The challenges and opportunities for digital transformation in LEOs
We recently attended a DIGIT Lab: Accelerating Digital Innovation for Growth, Impact and Transformation event. Here are our thoughts.
Article written by Joe Fuller
Operations Assistant, Advice Cloud
Alan Brown (Professor in Digital Economy, Exeter Business School) introduced the talk by asking questions about digital innovation in LEOs (Large Established Organisations). Alan Brown is also Director of DIGIT Lab, ‘a UK Next Stage Digital Economy Research Centre bringing together industry and academia to offer new insights that will drive future investment and strategies for accelerating impact across a range of private and public sector domains’.
Although many old analogue processes have been digitised in LEOs, there is often a struggle to then transform their practices. Alan asked whether, rather than digitising or streamlining what they did before, they should they instead be rethinking those processes, and coming up with fresh new ways of working.
He then asked the other speakers to discuss some of the challenges and opportunities in such digital transformation…
Communication and wellbeing:
Saeema Ahmed-Kristensen (Professor in Design Engineering and Innovation, Exeter Business School and Deputy Director of DIGIT Lab) raised challenges regarding sharing data across different departments, and how transformation can have an impact on peoples’ wellbeing. Understanding what sort of organisational structures work best for employees will therefore be a key challenge to address.
Dave West (CEO, Scrum.org) mentioned similar communication issues regarding sharing information between departments. Specialist scientists who work on one paper every five years, for example, might not be accustomed to sharing information. It can take time to create an environment which is psychologically safe for sharing, and it can be difficult getting people to work together who aren’t used to doing so.
Focusing on customers first:
Theo Kanellos (Global Director Business Development, Zoetis) discussed how the way in which Zoetis conceptualises its working practices has fundamentally changed due to digital innovation. Previously, they had considered the end product first – such as a vaccine or medicine – while it is now more about adapting to the customers’ needs, and letting customers define what the end product is. Can customers understand the benefit of such innovation? These complexities in innovation can create opportunities however, in interacting with and educating customers.
Dave described America’s arduous procurement and budgeting process as being like “the Spanish Inquisition”, after discussing it with someone from the White House. He explained that there are improvements being made however and that the UK is “leading the way with this stuff”. Alan agreed, saying that the UK’s GDS has received “a lot of kudos”.
Dave suggested that digital transformations, such as adapting to working from home when the pandemic hit, is a crucial opportunity. Working together was crucial: teams that adapted to homeworking quickly were the most effective. Dave sees parallels with his eight-year-old child playing Minecraft or Roblox: digital natives are learning protocols such as deciding on a leader, what to do, how to prioritise tasks, and more, from a young age in an online setting.
The human factor:
Saeema emphasised understanding the “human in the digital transformation loop”, and then society in this loop. This includes considering the end user, stakeholders, how LEOs look at long term sustainable problems while balancing short term business models, and looking at how best to motivate people to share data with one another. Saeema also mentioned supporting the next generation of digital twins (which are currently focused on technical problems) to start incorporating these notions of humans and society “in the loop”.
To find out more, or to watch the talk yourself via YouTube, head to the Digital Leaders Week event page.