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People-Powered Digital Transformation

Roland Alston, Appian
December 9, 2020

Digital transformation is one thing. Getting people involved is another.

Right now, there's a disconnect between the culture of digital transformation that companies say they aspire to create and the organizational behavior they actually have, says Lisa Heneghan,Chief Digital Officer and a member of the Executive Committee of KPMG, UK.

But here's the good news: Organizations that invest in bridging the people gap will benefit the most from innovation, according to Heneghan.

In the age of hyperautomation, we have a mixture of cloud and low-code platforms that allows us to make change happen quickly and consistently, says Heneghan. This allows us to drive significant business change in a far more continual way. The CDO's role, says Heneghan, is to challenge the business and help the organization transform. As for the CIO, Heneghan argues that she should be an enabler of digital transformation and not just an owner of it.

"It's not about having a multi-year transformation program that cost hundreds of millions of pounds," says Heneghan. "It's about adopting an innovation framework that breaks down cultural silos and embraces diversity instead."

People, Key to Transformation

That's one of the key takeaway from Heneghan's commentary in a new book calledHYPERAUTOMATION, a collection of expert essays on low-code and the future of business automation. In Heneghan's commentary People Power: The X-Factor of Digital Transformation she reminds us that people are an essential part of the formula for business transformation success.

"When we think about successful digital transformation," says Heneghan, "we tend to focus on organizations that are really good at integrating systems and new technologies. "But there's also the X-factor of transforming organizational culture. The truth," says Heneghan, "is, that you can have the best technology in the world, but unless your organization embraces it, you'll never see the benefits..."

As leader of KPMG's, UK digital and technology practice, Heneghan helps large organizations navigate the complex technology, risks, and organizational aspects of business transformation. A seasoned executive with over 25 years of experience and the driving force behind KPMG's own digital transformation Heneghan is also a fierce champion of inclusion and diversity in business.

Note: Heneghan also sponsors KPMG's IT's her Future,' a program aimed at bridging the gender gap in technology.

Know the Mental Complexion of Your Organization

We spend decades talking about the demography of diversity. So, it's easy to conflate the two. But diversity is more about the mental complexion the shared mindset of your organization. Heneghan's HYPERAUTOMATION essay snaps into focus the importance of including employee and customer expectations in the digital transformation journey.

Yes, it's critical to motivate people to adopt new systems and tools. But that's a hard thing to do, if you don't understand the culture of your organization first, says Heneghan.

"When large organizations launch digital transformation initiatives," says Heneghan, "the challenge of integrating new technology with existing systems usually gets prioritized as the biggest challenge.

"Customer expectations are what really drive business transformation. But that's not just about technology. It's actually about the cultural change required to fundamentally shift how the people in your organization get behind the customer," says Heneghan.

Making Automation More Human

The massive impact of COVID-19 has elevated the importance of application development well beyond basic and enhanced process automation.

"In fact, we're entering a new decade of cognitive automation," says Heneghan. "And the impact of this fast-moving revolution will touch every industry on a variety of levels, including everything from strategic planning and compliance to financial reporting and supply chain management."

If you look across industries, says Heneghan, you can see a lot of activity where organizations are implementing Agile methodology programs not just for technical implementation, but to fundamentally change the way work gets done. This transformation is happening across the board, she says, in banking and financial services, government, education, insurance, engineering and elsewhere.

But getting the culture of digital transformation in sync with the organizational behavior your CEO says she aspires to create is a critical success factor. Every board, every executive committee, and CEOs everywhere, says Heneghan, are saying that bridging this disconnect is absolutely essential to driving innovation.

Debunking the Lone-Wolf Innovation Myth

And, yet, the myth persists that innovation is a solitary process where smart people go off and create something in isolation. But the innovation mindset is the opposite of that, says Heneghan. It's about driving creativity across the entire organization, testing it and where appropriate quickly bringing it to market.

That's what's so exciting about the 2020s, says Heneghan. Technologists are suddenly feeling like they're not confined to the back office anymore. They're now valued for their knowledge and abilities. Which is why Heneghan is so optimistic about the next decade.

"As a CDO," says Heneghan, "I'm massively excited about the future of digital transformation over the next five to 10 years. We've gone through a decade of people trying to get their head around what digital transformation might mean."

"But the uncertainty around cloud technology is vanishing, says Heneghan. "The uncertainty around cloud technology is absolutely vanishing. Other technologies out there are now much better understood. And, so we've moved into a decade where we can make the most out of digital transformation."

But digital transformation is hard. Some organizations succeed at it. Many don't.

Which makes Heneghan's essay that much more urgent for any exec looking to compete and win in the age ofHYPERAUTOMATION.