Driving digital transformation in an organisation

30th August 2019
Anna Flockett

Technology is difficult to evolve despite the speed at which it develops, and things have really changed in recent times, especially in the past year there has really been a focus on digital transformation. When it comes to this transformation people often say you need new people, but why? Why not focus on the people you already have on your team and train them so they can transform with the business?

If you get the right people and put the right things in place, the transition will be a lot smoother, especially if that team is mixed, as opposites attract and are proven to work well together. That is what Jo Hannaford of Goldman Sachs started with as she opened the second day at the recent Women of Silicon Roundabout event.

She stated: “Digital transformation is not possible without the people driving it and the culture that enables them to operate in a way that works for them. Diversity is a critical factor here and at Goldman Sachs diversity is written into our business principles, and our recruitment strategy is built around it. It is so important that we invest in promoting it.”

Hannaford described her own story: “When I was starting out, computing and computer science was considered a great job for women and I was encouraged, but this has shifted in the past ten years and it’s not entirely clear why, we seem to have just accepted this change. Careers in technology are extremely well suited to both men and women, it’s a hugely creative and flexible industry. I love programming now as much as I did 30 years ago.”

The other main conundrum with technology is to buy or build? Hannaford explained: “There are clear obvious benefits to build, but if you have the option to buy and the business won’t go under maybe this is the best option.”

In truth, ‘digital transformation’ is a fairly vague term. At a high-level, it comes down to a combination of people and culture, and technology and process, working together to drive innovation in the way businesses operate. Hannaford discussed how her current company Goldman Sachs are approaching this. She explained: “We achieve this through rearranging the organisation to closer align engineers with the businesses to which they contribute, building out global teams solely dedicated to ensuring the quality, reliability and resiliency of our services, and adopting agile work practices at scale.”

Digital transformation was a hot topic at the Women of Silicon Roundabout event as Claire Dickson, CIO for Downstream at BP also gave a speech based on the subject in the oil and gas industry and said: “A few years ago we didn’t really understand global warming like we do now, but now we know that the world needs more energy than ever. However, it needs to be energy that is good to the environment, and wont damage it.”

Dickson is a transformational CIO and aims to execute a leading IT strategy to simplify the old legacy estate and prepare BP for a resilient future, at the same time as accelerating digital, and building platforms that enable speed to market of intelligent operations. As climate change is arguably the greatest challenge we face today, Dickson explained that digital transformation in the energy sector is more important than ever.

We need to foster innovation, create an innovative working culture and attract the best and most diverse talent in order to meet the world’s increasing energy demands, whilst striving for a more low-carbon future. But how? BP are doing a number of things to help as Dickson explained: “Reducing carbon emissions is one of the easiest but most effective methods. Improving products by being more digital is another initiative of BP and through digitalisation, creating new low-carbon products.”

Together collective energy will help advance the human race. Dickson said: “We live in a time of unprecedented growth and change. Technology and innovation continue to accelerate, touching almost every aspect of our lives. This brings countless benefits, but also creates uncertainty about the future.”

A lot of people now are beginning to worry about the figure of job losses from automation and the changeover to EVs, which arguably could be a worry, but there are also figures to show even more jobs will be made from this process. Dickson stated: “We need automation to progress.”

She continued: “There will be brand new jobs, a lot that haven’t even been thought of yet, which is such an exciting prospect. So why are we holding ourselves back? Digital transformation is the only way forward and we need to welcome it with open arms.”

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