Why and how to pursue Digital Transformation?

Updated: Jan 3, 2019

Our client partners have first-hand experience in front-line operations of digital companies, coupled with deep experience in corporate environments. We believe a transformation and change management program must be tailored to the unique situation and needs of the company. However, toolkits and assessment guides will help focus on key areas in early stages.

Digital is a very broad subject matter. For some it is about digitising internal processes to capture greater efficiency and cost savings. For others it is about servicing new customers through digitised distribution and engagement channels. And for a small but rapidly growing minority digital has the potential to unlock entirely new business models that were never before realisable.

At Agility we can tailor your transformation journey to focus on areas of high priority given your specific business objectives.

Andrew Vaz | Global Chief Innovation Officer at Deloitte

“In today’s world of exponential change, organisations that get too comfortable with the status quo are at major risk of disruption. If you’re not experimenting and, as a director, if you’re not asking questions about how your organisation is navigating and plugging into disruption, forming new ecosystems, and tapping into open markets, then your organisation is at risk. In the area of talent alone, if you’re not leveraging talent outside your organisation, you’ll never win the war of ideas because the smartest people in the world don’t work for you.”

Case study: DBS Banks engineering journey

DBS is a leading financial services group in Asia, with over 280 branches across 18 markets. Headquartered and listed in Singapore, we have a growing presence in the three key Asian axes of growth: Greater China, Southeast Asia and South Asia. Today, DBS is recognised for its leadership in the region, having been named “Asia’s Best Bank” by several publications including The Banker, Global Finance, IFR Asia and Euromoney since 2012.

Between 2009 and 2014, DBS undertook a range of initiatives to "be digital to the core" by fixing the basics of their end-to-end operation. Instead of focusing heavily on the consumer facing side of the business it invested heavily in revamping its datacenter stack, and its security and monitoring operations centre for a more robust backend system across its markets; as well as in-sourcing software development work to improve the bench strength of their in-house engineering team.

Throughout this journey the team at DBS monitored and engagement closely with a number of major tech giants such as Google, Amazon, Netflix to learn about what made them so successful. Since 2014, it has put in place a range of game-changing tactics that give in a strong edge; (i) organisation that bridges business and tech in shared accountability, (ii) development of micro-services and interoperable APIs for all interaction between internal and external systems, (iii) massive-scale automation, e.g. cloud scaling, version release automation, (iv) agile internal teams trained in SCRUM, Kanban/JIT, agile, and (v) a shift in emphasis away from projects towards products and platforms, e.g. product-level funding, governance, owners.

The entire bank now operates like a 20,000 person start-up and in-sources 85% of its total software and engineering expenditure, from 85% outsourced in 2009.

Key attributes of DBS' journey:

(i) maintaining a patient but focused cadence - this has been a 10 year journey for the bank, but they have maintained a robust pulse of changes that happen every year;

(ii) they did not succumb to the temptation of only focusing on snazzy customer facing products and interfaces - many companies over-simplify what digital transformation entails and pursue the next new product first before real changes to their core operating models. As shown by DBS, even building out their engineering bench was a high priority agenda;

(iii) a multi-prong focused effort, emphasising both internal AND external elements - concurrent with the engineering revamp at DBS, were two other key initiatives; embedding the bank deeper into the digital customer journeys, through better websites, chatbots, apps and other digital engagement tools; and rebuilding the organisation to operate more like a technology company.

Dan Schulman | CEO of PayPal

“The biggest impediment to a company’s future success is its past success.”

Toolkits and digital capability assessment

To get the ball rolling, after a review of a company's strategies, we recommend a few simple questionnaires and toolkits are deployed to key managers across the organisation as a dip-stick health check on how the company is performing vs. its digital aspirations.

Proof-of-concept hi-viz projects

It is important to internalise a single key point: for legacy organisations, building momentum in digital is a slow-and-steady process, i.e. an intense marathon and not a sprint. However, to build the right culture around change and transformation at the outset, Agility recommends that companies pursue 3-5 high-visibility projects over a 12 month period in order showcase how the company is to work together to deliver the new operating model. These could be simple projects such as internal hackathons, or small grants disbursed via mini accelerator programs; or more complex such as new product launches in new territories.

Board and investor engagement

Investing into digital initiatives, especially in new 'uncertain and risky' products, more often than not is likely to attract some hard questions from investors and Board members. Part of the challenge is that most companies are locked into a wheel of having to meet the same returns thresholds that they always have for decades; without a clear acknowledgement of the changed market landscape and realities in business models driven by new entrants. For example, in the media space, Pay-TV generally is a 10-15% FCF margin business, however Netflix operates a (-20%) FCF margin. At Agility we recognise that an under-educated shareholder base or Board can stand in the way of required progress, and we always advise clients to engage them deeply and early on in the process.

Get started today

If you are concerned about the level of current digital initiatives and transformation programs in your company, it is important to start engaging with stakeholders as early as possible. The world is moving rapidly and those who do not manage the change well will inevitably be rendered obsolete very quickly.


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