The sun was out and we had set a day aside to hear from digital leaders from across the UK to talk about their experiences, lessons and key takeaways from their Digital Transformation journey’s.
It was a refreshing revelation, especially under the warm glow of London’s unusually sunny weather. The ILEC Conference Centre buzzed with energy as attendees milled around, keen to absorb and share knowledge about digital transformation - the calibre of speakers was promising.
The idea of people-centric digital transformation deeply resonates with us. After all, Elixel has long championed this approach. We were excited about the synergy between the conference’s direction and Elixel’s mission, a true validation of our efforts - you can view our whitepaper on digital transformation and human centred design here.
Nicola Wadham, the FIO of the Financial Ombudsman Service, was the first to take the stage. Her presentation, intriguingly titled “How to Transform Without Transformation,” promised an insightful beginning to the conference.
She addressed a prevalent issue in the business world - transformation fatigue. The constant cycle of large, expensive, and often ineffective transformation programmes had left many businesses drained and disillusioned. Yet, the demand for change remained.
Her proposition was simple but revolutionary - what if businesses could transform without undertaking massive transformation programmes? Nicola offered a roadmap for this unconventional approach. Instead of large-scale projects, she advocated for identifying transformative opportunities within the existing business framework. These opportunities could be small changes with a potentially significant impact, making them more manageable and less disruptive than traditional transformation efforts.
She also stressed the importance of properly describing, governing, controlling, and reporting on these transformative opportunities. This, she argued, would ensure that these changes were being implemented effectively and that their impact was being accurately assessed.
As the sessions continued, a trend became evident - digital leaders were challenging the old ways of doing things. They were unafraid of tearing down existing structures, even if it meant navigating the uncertainties of the unknown.
One of the key messages reiterated by all speakers was the need to humanise technology; it should serve to empower people, not the other way around. The remainder of the morning sessions saw stimulating discussions from several other keynote speakers, all contributing to the understanding of digital transformation.
Keynote speaker, Thomas Harris, Senior Vice President, Digital Business Transformation at Mastercard, shed light on the importance of leading through digital transformation. He emphasises the importance of understanding and addressing employee sentiments. Digital transformation is not just about integrating new technologies into a company. It’s about changing the ways of working, and this includes behavioural and habitual changes for the employees. This is often more challenging than the technical aspects of transformation. Therefore, the human side of the transformation is of paramount importance, and leaders must address this to ensure successful change.
Similarly, Softwire’s Zoe Cunningham introduced the paradigms of evolution and innovation, urging businesses to think tactically and flexibly, presenting an interesting concept of balancing between evolution and innovation. Change should not be disruptive but progressive. By continuously evolving and innovating in smaller ways, businesses can undergo a transformation without the hardships of a major overhaul.
Lara Burns, Chief Digital Officer for the Scouts, similarly underscored the importance of people and communication in the transformation process. A process is only as strong as the people who carry it out and the communication that binds them together. A successful digital transformation requires effective communication strategies and a focus on people, their skills, and their adaptability to change.
The day progressed with conversations among industry leaders on various aspects of implementing a digital strategy. Topics ranged from diversity and inclusivity in tech to data collection, and from aligning success metrics with problem statements to bottom-up approaches.
As the day moved on, various topics were explored. Catherine Vama from Procode shared insights on selecting the right digital transformation tools. Businesses must use tools that align with their unique needs and goals. Sarah Ilieva, digital strategist for Kew Gardens, put the focus on the crucial balancing act between customer needs and business objectives. Lastly, Nick Scholz from Sinequa stressed the importance of data findability, stating that the value of data is only as good as its accessibility and usability.
A personal favourite of the day, was from Aruj Haider from Westminster City Council. She highlighted that one of the reasons she was asked to take up her role as Chief Digital and Innovation Officer was her ability to be fearless in her questions. She told the audience not to be afraid to ask silly questions, and highlighted that many people in the room will want to know the answer. Driving mindset and cultural change is key to any transformation project, along with having sponsorship from the top.
The Spring Edition of the Digital Transformation Conference was an enlightening experience. As participants, we cherished the opportunity to share our mission of putting users at the heart of digital transformation and learned from the insights and experiences of other digital leaders. As Elixel, we look forward to continuing our journey in digital transformation, armed with the knowledge and inspiration gained from the conference.
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