The “Netguru take on…” series explains how Netguru approaches important subjects that are often overused or misunderstood in the industry such as values, innovation, and sustainability.
We break them down to shift the discussion from abstract concepts to tangible actions that influence our everyday work. This article gives our take on digital transformation.
Meet Przemek Kotecki — a digital transformation veteran
Przemek has a lot of experience in implementing digital changes within organizations.
He managed innovative products in the renewable energy sector, took part in the transformation of Thomson Reuters in the MENA region, and oversaw Netguru’s entire portfolio as the Head of Project Management Przemek’s current role — Head of Operations — involves ensuring that all processes run smoothly, employees are safe, and assets secure.
His role is to make sure that Netguru is not only prepared for the digital future, but also shapes it for others. “It is very important to us that we walk the talk,” Przemek says.
“That whatever we’re telling others regarding digital transformation is happening within Netguru and that we are at the forefront of digital innovation”.
Three elements of effective digital transformation
Digital transformation seems to happen everywhere nowadays. Digital technologies are embraced in every industry and often form the backbone of every new project. So it is hard to differentiate which ones determine a company's transformation. According to Przemek, there is a clear cut:
“We define digital transformation as the process of activating business value through the use of digital innovation.”
Using new technology is not a transformative effort in itself, and there is no meaningful change without a solid grasp of business value.
“One needs to understand the underlying business concepts, the people behind them, and the processes that connect them. Only if those three go together can organizational change qualify as a genuine digital transformation project,” Przemek says.
An example of such a project is Netguru’s journey to improve the predictability of our core processes. Przemek recounts how the digital transformation triangle came together in this project:
- Business value: “The area we wanted to tackle was ‘reliable predictions’. First, we focused on the desired revenue, as we identified it has the biggest domino effect. It determines how many people we need to hire, which influences the office space expansion, and this, in turn, influences the company's strategic decisions.
- People: “Every department had to make sure that we analyze the right data and every employee needed to understand how to collect and use it in the appropriate systems.”
- Processes: “We came up with a certain flow on how to combine and process data. We integrated Salesforce with other systems and customized it to be more than just a CRM. Now, we are working on increasing the accuracy of predictions by using data science and machine learning algorithms.”
The organizational change was much broader than just using innovative technology. It involved internal communication, getting employee buy-in, mapping processes to identify the right data, and creating processes for its collection and distribution. The massive effort has paid off with truly transformative results. According to Przemek:
“We have moved from almost no capability to make useful predictions to a 80-90 percent accurate prediction rate for revenue. It is a huge step that has helped us achieve our business goals”.
Transform your organization by design
Starting a digital transformation process requires deliberate preparation. Chasing the latest buzzwords or copying tools that the competition uses is a simple way to fail from the start. Przemek advises otherwise:
“Understand well where you want to be, what kind of business you want to create, and what kind of value you want to bring to your customers”.
Setting a clear vision of a transformed company and defining business value is the best first step you can take. “The second one is mapping where you are now, what kind of tools and solutions you already have, and what processes bring them together.” Przemek continues: “The third step is to connect the dots between the current state and the envisioned one.”
“Many organizations fail by not being able to move effectively on this path. Some just buy a digital solution and implement it in their company. But oftentimes it's not enough. You should get a bigger picture of how to manage the impact of the desired change. How will it be received by people across the organization? How to get their buy-in? How to change the processes to reflect the new business value?”
Stay the course
Successful companies make progress in their digital transformation by taking small steps. They conduct one experiment at a time to make sure they keep realizing assumed business value.
There is nothing more wasteful than a perfectly executed change in a completely wrong direction. That’s why having an experienced digital transformation partner is crucial for successful change.
“It ensures that the right questions are asked at the beginning so that various opportunities and possible solutions are discovered,” says Przemek. “And then it can provide a battle-tested process to maximize the chances of successful implementation”.
At Netguru, we organize an initial workshop called a Product Design Sprint where designers and developers experienced in digital transformation meet with a client to map the status quo and visualize a possible transition.
They also make sure that the expected results are quantified and there is a feedback process in place. Users’, employees’ or clients’ insights are significant for the next phase of the solution development process. “First, we make sure that we have a common understanding of the project’s business value,” says Przemek, “then we leverage the feedback loop to progress in iterations to deliver it.
Based on the achieved results and collected input we might redefine the final solution. As your company transforms, your definition of success may change, too, so we need to capture this moment to steer the direction of further work accordingly”.
Explore uncharted territory
Przemek identifies a single crucial characteristic of a great digital transformation partner — showing a consulting mindset at all levels. It is especially important in this type of project, where it is hard to define the scope in detail from the very beginning.
Additionally, the delivery of one part of the solution influences the rest of the organization, driving further need for change.
Having a consulting mindset has many implications: the willingness to take ownership, the courage to challenge the status quo, and the drive to constantly look for better solutions rather than just delivering what was initially agreed.
“Whenever you find yourself in unknown terrain, Netguru offers an ecosystem of experts in different fields, ready to jump in and consult on a specific piece of the solution.”
“The team explores options in the light of the latest discoveries,” says Przemek, “even if it requires admitting that the initial assumptions were not entirely correct. This often opens plenty of opportunities and unlocks business value that couldn’t have been identified otherwise.”
The key to success
What does Przemek consider to be the secret sauce of a successful digital transformation?
“Everybody wants to minimize the risk of building the wrong thing. So having fully engaged people who know where you are heading will increase the chances of your success.”
In the end, it’s not about using the most innovative technology, but about having teams that are eager to deliver business value, communicate frequently, share both good and bad news openly, and take ownership of the solution. Przemek concludes:
“It doesn't matter whether this is your internal or external team, because in this case you and your partner become one team. That's the whole idea of partnership.”