Digital Transformation in Our Digital World » Chris Hood

Digital Transformation in Our Digital World

In this first episode our host, Chris Hood, is joined by guests to discuss digital transformation from three perspectives; business, technology and how that has impacted our current digital world.

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Chris Hood: You are listening to that digital show, the digital transformation podcast presented by Google Cloud to help organizations grow business value in a digital world. Episode one, on today’s show, we’ll discuss how our world is influenced by digital engagements and how organizations must leverage digital transformation strategies to connect their business with people.

Hello, my name is Chris Hood. I’m on the customer success team at Google Cloud and welcome to that digital show. For some of you who are listening, you’re running a company, wondering what’s next. You might be constantly on the lookout or faster or better ways to engage with your customers. For others, you’re faced with a huge technology obstacle or breaking down silos within your organization, and although you may not have a handle on all of the heavy lifting that needs to be done. You have a vision, a clear picture of where your organization needs to be. Every week, our team at Google Cloud will bring you engaging perspectives from some of the top thought leaders in the world on digital transformation. This is a remarkable time in our digital world. Thanks for joining and we look forward to sharing our time with you. So to kick things off today, let’s take a look at digital transformation from a business perspective.

Joining me now is Rob Parker-Cole from our London offices, a digital transformation specialist. Hey, Rob, how are you doing?

Rob Parker: I’m doing good, Chris.

Chris: So we’re talking a little bit today, about digital transformation and how that has impacted our digital world? If we were to start at the beginning, what really is digital transformation?

Rob: One of the things I think I’m very fortunate position of being is working at Google we get access to huge amounts of data and research and looking at some of this, we can see the world is changing around us. So there some fantastic stats we’ve come up with an hour research. Looking at the difference in changes in customer’s behavior or not customers, our behavior, your behavior, my behavior. These changes in trends of the way people act, behave, and think. For example, people want to access information services immediately, wherever they are, whatever time they want to access them. In order to do that, you cannot be offering your services through a single channel. So whether it’s bricks and mortar, whether it’s through cable, TV, mobile, you need to be able to provide your services to your market in a way that that market can engage with them readily on their terms and the only way you can do that is to provide those services through a digital medium. So digital transformation is how organizations change their behaviors or change how they take their services to market from their existing mechanism to a digital one now.

Chris: Now, I think that’s very interesting if we put it in perspective of what our world looks like today. I was talking with somebody and I asked them this question. What does your digital world look like today? He replied with, “Well, let’s see. Netflix is my digital world for entertainment. Uber Eats is my digital world for ordering food. Google meets is my digital world for meeting and connecting with people.” Every aspect of his life right now is basically geared towards some type of technology that he has to engage with.

Rob: Yes. I think, here we all in May 2020 recording this, of the world is changed, the

piece of change around us as suddenly flipped on its head and the need to both access and consume services from your own home or wherever you happen to be, while all this is going on. Comes down to digital is the only way you can do it. Go back a history a little bit, how we consume things 10, 20, 30 years ago. It was very much based around what we as a consumer, could do in terms of going to something to access it. If you wanted to find a taxi, you had to physically go out on the street and pick one up. If you wanted to access banking services, you had to go in store to access them. If you wanted food, you needed to travel to the place where that food was being provided.

Now, it’s all been turned around. The people that would, the organizations that will succeed are the organizations that provide you the services where you are and where you need them. The only way that can succeed is actually saying earlier back to the digital transformation. If you cannot do that through a digital medium, where you and your services are in front of the customer, whenever they need them, you’re not going to be doing anything. You’re going to get left behind.

Chris: Yes. I’ve always looked at digital transformation in probably the most simplest form, which is your consumers, your customers, users, all want to engage with your products in some way and they have these technologies that they access and use as part of their identity and they want to be able to access their favorite brands, their favorite services and products through the technologies that they are familiar with and the companies as you just said, that are able to keep up with that demand are the ones that are most successful with engaging, connecting with those customer. It makes me think of something else. If we were to break this down in a different way, what are the key elements?

