One of Maxwell Bond’s ambitions is to create a network of successful business leaders who grow and enhance through education and relationships. Industry events and expert talks are just some of the ways in which we can do this.

First, we spoke about appealing to Generation Z. Then, we hosted a sell-out event looking at Winning DNA with award-winning author Damian Hughes. Last week, we partnered with 60 Innovations on their latest tech talk, which explored digital transformations and how to effectively handle them.

The speakers leading the discussion included:

• Alison Peacock – VP Strategic Transformation at Barclays
• Paul Heywood – Delivery at Naimuri
• Nigel Collier – CEO and BAFTA award-winner at Skylab

With three industry heavyweights helming the conversation, the event covered the typical digital transformation journey, common challenges that businesses of all sizes can face and how to bring your employees and stakeholders on board.

Through their own experiences and expertise, each speaker delivered useful insights in transitioning into the digital age.

Digital Eagles – Barclays

Alison was our first speaker. As VP of Strategic Transformation, she heads up Barclays Digital Eagles. In 2013, Barclays realised that their branches harboured a significant divide between employees and the general public – both in terms of design and strategy.

Barclays recognised that their banks were seen as arduous and somewhat archaic. Many complained that simple tasks took an entire lunch hour to sort and couldn’t be easily accessed online. But, this was all to change.

Senior staff took the decision to supply teams with iPads (making, at that time, the largest purchase of iPads from Apple in the UK) and trained all members of the team so they could handle any queries. No more queues, no more stuffy interiors, Barclays would be the first tech-savvy bank.

The only issue was, 45% of the iPads weren’t opened. They were experiencing significant pushback from members of staff less inclined to embrace technology. And all of a sudden, technological advancement had become a HR issue…

Fast forward a couple of months, and the Digital Eagles were born after the CEO watched his children teach their grandfather how to use an iPad. Barclays then began instructing tech savvier members of staff to support more resistant employees. The idea was not to replace them, but instead to help with work and other societal issues.

The Wider Impact

Their mission became to stand at the vanguard of the fourth industrial revolution. And, their success cannot be denied. Alison explained that 50% of all UK businesses have some affiliation with Barclays. The company have even begun to train employees within other businesses – including Salford Council!

In an attempt to future proof businesses and charities, Barclays have taught members of staff coding and app-based skills, helped innovate ATMs to ensure that visually impaired customers can use the tools and they’ve also supported those in the community who couldn’t access online services. In the case of Salford Council, Alison described a circumstance where their team helped an elderly woman fill out necessary online forms within a tight deadline.

Barclays became increasingly aware that technical innovation was nothing without the right people and skills. Communication was essential – the technically able teaching the technophobic could only work if those teaching were understanding and patient.

When asked by the audience how Barclays managed to prevent resistance within branches and at other organisations, Alison answered that humanistic approaches were necessary. Proving that, even in the era of digitalisation the human touch is still required.

A Digital Arms Race – Naimuri

Next up, Paul at Naimuri took us through the changing face of the digital world. Rather than open his segment with his definition of digital transformation, he claimed we are facing a “digital arms race”.

As Paul saw it, malicious organisations and terrorist groups were using the internet in ways that legislative powers couldn’t keep up. This had been true for decades, and in the last 20 years there has been at least three huge changes to internet legislation.

He then asked the audience how anyone could have foreseen that a terrorist would live stream an attack over social media. It’s a fair point and prompts the audience to really question who stands to benefit from any transformation.

Discussing Google’s adaption of the Gmail structure, Paul explained that the platform was originally more open-plan, allowing users to categorise communications in a way that suited them. However, with little warning Gmail was changed, separating the inboxes.

“Do it with your team, not to them”

Businesses cannot effectively orchestrate a digital transformation if members of staff are unaware of what and why the change is occurring. Like Alison, Paul insisted that communication needs to occur in order to deliver on the short-term and overarching objectives of the business. He also reiterated the idea that there is nothing wrong with short-term goals when you don’t know exactly where you’re at.

Promote simplicity and refuse complexity. Find golden threads whereby members of staff and other stakeholders can see the workings out of your roadmap. Make clear blueprints on what you intend to achieve and spend time decomposing the problem.

In addition, your team needs to feel comfortable enough to make mistakes, so they can take ownership and start making decisions that have an impact. Celebrate successes and bear everyone’s feelings in mind when progressing forward. Urgency doesn’t mean you’re able to ignore the thoughts of those involved, you simply need to factor their considerations in.

Paul concluded his speech by answering a question on how to get approval from resistant members of the team. He responded: “This isn’t getting an agreement. Try to please everyone and no one will be pleased”. Ultimately, we should challenge those who only make moves that are topical by identifying what good looks like and link that to organisation strategy.

Digital allows for the atomisation of future business – Skylab

Last but not least, Nigel began his presentation by discussing his career in video games and film production. While many were in awe of his achievements, Nigel explained that after winning a BAFTA, he found he was no longer fulfilled. And, just like that, Skylab was born from this discontent.

A web design and app-building business, Skylab aims to prevent businesses from getting tangled up trying to offer every kind of service imaginable. It was at this point that Nigel asked the audience whether they believe a service can genuinely offer everything (and be the best at all those offerings) to which no one raised their hand.

Customers don’t see businesses in the same way that businesses see themselves. Nigel illustrated this point by asking the audience to picture the traditional customer model shape. A pyramid with a single CEO at the top, thousands of customers at the base and a series of middle-management employees in between. However, for a customer, the same shape is in reverse.

“What is the ideal shape for today’s channel of communication?” Nigel asked, displaying a single dot on the screen. “Digital has allowed for the atomisation of future business” he explained as the single dot joined a number of others to display a dot matrix.

“High connectivity + flow = relevance”

Nigel then drew lines between each dot explaining that businesses must choose their own shape. “Each of these dots represent partners in your network – your eco-system… The flow of data is the lifeblood of the future.” To offer genuine value to any business, you must be collaborative.

Every industry is changing and by relying on intermediaries and building connections, businesses are able to offer a more value-led service. When questioned how we were expected to build these relationships, Nigel reiterated the point of the previous speakers and candidly answered that there needed to be a human approach externally while internally ensuring all employees were genuinely happy.

Nigel admitted to spending hours in interviews trying to ascertain whether or not Skylab could genuinely offer value to those candidates. Knowing what drove them allowed him to reward them, in turn, generating a more productive environment.

Finally, he added that to truly build networks, you should write. Blogging attracts similar minded individuals and conveys a genuine skill and appreciation of the fields you operate in. Digital transformations are based on humanistic approaches to change and proven strategy - blogging conveys both.

How you can implement digital transformation

At Maxwell Bond, our four key takeaways from the event are:

1. Build relationships with businesses that can enhance your offering
2. Offer a tangible link between short-term goals and overarching aims
3. Celebrate successes and allow room for failure
4. Apply a humanistic approach when delivering change (internally & externally)

As two of our speakers concluded in their presentations, cycles of popular software are getting shorter. No longer are markets being dominated for generations like in the heydays of IBM.

So, once you’ve followed the above steps, all that’s left is to perfect your offering so that it stays relevant in the face of changing technologies. Following that, there’s nothing stopping you from gaining market share. If you’d like support getting the necessary skill set in implementing a digital transformation, get in touch with our team today and we’ll help hone your offering so you’ll appeal to intermediates and generate clients.