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[ARTICLE] What 2021 Holds for Digital Transformation: Panel Session Review from the APAC Online Digital Transformation Conference with Michael Vullings, Nikki Taylor & Ken Anand

Sam Button & Chris Towers, Roar Media

During the panel session at the APAC edition of the online Digital Transformation Conference we explored what digital innovations will be the talk of 2021, with three expert panellists drawing from their experiences from within the pandemic and the strategies they are laying out for 2021 and beyond.

The panel featured:

Michael Vullings, General Manager, Business Process Improvement at News Corp

Nikki Taylor, Marketing Growth Director at UPS

Ken Anand, Former Chief Transformation Officer at Teachers Health

What is the most important thing to get right within Digital Transformation?

The 4+2 formula was devised in Harvard, the four things you need to get right are Strategy, Execution, Culture & Structure then pick two other things to focus on from other aspects including Talent, Innovation, Leadership & Mergers/Partnerships. It depends on the strategy of the business which one your company will be best to focus on.

A combination of people & technology transformation is necessary to succeed. Transformation at UPS is customer centric with any innovations being customer led with regards to people or processes. We need to look at how technology can help us with our daily tasks internally and how technology can enhance our customer experience.  

Ken added that agility is vital at the moment, with the speed and velocity of the changing landscape for both employees and customers accelerating at an alarming rate, we have to be ready for the future and have technologies enabled to prosper. Historically there has been a lack of strategic imperative, you have constantly look ahead at both local and global innovations, due to the rapid nature of changing trends. Finding the right north star which is specific to your business will significantly increase the chances of your organisation prospering over the coming years.

During the pandemic, business strategies have been re-written and customers are demanding new services, how can businesses offer excellent customer experiences whilst we have a distributed workforce and depleted employee numbers?

There is a great opportunity for both businesses and professionals to stand out more than ever before. If you can maintain relationships with customers and show that you are adapting your services to their needs, you will prosper. This is all about agility, hard work and understanding your customer. This can be a very rewarding task, all businesses and individuals are dealing with issues they have likely never faced before, finding ways to provide the same level of service or adapting your services to suit the environment can be a real way of increasing both customer and employee engagement.

Having a set of strong company values woven into the fabric of your culture will have led to a willingness to fight proactively for your customers and to be able to maintain services despite the difficult situation. When looking at customer experiences, there is a real opportunity to make a lasting impression through your engagement and agility during the pandemic. The pandemic has challenged the value proposition and we have had to use technology to deliver a better experience for our customers which involved pivoting services and a diversification of product & service delivery. Being customer centric and working in your customers best interests drives trust and increases retraction, technology has been a great enabler for this but ultimately it is your workforce’s own drive to achieve customer satisfaction.

How can leaders continue to build a culture of innovation in a new era of remote working?

We need to look where the barriers are and then look to mitigate these. It can be harder to feel a loss of engagement & motivation from team members and leaders need to stay close to everyone both as a whole and at an individual level. Clear outcome-based objectives give clarity but this is not possible for all functions, so hands-on leadership is imperative.  As an organisation there is a need to reiterate and reimagine leadership to decide the management interventions you may need to take. Remember your leaders require constant support from the business and are aided by consistent internal communications and the availability of personal development training to help them understand the psychological needs of their team, especially during a time of increased anxiety due to an unfamiliar & unknown working environment like we have seen the past year.

Working from home has increased the importance of knowing colleagues and understanding their circumstances and preferences. We are visiting team members in their homes within global companies with cultural diversity. It is important to be mindful of cultural differences and individual constraints, the same care should be applied to childcare. Increasing the flexibility of your workforce and giving them ownership of their own preferred working time is great and provides new ways for team members to bond through learning about each other and empathising with their personal lives.

We have been fortunate to be able to seamlessly move to video conferencing & other collaboration tools in order to maintain engagement and a sense of purpose. Which is a way of being interactive only enabled by tech. This forced change will be beneficial in the long-run with global teams becoming much closer and future online collaboration projects becoming commonplace.

Leaders have to energise the workforce and provide a social aspect to show care and help all colleagues focus on their own mindfulness and wellbeing. Making sure all staff feel supported both in work and outside of work is a great way to ensure motivation & productivity.

Will hybrid working be best practice for the future of work?

One positive from the pandemic for older companies has been the adoption of remote working, this forced change has led the heads of business who were reluctant to realise that productivity and collaboration hasn’t decreased during the time we have been a distributed workforce. Companies are discovering they can trust their employees with the increased flexibility as to how and when they work and benefiting from increased motivation & output from some team members.

From an employee perspective, everyone now has a good example that they should be allowed to have flexibility within their working structure and that they are not needed to be in the office at all times. A combination of this and the business standpoint should lead to a world where employees have a place to work but they are not expected to be at the office full time. Looking at this from a digital standpoint there is further innovation to ensure this lasting process is within a secure environment which supports high levels of collaboration, communication & central management of company assets & data.

Front line staff will always need to be on physical location with technology enabled to reach colleagues through the digital workplace, putting an even larger importance on digital connectivity with infrastructure and IT being more important than ever.

Do you think organisations will be well equipped at getting the economic climate back to normal as quickly as possible?

“Any disruption leads to opportunity”

Michael Vullings, News Corp

Companies are needing to make tough decisions as well as being agile with innovation. Times have changed and organisations will be addressing corporate spend for 2020, realising that corporate travel and expenses have been minimised due to the pandemic should restrict future spending in this area and allow companies to focus on customer centric improvements and employee experience and benefits in other areas.  

Emerging technologies will likely be on the rise with AI & Automation looking to future proof elements of the supply chain and minimise the risk of human exposure. The chances of reskilling populations are also very high, with unemployment comes the opportunity of new ventures and new skill sets to be learnt which will likely have a digital focus.

The two elements of digital transformation right now which are almost universally agreed to be the most important are employee experience and customer centricity. We will be looking at a much-improved world for both the workforce and consumers and 2021 will bring further innovations to enable companies to succeed in providing a great experience both internally and customer facing.

You can register for upcoming online events here. With our European, UK & North American events scheduled for January, February and March. Don’t miss more panel sessions & keynote presentations.

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