5 Minutes With Patrick Strauss - Digital Transformation

Patrick is currently the Chief Digital Strategist at Luxsoft (a DXC Company). He has over 25 year’s experience as a senior leadership executive in Digital Transformation, customer experience and innovation solutions (RPA, IoT, IIOT/Industry 4.0)

How does a company lead digital transformation rather than be a follower? 

This is a great question. First and foremost, Digital Transformation should be seen as a strategic, long-term engagement, not a short-term project. In fact, in order to be seen as a leader in this space, Digital Transformation has to become part of your organisational DNA and strategy plans. In addition, communication is absolute key, throughout the entire organisation, from top to bottom. Digital Transformation requires culture change and the larger the organisation the more difficult it will be to get everyone in the business aligned to the possible new ways of working, collaborating and thinking. In conversations with previous clients, Digital Transformations are hard, but not totally impossible; but you need to be well prepared for what you are aiming to do and why. And the last point is very, very important and part of great communication, why are we changing or why does our business have to change?

One should never assume that every person in the organisation necessarily understands the reasons for change, and let’s face it, some people do like change, others simple don’t and resist very easily. Implementing a great change culture, fuelled by rewards and incentives, not lead by fear and tyranny, are great tools to prepare your business for the journey ahead. Also, understand that you and your business are most unlikely to do those changes all by yourselves; you’ll help and support from others. You need to build an eco-system of the right partners around you that will support your efforts of change during the transformation. You should continue to focus on what is core to your business; let your eco-system partners guide you on how to create actionable insights through data; absorb the knowledge and create better client-centric solutions and services that will make your brand even more stickier with your end customers.

How have you seen it given competitive edge? 

Without revealing the exact client’s name, there is one great example that I always like to cite in this context, of an organisation that has gone through Digital Transformation (in fact, they continue on that journey as we speak) but with some measurable and notable outcomes thus far already in their journey. The client is a well-known, global agricultural machine manufacturer; they started their digital journey by looking at what impact it would make to add sensors into their farming machines they sell. The idea was to be closer to the farmer and understand how their machines are used in the real-world with better insights and connectivity to establish any issues early.

That said, this organisation has now established a brand-new business unit that literally commercialises the data and insights they get, also including other external data sources such as weather, soil and retail information from 3rd parties to offer a more comprehensive solution and value back to their machine users (the farmers). All the thinking, changes and approaches of that client, together with the preparedness and willingness to change their business, has allowed them to add further revenue streams but also to position them as one of the leading organisations in the agricultural space globally. Their journey has only just started, and they are seen as a great visionary force on how to change this industry utilising new technologies and innovation, but also understand the value of data and insights that can be generated.

How do Clients typically view digital transformation e.g. purely an opportunity to reduce costs, do they look to retrain people into other jobs that might be 'lost' to this type of transformation?

To date, we are still seeing too little evidence of organisations truly embracing digital for the right reasons. In my view, digital is NOT about making people redundant because their jobs now become obsolete due to the increasing use of certain technologies and innovations such as Robotic Process Automation (RPA). There is always a strong push by any client to save costs wherever possible; however, the idea of introducing innovations at the back office to make manual tasks more automated should mean that organisations should focus more on what to do with those employees and in an ideal world, moving people from the back office to the front office should be the first line of thought, not just making those people redundant. I would always ask myself; would it make commercial sense for someone who used to work in the back office now to be even more valuable to me doing a role in the front office?

Undeniably, there are certain roles that will be very difficult to be replaced with robots and machines, and that is Customer Service. Ask yourself, if I spend a small amount of time upskilling my back office staff (assuming there are willing to do so of course) to work efficiently dealing with my customers, and therefore, potentially increase my profits and revenues on the back of it. The challenge is, and every Finance Director will agree to that, is that the value those individuals will bring may not be immediate, in fact can take several months to come to fruition; seeing my overheads reduce through redundancies  is something that can be demonstrated much quicker, or instantly on the balance sheet. But this is short-term thinking my books. You build your organisation for growth, hence at some point you need to investment again into recruitment, on-boarding, training etc … effectively costs that you can save significantly by ensuring you keeping and upskilling great staff; this also builds loyalty amongst your workforce, and with that, the willingness to change with you, the business, as you travel through your Digital Transformation journey.