Rob: The key things are, to have a strong vision of what you want to achieve, to be able to align your organization to that vision and then to be able to execute against that vision. The first step, you need to be able to clearly communicate and articulate to an organization and ensure that it is heard, what your strategy is. I have a vision for the future and this is where we’re going to go. The second piece is there’s no point being a lone voice in the wind, if the rest of the organization is not aligned around you in order to make that happen, you’re going to get nowhere. Day one of course that you’re not going to be in that state. So how do you go about getting the alignment of the organization? How do you get senior executives on board? How do you get the foot soldiers or how’d you get the people further down the corporate ladder to be able to see what you’re trying to achieve and engage with you as a program? How am I going to contribute towards achieving that vision? Then the execution piece, all falls around giving people the tools and processes they need to do it as quickly as efficiently as possible. Even you come to executing against the vision, there’s no point having clarity and having alignment. If you do not enable people to be successful as quickly as possible, or flipping on its head slightly, how do you enable people to try something as quickly as possible, failing that first attempt and then learn and iterate to success off the back of it. So those three things that vision alignment execution of the key three things that you need to be successful.

Chris: Yes, I agree with that. I actually have said oftentimes, digital transformation isn’t really about a single activity or even a technology. It’s really about a culture that must be continuously maintained. So if we look at it as being a culture of something that has to be maintained on a regular basis, most common question that I get asked then is, where should I start? What’s the starting point for digital transformation?

Rob: The most important way to start is to take that first step. So start with the vision. Where is it you want to go? Then ask yourself the fundamental question, “Am I the right person to lead this? Am I committed to this journey? Am I committed to make it happen? Because if you’re committed and you have that vision, then you can start to find other people who will support you on your journey, who believe in the same vision, believe in the same passion that you have and bring those people together and take them on that journey with you. That’s what you start.

Chris: I think it’s also important to start to bridge the gaps between your business teams and your technology teams. We’re talking a lot about the business piece of this right now, which is great. But there is still this technology component and you have to bridge that gap between those two teams to really come together for this vision you’re talking about.

Rob: Absolutely. The vision always but the vision would generally come from the business. We want to achieve these goals. We want to take our organization this direction to be successful in this way. You can’t do that just from a business perspective. If the technology isn’t their support you to enable that success to happen, you’re not going to be there.

Chris: Thanks, Rob. Appreciate your time.

Rob: Thank you, Chris.

Chris: We often don’t think about digital transformation from a business perspective and although I’d like to think that the technology part is usually easier than the business side. You must be able to streamline your technology so that you can drive your business goals. Also joining me today is Keith Daniken, customer engineer with Google Cloud and Apogee. How are you doing today, Keith?

Keith Danekind: I’m doing well, Chris. Thanks. How are you?

Chris: I’m doing excellent. You know, staying at home, relaxing.

Keith: Yes, I’m doing the same thing.

Chris: So today, we’ve been talking a little bit about digital transformation and specifically how our digital world has evolved more so recently than ever before, but I’m curious for your perspective. If we look at digital transformation from a technology view, what would you say is the most influential technology that is driving digital transformation?

Keith: I’d say the technology change has been an adoption of API’s but the ability for customers to adapt to new business challenges and challenges in the marketplace comes from having that technology in place. So there’s having an open ecosystem of API’s changes the game. If you’re thinking about what it’s like to be that developer out there on the consumption side, having great API is going to change everything. What that means is when you want to take on a new business challenge, you’re able to do that and you’re able to adapt to changes in the marketplace and opportunities in the marketplace. So I’d say the availability of API’s and people who are able to consume those as change the game for a lot of companies.

Chris: Now, we’re seeing that today a lot, right? I was telling Rob earlier about the story, I was asking somebody what does their digital world look like and they rattled off a whole bunch of different types of applications that they’re engaged with on a daily basis now from home, ordering food, entertainment, the news, behind all of that our API’s.

Keith: Very much so, and let’s change their though. Your question there is interesting. We don’t even think about this. If it’s been done well, you get lost in the experience. I’m going to order food. I’m going to turn on the lights by talking to the Google home or something like that. I’m not even thinking about any technology behind there or that I’m even using technology. I’m having an experience. So it’s all about providing a great digital experience and making the technology disappear. If you go back years, that’s what people predicted the future would be like. That we’d no longer be thinking about computers and technology, we just have some sort of experience.

