Taking transformations forward

Digital Transformation Director, BAE Systems Applied Intelligence Read time: 3 mins
Mivy James says that blending technological advances with cultural change is the best fuel for the never-ending journey of digital transformations
Taking transformations forward blog infographic
I chanced upon an old article of mine the other day. I started re-reading it with somewhat baited breath. Would my arguments still stand up? Would I still agree with my conclusions – an especially pertinent concern as I wrote it long before the pandemic rendered so many assumptions obsolete.
Fortunately, a quick scan negated any need for me to ring our web team and ask for it to be taken down pronto. I was writing, like now, about digital transformation and my conclusion – that digital change is a “continuous evolution” – continues to be borne out by recent events. After all, the pandemic has proved many things, not least that external events do not pause for the next AGM. Change is ongoing and every member of the workforce has to adapt whenever required.
The pandemic also offered yet further evidence of the absolutely vital role technology now plays at all levels of society – helping turbocharge the issue of digital transformation even further up the agenda for organisations large and small, public and private.
Unfortunately, there remain no quick fixes.

Talking up tech

As we all know by now, the severest global pandemic before Covid was the 1918 Spanish Flu. (Ok – I didn’t know that last March but Google came to the rescue.) But my point is that at least this time around we have had technology to not only accelerate vaccine development, but also help us keep in touch with family and friends, stream entertainment, shop online – the list goes on.
We’ve also been fortunate to be able to call on technology disruptors like cloud and edge computing which continue to restructure our world around us, pandemic or no pandemic. Even though I only really use it to track my 10k times, my smart watch, for example, has more capability than early server rooms. These days, thanks to serverless technology, we can work from anywhere and at any time. Good for my to-do list, less good for my work-life balance.
And indeed, the way that we use technology is crucial. Many of us have gratefully grasped the greater flexibility which working from home offers – particularly around things like the school run. However, this matters little when you’re locked in video calls for hours on end. Fewer online meetings and less emails can make time for the creative thinking and better decision making which can add real value. It’s vital to always remember that new technology is one thing, true transformation is quite another.

People skills

I’ve written before about the pivotal role of Agile in digital transformations and nothing has emerged 
over the past 18 months to make me change my view that it remains a foundation for effective and truly exciting transformation programmes.
But equally, it won’t work if one part of an organisation is using it in one way and another is looking in an alternative direction.  For example, if Agile is only being used in an organisation’s software development department, it will lead to tensions with teams elsewhere, thereby dooming any purported transformation attempt.
That’s because digital transformations demand that individuals and teams, departments and business units, be aligned and pull in the same direction. It’s not about top-down/bottom-up, but more ensuring that the organisation as a whole is cognizant of the need for change and embracing the benefits which will follow.
Now, developing this type of culture isn’t easy. After all, there’s no certainty about the future and some digital technologies – artificial intelligence and machine learning spring to mind – can prompt nervousness rather than excitement: people want the security of knowing that their jobs will be protected in the future. But such second guessing wastes time, consumes resources and goes against the need to be agile – in both senses of the word.

Looking long term

This is partly why such change programmes are all-consuming. Change is draining and challenging, testing and unpredictable. All too often organisations seek to transform everything they do at the same time – massive asks with no budget, limited resource or time. Such approaches not only have implications for workforce wellbeing but they also fail to recognise that digital transformation is never finished. You can’t just tick one project off, sit back and think that’s job done.
In reality, digital transformation is a way of operating. A culture. A state of perpetual movement which recognises that no organisation can afford to press pause. In a world reshaped by the pandemic and technology this is one change which is here to stay.

About the author
Mivy James is Digital Transformation Director at BAE Systems Applied Intelligence

Recommended reading:

  • 10 things we wish we knew before working on digital transformation. Ben Starkie reflects on the lessons learned from working across a variety of digital transformations of all size and scope
  • Transformation in the Time of Corona. The Corona Virus has turned our lives upside down but that’s not all, says Mivy James. It’s also highlighted the plight of the digitally excluded, as well the systemic changes which should be made permanent, not temporary
  • Transformation through innovation. Agile is everywhere for software development but are government organisations getting off to the best possible start? Ian Horlock investigates…
  • Bringing data to the party. Caroline Bellamy is on a mission to transform how the UK Ministry of Defence uses data. She tells Mivy James about her 30-year career in industry and why data holds the key to smarter and faster decision-making across Defence
  • Covering all bases. The British Army is poised for a dramatic transformation in its estate and infrastructure. Major General David Southall tells Mivy James why the future is green
  • Exploring a new role for cyber security in UK government transformation. A new study commissioned by BAE Systems Applied Intelligence has revealed that cybersecurity is both a major driver of IT modernisation and a significant barrier to adoption. Lorna Rea explains how the way forward will require a delicate balancing act - to manage cyber risk effectively, without hindering innovation and collaboration
Mivy James Digital Transformation Director, BAE Systems Applied Intelligence 3 August 2021