‘Digital Dexterity’ – What does this phrase mean? While dexterity in general means executing a task skillfully, ‘Digital Dexterity’ is building an agile workplace and a workforce that constantly thinks about business outcomes, by leveraging digital technologies. While this remains the definition of digital dexterity, less than 25% of the Fortune 2000 companies can claim to be digitally dexterous. The panel discussion on ‘Accelerating Digital Dexterity’, at Zinnov Confluence 2019, India edition, focused on the playbooks the organizations adopt to enhance their digital dexterity.
The panelists include Ramkumar Narayanan, VP & Managing Site Director, R&D, VMWare, Sanket Atal, Managing Director, Intuit, Sumit Chadha, Head of Enterprise shared services, AXA XL, Sumit Chauhan, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Harman Connected Services, moderated by Praveen Bhadada, Partner & Global Head – Digital Transformation, Zinnov.
Praveen: In a dynamic environment, where multiple technologies come into play, how do you focus on digital dexterity?
Sanket: At Intuit, it is very simple. Our aim is to power prosperity around the world and we target small and medium businesses. While there is an abundance of technologies in today’s scenario, our decision making is guided by a very simple principle – ‘How does it help the customer?’ If a particular technology like AI/ML helps the customer or enables us to help the customer, we leverage it. Otherwise, we conclude that it is not the right time and we don’t do it.
Praveen: How do you balance between surprising the customer with an offering there were not prepared for, and catering to the customer’s requirements?
Ramkumar: Transformation never ends. We are an infrastructure company that caters to more than half a Billion customers and help them through their transformation journeys. To facilitate the transition journeys of our customers we need to understand what changes they are going through, and live their life. It is largely about the mindset than it is about the technology. Every component of the company must imbibe the fact that there is a need for transformation, and digital is at the heart of it. For example, when we build new offices in the country, a critical dialogue that happens in on how the workplace should look like.
‘Do we make it experiential? How do we facilitate the understanding of the need for the transformation?’, these are the common conversations that we have.
Praveen: How do you pivot in terms of adopting a technology trend – Is it a gutsy move or a calculated one?
Ramkumar: It is a combination of things. One scenario is wherein you are stuck with legacy technology. For example, VMware built virtualization software; with the advent of Kubernetes and containers, the world overtook us. We had to react extremely fast to this, and we did. Another example is when we built private clouds and understood running them is different from building them and moved out of it. So, it is about failing fast, and identifying a new direction in which you can pivot. It again boils down to the mindset.
Praveen: A fundamental challenge, in this case, is the amount of time that goes into building the business cases and getting the stakeholder buy-in. So, how does a large enterprise orchestrate the transformation given the fact that they don’t have a digitally native mindset like in the case of the start-ups?
Sumit Chauhan: When BMW, another automotive player embarked on a digital transformation journey, they launched their digitally transformed product in Portugal – their smallest market. This gave them the advantage of failing small and failing quick. That is the key tenet of digital transformation; choosing a smaller risk, be it a geographical location, a product or a team according to the context, and pivoting to a different direction if it doesn’t work.
Praveen: How does your organization that operates in the shared services space approach digital dexterity and how successful have you been in achieving that?
Sumit Chadha: AXA focuses on technology-led innovative products and services, that cater to the customers – internal and external. For example, coverage for driverless cars and cyberthreats. For us, digital transformation starts with the business problem that we are trying to solve. From a shared services standpoint, a lot of work that we do is related to manual data entry. This implies errors, productivity issues, inefficiencies, etc. Identifying the problem that we are trying to solve and then the means to solve it is where digital comes in. To solve for our primary problem statement, which is errors and inefficiencies owing to manual processes, we have piloted and experimented with robotic initiatives. So, we focus on three primary things:
Praveen: What is the future of workplaces? What are the other challenges in digital dexterity that you were able to solve as an organization?
