“Digital transformation” can be an overused term, but it does reference the journey that many organizations are making in using technology to drive change. Whether creating new products and services, improving processes and driving efficiencies, transforming the customer experience, re-engineering the digital workplace or embedding new ways of working, digital is impacting organizations and employees – for the better.
Of course, the pace and nature of change varies from organization to organization. In our Digital Workplace Impact podcast, DWG’s CEO Paul Miller has been deep in conversation with some fascinating people, from organizations as diverse as NASA and Oxfam. These conversations have revealed some very different digital transformation journeys that organizations are undertaking. Here are four of the most interesting recent podcasts.
In Episode 17, Paul was in conversation with David Meza, Chief Knowledge Architect at the Johnson Space Centre, NASA, one of the world’s most fascinating but also complex organizations. In some ways, NASA is always on a digital journey, as it explores new technologies and approaches. However, like all other organizations, it also faces challenges.
David’s role is to help turn decades of knowledge, information and data, stored in a variety of different repositories, into actionable knowledge. His job is made more complex because of the silos that exist through NASA’s complicated structure – there are ten centres and seven facilities spread throughout the US – and some records are still only available on microfiche!
The podcast covers David’s three-pronged Knowledge Architecture framework, which encompasses:
- Knowledge Management (the strategy)
- Knowledge Informatics (the infrastructure and tools)
- Data Science (algorithms, getting insights from data etc.).
David’s approach is helping NASA move forward, for example, with new approaches to search and findability, data visualization and use of video, but it was also interesting to hear the related challenges around culture. In some ways NASA’s culture is unique – focused around the Agency’s mission – but individuals can also be quite protective of their knowledge. However, younger employees are influencing a change by being more open to collaboration and David remarked that he sees the “ego moving from the individual to the team”.
Key takeaway: Even in an incredible organization like NASA, siloes and culture remain a challenge, but taking a structured approach to managing knowledge can make tangible improvements.
In Episode 15, we heard from Graeme Hackland, CIO at Williams Formula 1, which is in the third year of a five-year business transformation programme. This is ultimately about improving the performance of the Williams Team and getting them “back on the grid”.
It was very interesting to hear how Graeme and his team have tackled various challenges, including ensuring data is secure and protecting IP; improving mobility so that all employees can communicate with those trackside at a race; and striving to introduce automation. Williams has also created an Advanced Engineering arm where race technology is leveraged for commercial and social uses – from designing a paralympic bike to developing a pod for transporting critically ill infants.
Perhaps the most illuminating section was hearing about Williams’ commitment to continuous improvement. In a business where the tiniest tweak can make all the difference from race to race, a colossal amount of data is produced, which can be analysed. The team have helped to ensure that this data can be interrogated to deliver the right insights. Moreover, with their “Factory of the Future” initiative, the team are also working on how they can use analytics and an effective feedback loop – from aerodynamics through design and manufacturing to race engineering – to get better and better at what they do.
Key takeaway: Using data to make improvements in a highly agile way really can give you the competitive advantage.
In Episode 14, we heard from Sharon Doherty and Robert Leeson from Vodafone in the UK. For Vodafone’s internal digital transformation journey the team have really focused on building sturdy foundations in terms of technology, vision and governance. These have been key enablers for many of the changes that helped the company to become runner-up in DWG’s 2017 “Digital Workplace of the Year” competition.
The podcast covers the beginning of the journey in 2008 with the introduction of video conferencing and, in 2012, the Board went paperless. Perhaps the biggest breakthrough came in 2015 when the various different support functions worked closely together to create a common digital experience for 15 end-to-end processes. These include areas such as employee onboarding where new hires can enter a portal for some training and processes even before their first day.
The hard work the team have gone through to standardize systems, create a monthly cross-functional working group and share a common vision for the digital workplace that is aligned to business strategy, is now reaping the rewards. The team are creating a great digital experience, improving efficiency and working on an improved NPS (Net Promoter Score) (and ENPS! (Employee Net Promoter Score)).
Key takeaway: It’s important to work on the foundations, such as governance and strategy, to deliver a focused and effective digital workplace.
In Episode 13, “Facebook, Oxfam and digital leapfrogging”, we heard from Neal McCarthy, Oxfam America and Julien Codorniou, Workplace by Facebook. Oxfam’s objective was to implement digital tools globally to enable it to be One Oxfam, connecting employees and reducing silos. Oxfam is actually a confederation of 20 organizations with 10,000 staff working across many countries, so there are many logistical challenges around communication and collaboration.
To help fulfil its global mission, Oxfam has introduced Workplace by Facebook. The lower barrier to entry to this platform, due to the familiarity of its tools, has helped to drive strong adoption levels and some great success stories. It was encouraging to hear how adoption is healthy across both developed and developing countries, and how the platform is demonstrating the power of grassroots communication and empowering individuals to reach out to the 10,000 employees. In some ways, allowing everyone a voice in Oxfam is aligned to Oxfam’s wider rights-driven mission and making the network more democratic.
Key takeaway: Sometimes a simple social layer that is easy to use can transform the way global employees from any country connect and communicate with each other.
Don’t miss an episode of the podcast!
There are many more fascinating episodes of Digital Workplace Impact available to enjoy now, with yet more exciting conversations already in the can, which will be released in the coming weeks and months. To ensure you don’t miss an episode, make sure you subscribe via ITunes or Soundcloud.