This content is produced by The Australian Financial Review in commercial partnership with DXC Technology. It was first published on AFR.com on 28 March 2019.
A digital transformation needs to be driven across the entirety of an organisation with the support of senior executives from the outset rather than being treated as a technology solution for disparate business units.
This is the lesson from those who have gone through the process, citing training and culture as inextricably linked to the success of a digital transformation.
TasNetworks, a state-owned electricity distribution company in Tasmania, is one organisation that has successfully moved through a major transformation and improved the business after forming from a merger between Aurora Energy and Transend Networks in 2014.
The successful bidder in the competitive tendering process for this challenging project was DXC Technology, itself a recently created technology services leader formed through the combination of CSC and the Enterprise Services business of Hewlett Packard Enterprise.
DXC worked alongside TasNetworks to redesign and implement a streamlined digital platform and organisation-wide transformation, incorporating cultural change and reskilling along the way.
TasNetworks’ General Manager of Strategy Finance and Business Services Ross Burridge says the plan required a significant investment and an enormous amount of training and support, but it has paid off. The business has been able to decommission 60 legacy applications, realising roughly $68 million in benefits as a result. But most critically, he says, the organisation is now better poised to safely and reliably provide power for its customers.
Burridge says while it was a major technology transformation, the project ultimately changed everything about how the organisation operated, so the big challenge was winning over staff.
“We ran a large change programme with lots of one on one meetings and information sessions to try and give everyone an opportunity to ask their questions,” he says. “Communicating the business case took longer than I thought it would but was critical to the project’s success. We needed to demonstrate that this change would give everyone a better outcome – a better way to do their job.”
To help facilitate the ongoing change process, TasNetworks has also worked with DXC’s newly established Digital Transformation Centre at Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne – a partnering initiative between DXC and the university aimed at changing the way research and technology come together to solve business problems in the digital age.
Swinburne’s Deputy Vice Chancellor of Research and Development, Professor Aleksandar Subic, says creating the understanding and cultural acceptance of digital transformation at scale inside an organisation is a huge challenge.
“Not everyone is at the same place on this journey so communicating what value digitalisation will bring to the business is fundamental,” Subic says.
Taking clients out of their usual office environment and bringing them on campus is a key way to spark innovative thinking from the start, he says. “We have opened doors to industry so they can come and touch and feel what is on offer. They can walk around, immerse themselves in a different environment and open up a conversation about their needs.”
Seelan Nayagam, DXC managing director, Australia and New Zealand, says a key lesson in transformation projects such as the one at TasNetworks has been that success needs a holistic approach.
“Digital transformation needs to be considered enterprise-wide from the outset,” Nayagam says. “Cultural change needs to permeate through every part of an organisation. Decisions about the future of a business need to be driven by the very top executives.”
A DXC research study, Beyond Disruption, of 400 organisations by leading emerging technology analyst firm Telsyte, supports this thinking. It found that companies which pursue an organisation-wide digital strategy spend less on IT projects and are better positioned to compete, innovate and produce better business outcomes.
DXC has applied the approach through its own global transformation when the organisation was created with the vision to lead clients through the changes brought by digital disruption.
To this end the Australia and New Zealand arm of DXC trained more than 70 per cent of its 10,000 employees in “Digital 101”. “That programme was about giving everyone a basic level understanding in ‘digital’ and ensuring we were all speaking the same language,” Nayagam says.
“Being Agile” training followed for these employees with the goal of creating a culture of change and continuous learning.
DXC has also undertaken an array of initiatives to help accelerate digital change in the rapidly evolving market. In addition to the Digital Transformation Centre at Swinburne, DXC is fostering and uncovering new talent with TAFE partnerships, helping to shape science, technology, engineering and mathematics curricula in schools and running digital bootcamps with its major customers.
The big picture rationale for these initiatives is clear: “With the right cultural drivers and a holistic business approach, digital transformations can succeed across the enterprise. Yet in the absence of well-executed digital transformations, businesses risk getting left behind,” Nayagam says.