Chris: It’s interesting because I was asking about the technology piece of this and I agree API’s or one of these things that are really kind of influencing these experiences, but I think those people who are listening from a technology perspective. They’re still looking at those API’s as well. I have to integrate system A with system B, and I’ve got these things, I’ve got to connect together. How do we get that to switch to what you’re talking about these experiences that people are really driven by?

Keith: The secret there is, I mean, it’s a lot of work. I tell customers that we have this vision this dream that we paint that, they’ll be this vast ecosystem of API’s and it’s absolutely worth it because you can get to that point where you can have these experiences and somebody can quickly assemble a new experience for you without much work. To get there, you’ve got to do a lot of assembly. You’ve got to have the integration in place and you’ve got to have all the systems ready for that.

Chris: I would assume that even in the technology departments that we are working with on a regular basis. There is some sort of mindset that has to shift to begin to enable these experiences through those technologies.

Keith: Very much so. This is the hard part of the equation is to behavior change and the mind shift change. So the technology is quantifiable, it’s knowable, it’s something that you can go, read about and learn about. The hard part is changing behavior and thinking about experiences from a new angle. So what I often suggest is when we look at our customers who’ve been successful with this. They’ve got a particular pattern that they follow and they think about it from the experience and they work backwards. So years ago when I used to develop systems for a living. I had a specification and I was following that and I was just writing all the code that need to be written in order to satisfy this particular specification. Somewhere in there, it said open up a service and share it with somebody else, but we didn’t think about what that somebody else is going to do with it or how the end user would experience it. You flip that around and now the successful customers are thinking about that from the experience point of view. What’s the experience we want to create? How should that experience look? From there, we’ve got to work backwards and that defines what we need to do and often times that is a huge change in behavior to think like that because we’re used to systems and we’re used to security and integration, locking things down and stuff like that. But we need to be thinking about providing experiences rather than just technology.

Chris: Now, you touched on something very interesting there. You mentioned real quickly security and I think a lot of organizations. The first thing they’re going to think is okay. Great. I have to create this new experience for my customers, but that’s not secure. I can’t do that. I can’t open that up to create these experiences because there’s the security piece of it, that is really driving my technology implementation and I can’t create that experience that is really that open experience customers are looking for. Is that also where API’s can make a play?

Keith: They can, yes. All this openness is making me feel a little itchy from the security side and we’d like to cure that itchiness with some confidence. So we’re API’s come into this is oftentimes enterprises have lots and lots of different security systems, different identity management systems tied to different things depending on when they were implemented. What you can do with an API system is you can have a standard there. You can have a standard way of sharing things to the outside world and have a have a reference for that which will give people confidence. We’re confident we can this with somebody else and they can only see what they’re entitled to see because we have a system in place to make that happen. It’s not something we’re just doing at Hawk. There’s very much a formal way around sharing and it’s something that we do all the time and we’ve gotten good at and we can unify all those different security systems and put a facade in front of them so that there is exactly one way to do it and it’s one that’s been blessed by all the people who are involved in this.

Chris: Now, is there also other aspects that business and technology can collaborate on I’m thinking areas like analytics or data or understanding really, if those experiences, if those engagements are successful or not. We do that.

Keith: Yes. So analytics and other technologies had space help us with this confidence equation. So there’s two sides to that. One is operational. We want to see everything that’s happening in there. What is everybody doing? Who’s accessing it? Where are they accessing it from? Which systems are being called? Which versions are they on? Which applications? That sort of thing and then there’s the business side of that. What are they doing? Is it valuable if we look at the data of whose calling? We look at reports and see what they’re doing in there. Can we provide new and more interesting experiences? Are there places to expand the business? From looking at this to we see trends in there and do those show us opportunities for expanding an API program.

Chris: The other area that I’m hearing a lot of conversations around is this other shift from a technology perspective, around building platforms, becoming a platform business. I think a lot of organizations still struggle with that concept. They believe, well, we’re a retail business or we’re a fill in the blank type of business. We’re really not built in a way to support a concept of being a platform. Again, is that a technology or is that something that they have to consider through this process of digital transformation?

