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[ARTICLE] Digital Transformation Perspectives: Exploring the Essence of Digital Transformation with Dr. Henna Karna

Chris Towers, The Digital Transformation Conference Series [Roar Media]

Dr. Henna Karna is the GM of Global Industry Solutions for Google. In Henna’s tenure as Chief Data Officer at AXA she joined the Digital Transformation Conference series in both Boston [USA] and London [UK] to share brilliant insights into enterprise digital transformation. In this article we reflect on some of the key lessons and narrative shared during Henna’s time with us.

Defining Digital Transformation

Henna acknowledged the complexity of the term “digital transformation” and the multitude of perspectives and approaches associated. She emphasised that it’s not just about technical advancements; instead, it encompasses broader aspects like authenticity, precision, speed, transparency, accountability, and data ownership. Digital transformation is about evolving beyond conventional boundaries to meet the evolving expectations of a rapidly changing enterprise.

The Challenges of Digital Transformation

Henna highlighted that the challenges of digital transformation aren’t confined to behind-the-scenes organisational activities. They extend far beyond the realms of cloud computing or digitising processes. To delve deeper into the essence of digital transformation, Henna stressed the importance of mindset, perspective, and authenticity.

Reflecting on Company Identity

To illustrate the diverse approaches companies take toward digital transformation, Henna conducted a simple analysis. She looked at how companies describe themselves on their “About” pages, using word clouds to visualise the most frequently used terms. Companies that are more focused on their traditional services tend to emphasise words related to financial services and operations.

On the other hand, companies adopting a digital transformation mindset are characterised by their customer-centric approach. They focus on terms like innovation, industry experiences, personalised services, and mission. This contrast reflects the shift in mindset between traditional and digitally mature, or indeed ‘transforming’, organisations.

The X and Y Axes of Transformation

Henna introduced a visual framework to understand digital transformation better. She divides it into two major parts represented on the X and Y axes.

  1. X-Axis (Inside-Out Approach): This axis reflects how companies operate, build products, and optimise their existing processes. It represents the organisation’s inward focus.
  2. Y-Axis (Customer Engagement): The Y-axis symbolises how companies engage with their customers, tailoring products and services to meet customer needs and preferences. It represents the organisation’s outward focus.

Henna explained that most traditional companies operate in the bottom-left, characterised by an inside-out approach and transactional customer engagement. Digitally mature companies, on the other hand, occupy the top-right, focusing on customer needs, innovation, and co-creation through frequent interactions.

Analysing the Data Perspective

Shifting focus to data, Henna discussed its critical role in digital transformation. She presented a maturity curve for data utilisation, emphasising the importance of moving from basic statistical analysis to predictive modelling and ultimately harnessing granular, real-time data. In a digital transformation context, data becomes a powerful tool for understanding customer behaviour and needs.

Real-World Use Cases

Henna provided real-world examples of how data-driven insights can drive transformation. Using mobile data, she demonstrates how companies analysed customer movement during the pandemic. This analysis allows for better supply chain management and resource allocation, showcasing the practical application of data in crisis management.

A Systemic Approach to Data Flow

Henna highlighted the importance of a systemic approach to data flow. She described a cyclical process that involves data ingestion, analytics, information dissemination, and feedback loops. This cyclical approach enables companies to continuously adapt and improve their offerings based on customer needs, ultimately contributing to more successful digital transformation.

The Importance of Serendipity

Henna underlines the significance of serendipity in digital transformation. She highlighted that successful transformation goes beyond being followers or need-spotters; it requires a proactive mindset that anticipates and fulfils customer needs before they even realise them.

In conclusion their are clearly many factors that contribute to achieving success in any digital transformation project or initiative; going beyond surface level thinking and approach and implementing deeper thinking into all parts of the organisation. Getting technology, people and process in order and working together is critical and often determines the level of success a business can achieve.

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