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Leading Digital In Practice

May 14, 2015 Leave a comment
I had the opportunity to read and review the book “Leading Digital” by George WestermanDidier Bonnet & Andrew McAfee, and as you might guess from the review score, I thought it was an excellent book. However, there’s nothing quite like putting something into practice to get a real feel for it, and I was able to do just that on a couple of recent occasions. Read on for highlights…

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If you haven’t already read the book*, I can assure you it is chock full of common sense and great ideas on how to go about transforming your typical large, non-tech organisation into a digital master. However, as with most things, the theory can be vastly different from reality in practice, so below are a few observations from recent experiences where we tried to put into practice some of the wisdom from Leading Digital:

1. Not every organisation is geared up to do this right away – Even those organisations perceived by peers to be ahead of the pack may just be ‘Fashionistas’ at heart (i.e. very quick to try out shiny new digital toys without adult supervision). To gauge readiness it is important to understand where an organisation sits in the digital maturity quadrant**. Some organisations believe they already know the answer, but it’s always advisable to verify such a crucial starting point, in order to work out their best route to digital mastery.


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2. Engage both business and technology communities from the start – Anything else is just window dressing because, although either group can sell a good story as why they’re critical, neither side can fully deliver digital transformation without the other. It really is a game of two sides working well together to achieve a single outcome – no short cuts allowed.

3. Ground up or top down is great, but together they’re unbeatable – Every organisation must address four interlocking*** areas of: Vision, Engagement, Governance & Technology to stand any chance of leading digital. Many often have one or more of these areas needing serious intervention to get up to speed.

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4. Employees know their organisation better than anyone – This may be stating the obvious, but on several occasions we found critical knowledge locked in the heads of a few individuals, or that departments don’t communicate enough with each other, (not even those using the same systems / processes / suppliers). It is therefore a vital step to unearth such locked-in knowledge, and to untangle any communication gridlock.

5. Using the right tools in the right way pays off big – The Digital Maturity Quadrant or Digital Maturity Assessment exercise are great tools for stimulating debate, conversations and mission clarity. However the readiness of an organisation may impact how such tools are perceived as well as their effectiveness. In such situations, we need to reassess the best way to achieve a useful outcome.

In conclusion, I’d encourage all large, non-tech firms to look for opportunities to put some of the book’s wisdom into practice. The pay off is well worth it, and besides it’s never too late to start on the transformation journey because, as author Andrew McAfee puts it, when it comes to digital, “we ain’t seen nothing yet“!


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*Source: Leading Digital by George Westerman, Didier Bonnet and Andrew McAfee
**Source: Capgemini Consulting-MIT Analysis – Digital Transformation: A roadmap for billion-dollar organizations (c) 2012
*** Source: Capgemini 2014


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IT’s At The Airport

Last month, I helped coordinate a BCS London seminar about the role of IT in the airport and air travel industry, and as you might imagine it proved a very popular topic, complete with sold out venue and 4 expert IT practitioners from one of the world’s busiest hub airport. Read on for highlights…

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In the UK, London’s Heathrow Airport served over 73 million passengers in 2014, which makes it a daily hive of logistical complexity and activity involving multiple parties, inter-linked processes and diverse technologies all of which interface with IT. As a result, Heathrow’s IT Department plays a crucial role in the smooth operation of the airport, and our 4 speakers provided a glimpse into several aspects of this relationship at the airport, for example:
  • Airport Operations – Heathrow operates 98% runway capacity which roughly translates to a take-off or landing event occurring every 45 seconds, thereby making it one of the most efficient 2 runway airports in the world. Speaker, Brent Reed (Airport Ops Lead Designer), described how Heathrow introduced a world’s first Time Based Seperation (TBS) system to further maintain / improve on this efficiency, particularly on windy days – every second counts!
  • The Automated Passenger Journey – Heathrow is actively implementing the IATA Fast Travel Program strategy which aims to provide 80% of global passengers with a complete and relevant self-service suite by 2020. According to Capgemini’s Don Grose (Lead Solution Architect), this program will deliver multiple benefits for: passengers, airlines and airports, and Heathrow has already delivered or trialled several self service capabilities, including: Self Boarding, Automatic Ticket Presentation and Kiosk self service bag tags, Self Service Bag Drop trials, as well as biometric enrolment & verification.
  • Shadow IT at Heathrow – Andrew Isenman (Passenger Experience Design Lead), described how Heathrow employees are starting to engage their colleagues and digitally enabled passengers in different ways, sometimes even bypassing the IT departments. As a result, the latter have proactively started encouraging and shaping how this engagement happens, at the same time they’re addressing the usual questions around: support provision, reduced Total-Cost-of-Ownership (TCO), increased security and minimal technical debt.
  • Airport Innovation – Heathrow has embraced the drive for innovation with various initiatives, some of which were presented by Richard Harding, (Head of strategy and innovation at Heathrow). They included: the Heathrow innovation Process, Crowd dynamics (detecting / measuring / alerting via CCTV), WiFi digital finger printing, Airfield Asset inspection, Mobile Display units and treasure hunts. Key insights gleaned from Heathrow innovation highlight the need for: open innovation, active promotion, new governance processes, skills enablement and innovative culture / process metrics.
In conclusion, it was a very informative session on how IT enables the daily operation of a major hub airport. Times are changing, and air travellers demand a more personalised experience in their interaction with Heathrow and its many partners which make-up the airport ecosystem.  A huge thanks to the BCS London organisers and the speakers for making it an insightful and worthwhile event about IT at the Airport!
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