and I think that is the advice I would give them, focus already on the implementation.
JG: Alright, thank you for this summary and for the whole conversation about the doing digital transformation right.
JMvV: Thank you.
JG: And thank you the viewers for watching this episode of IT Leadership Insights by Future Processing. Today we’re talking about doing digital transformation right and there is still one episode to go in this Digital Transformation Miniseries. So please make sure you watch the third episode as well. If you liked that part, please share it and recommend it and let us know if there is anything you would like us to discuss in future. Once again thank you and see you in the next episode.