Sanket: At Intuit, we follow the ‘one Intuit’ culture where the whole organization is considered as one team. So, the key component that we enabled through technology is the ability to collaborate. We have a process called CDI. So, the process is to understand the customer problem, narrow it down, assess if you have the competency to solve for it and analyze the resultant competitive advantage in solving for the problem. The intersection of these factors helps you comprehend what business problem you are trying to solve for.
Praveen: How important is it to look at diverse talent to develop an agile problem-solving methodology?
Ram: There is no substitute for the diversity of thought processes. When it comes to experimenting with talent, one needs to understand how a resource with expertise in an unrelated area will fit into the big picture. So, there are three primary things when it comes to looking at talent diversity:
Develop actionable items from the experimentation.
Praveen: What are the best practices in overhauling the mindset at an Enterprise level?
Ram: An Enterprise-level transformation cannot happen in one shot. You need to identify cohorts that operate in a similar fashion, like in the case of millennials. For example, we implemented this exercise of involving parents as part of our fresh graduates’ onboarding process, and it turned out to be memorable and impactful. It was an experiment, but it worked wonders.
Praveen: What are some of the most prominent fun-workplace requirements that you have seen?
Sumit Chauhan: Making the employee feel comfortable is one aspect of a fun workplace. The other aspect is the flexibility that enables an employee to work in any geographical location with equal ease and comfort with which he works at his/her base. This allows the employee to make time for friends and family, which is something the workforce values the most.
Praveen: How do you blitzscale an initiative/program for it to become a significant program across the Enterprise?
These are three approaches to blitzscaling any initiative or a program.
Praveen: Are GCCs at a low maturity level leveraging blitzscaling to grow their maturity?
Sanket: We need to get away from a subservient mentality; we are working shoulder to shoulder with the mother ship and that is how it has to be. For example, Intuit took a bold decision of going on cloud completely which was a huge transformation. We gave our engineers autonomy, freedom to be creative, allowed them to fail and did not reprimand mistakes; and we got through our transformation journey in record time!
Praveen: What is your take on blitzscaling with respect to digital dexterity?
Ram: Digital dexterity is going to be a journey. You have to run experiments; identify the initiatives that are successful, and scale those rapidly. Blitzscaling can also be in the context of customer base; identifying the use cases that you can solve for, and scale them rapidly. Blitzscaling involves identifying the dimensions you want to scale, and then scaling them quickly.
Praveen: Speed, the ecosystem, prioritization, and funding to some extent become critical in digital transformation. Do you agree/disagree?
Sanket: Speed and delivering on time is an absolute necessity. Agility plays a key role in successful transformation journeys.
Ram: Achieving results is critical. The journey is not discrete; it is continuous. You need to identify the point where you need to start scaling and keep scaling.
Sumit Chauhan: 70% of organizations that are looking to transform digitally are looking at an ROI model of 3 years; 45% are looking at an ROI model for 5 years. It is important to be realistic about the outcomes that are expecting from the digital transformation journey. The management needs to prioritize and sequence the problem statements they are trying to solve for and create teams that deliver it for them.
Sumit Chadha: Organizations need to provide the tools, resources, and the enablers for the change to happen. The GCCs have a 360-degree view that none of the functions/regions individually have; with that empowerment and visibility, and by leveraging the talent that we have, GCCs are well placed to drive innovation and move up the value chain.
According to the NASSCOM-Zinnov report on ‘Indian Tech Start-up Ecosystem’, 18% of start-ups in India leverage Deep-Tech which includes AI/ML, AR/VR, Blockchain, Big Data & Analytics, drones, etc. While these digitally native and nimble start-ups enhance their digital dexterity with natural ease, it is necessarily not the same with Large Enterprises. Constructs like customer requirements, the problem an organization tries to solve for, and the nature of the industry an organization operates in play a critical role in formulating a robust playbook to enhance digital dexterity, as far as Large Enterprises are concerned.
All said and done, Digital Transformation is making significant inroads into every organization – big and small, and digital dexterity is en route to becoming an inevitable phenomenon.