Business Transformation Leaders: Interview With EY’s Woody Driggs

Bruce Rogers: Tell us about the EY Digital Transformation practice.

Woody Driggs: On the digital transformation side, it’s such a big topic for all the clients we’re talking to now. When you ran the Forbes CMO Practice, you engaged early on this topic because, the marketing function was one of the earliest to be disrupted.That same disruption has now rippled through almost every business process, function and model. It’s on the mind of nearly every executive or board member that we talk with. They’re all trying to figure how to stay ahead of the technologies that are disrupting things so quickly. And for me, Bruce, it’s anything but new.

I’ve been “doing digital” since 1986, when I was programming on an IBM 370 green screen. That was digital. We were automating business process. The difference today is the technologies are rolling out so fast and they can be adopted so quickly because of cloud-based architectures, that things can be disrupted virtually overnight. So that’s what is keeping people up and what they really are trying to get their arms around. And of course, all that technology is throwing off unbelievable amounts of data There are as many insights derived from data outside your company as inside your company. I mean, most of the insights we collected were coming from your enterprise systems such as ERP and CRM.Today, hundreds of data sets (structured and unstructured) are available to businesses that help them to gain deeper insight about their products, services, employees, shareholders and customers.

This led EY to follow its clients’ needs and go deep into the digital business. We’ve made a number of acquisitions in customer experience, big data and IOT. We’re looking at blockchain. Last year, we did about 40 different blockchain pilots. This year, we’ll do about 100 projects and 10 of those are now live. We’re helping our clients to understand these technologies and to help them start to transform digitally.What we mean by that is moving from a mindset of “doing digital” to “being digital”.Thinking and behaving like a “digital native” company.Regardless of size, digital companies innovate like a start-up, they design, build and test like a technology giant and they invest and scale up successful products and services like a VC.They keep the customer at the center of everything they do focusing on delivering a better experience. Traditional companies must adopt these same concepts or risk being passed by.

Rogers: Research that I did at Forbes showed that, sadly, a vast majority of transformation efforts were deemed unsuccessful by many Forbes Global 2000 companies. So what’s your perspective about how you can help folks avoid the pitfalls of failing in that process?

Driggs: Well, that’s part of the challenge in how companies must now innovate. The challenge back then — I say back then, yet this is only five or 10 years ago.

Rogers: Back in the olden days.

Driggs: Right. It seems like years ago now because things are changing so rapidly, yet if you think about it, those big projects we did in the 80s, 90s, 2000s, were in many cases massive infrastructure projects. You would do a six-month strategic planning effort that looked out five to seven years. That defined a series of initiatives including organization and operating model change, application and technology infrastructure change as well as global expansion.Many companies followed through with strong execution yet many also struggled to achieve the value.They lost focus as the organization changed and/or as their business changed due to new competition or perhaps acquisition.

I believe that today, Bruce, companies are forced to shorten the innovation cycle.While your purpose may remain the same, It is becoming harder to see two or three years into the future. This is requiring companies to innovate in periods of days and weeks, instead of months and years. The days of five or seven-year planning cycles has ended.

Companies are asking us now to set up continuous innovation spaces where they can bring parts of the business together to look at end to end experiences very quickly and more frequently.

Rogers: It’s test and learn the business model rather than test a very short-lived executional product or campaign releases?

Driggs: That’s right. Testing business models, testing new products and services, testing new experiences, it’s all of those things. So they’re literally asking us to set up innovation shops that focus on the business experience – products, services and employee experiences. We are bringing a cross-functional set of business people together to look at how perhaps a new technology like blockchain or intelligent automation could be applied. It’s a different kind of a lab because it’s business people, coming together with technology people, coming together with creative design, rather than the typical engineering based R&D lab. This new business based lab changes the nature of the relationship between the business and IT.

Rogers: Is your primary relationship with the CIO or CTO?

Driggs: It’s typically with the business. There was a time when most transformation roadmaps read like a technology deployment plan.We relied heavily on IT to drive the change in employee and customer experience by implementing new large-scale technologies.That is shifting.The transformation roadmap of today must read like a software company product plan except software releases are replaced with business experience releases.And the business must take accountability for driving that plan prioritized on doubling down on experiences that are creating trust and delight while fixing experiences that drive customers and employees to go elsewhere.

Rogers: My experience, with both the research that I have done and the conversations I have with CEOs and boards, is that the CEO doesn’t necessarily care who’s going to do it, but somebody has to step up and speed up the clock digitally. Maybe that’s a Chief Digital Officer, maybe that’s a CIO, maybe that’s a CMO, maybe that’s a Chief Customer Officer. Are you seeing that?

Driggs: This is an ongoing debate; how long is the role of Chief Digital Officer going to exist. It’s like the Chief Quality Officer back in the mid-1990s. That role is gone because it’s something that you had to build into every process. So digital ought to be the same way, yet there’ so much change that’s required right now. Exactly what you just said, the clock speed has to change, the mindset has to change. In a lot of cases, you’ve got to hire a Chief Digital Officer to wake up the organization and to change the role of the CIO or to change the role of the business and how the business integrates and operates with technology in the future.


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