Keith: Yes, it’s something that when you look at it from a business point of view, of course, love to be a platform, but how do you get there? That’s the challenge, so we often recommend that people start with a project. One that gets all the infrastructure in place, to be able to share things with confidence and be able to have nice API’s that are consumable and then that turns into a program. We have an API program and it’s internal and then eventually it turns into a platform and this is a major part of our business and this is just how we do business. We have products in here and we have product managers and their curating and managing all those API”s, but most folks can’t get there in one step. You can’t simply become a platform. You’ve got to start somewhere else and work your way towards that.

Chris: That’s the whole process of digital transformation, is going through those efforts.

Keith: It is, yes. Yes, it’s a road. It’s a journey that you’re on and starting off with a few projects to get your feet wet, good experience, doing it is a good way to get started with that journey.

Chris: I appreciate the time traveling this journey with you, Keith.

Keith: Great to be here. Thanks for having me.

Chris: As a leader in your company, you understand the value your team brings to the table. However, digital isn’t about one person or one team. True digital transformation is a culture that must be maintained and supported by everyone in the business. So joining me in this conversation, from our customer success team is Alicia Patterson. Hi, Alicia, how are you doing?

Alicia Paterson: Great. How are you, Chris?

Chris: I am doing excellent. So as we’ve been talking today about various forms of digital transformation, as it relates to the business and technology, but I’m curious to hear your perspective on this. How has digital transformation impacted our world today?

Alicia: Yes. Well, I guess there’s a couple of some macro trends that it definitely pays to have greater awareness of and I think one is this recognizing kind of human social trends. As a creature, we sort of thrive on information. Costs and access to two information kind of the real time flow, we need to know. We need to know about our environment, our community. We see again and again where people get addicted to that sort of ability to continually drink from the fire hose of information across a wide range of different spectrums in their lives. Because we study recently where in the western world more than 50% of people that were survived in the last couple of years said that within the first five minutes of waking up that would reach for their smartphone and get onto the internet. Indeed in the developing world, that number was much higher. There’s a trend there which is we’re addicted to information. We’re addicted to be a being in the know and indeed digital transformation is really about the fact that there’s been this explosion of technologies, which allow people to engage with information and all sorts of ways that were science fiction, even 20 years ago. That’s a trend that doesn’t go away, that trend only increases over time.

Over time, there is a continual new clear explosion of digital technologies, of the ability for people to engage with information, with businesses, across increasing plethora of smart devices. So the second trend then is really around what the imperative for the enterprise, what that means for the enterprise? So you need to recognize that given that the future is only going to contain more of this and not less of it. That there’s an enterprise you need to realize that digital has to be a pervasive thing across your organization. Digital isn’t just one team. It’s not just the IT team. It’s not just a digital business team. Digital has to be pervasive across your organization. Every single person has to be fairly knowledgeable and have insight around the best mechanisms to continue to engage with your customers over digital channels. If you look at that then, you can look back at all organization is that have done that really well, have absolutely changed the shape of their industries and change the nature of the business that they’re in, or indeed companies that recognize that the make a new entry into our market, have done massive disruption to those markets. So I think we continue to see every year. It seems to be that there’s someone new normal in terms of the ability to engage with the customer base across digital channels and upset sort of traditional, but I think that only increases every time.

Chris: Now, you mentioned different channels and different devices, smart devices, I think there’s two pieces to that. We’re not only seeing a change in the types of devices that we can engage with on a regular basis. It’s beyond just your smartphone now, but also, if we look at the world today, the way that the business has to be able to communicate with those consumers has now changed also, which goes exactly to your point.

Alicia: Yes, that’s right. You know, let’s face it. There’s a myriad of different channels now, I remember, I go back in my career of 10-15 years, we would think about the need to establish a communication channel over the web, apps came along so then it was like well, we’ve got our contact center. We’ve got our sort of digital customer care. We’ve now got mobile which is web and apps, digital assistants, Facebook and other social media, there’s so many channels. The reality is you can no longer try and put them in their own little boxes and organized around them as individual responses. You have to recognize that this only skills and becomes more fragment in time. People are going to be engaging with you or do you have the desire to engage with your organization, really just wherever they happen to be right now and it’s up to you to be able to make it really easy to engage with you, or your company, with your brand, with your services, wherever they are right now across all those challenge.

Chris: It’s that right now that is really interesting. If we look at our world and we’re talking about our digital world, that right now has been disrupted and we start to think about how a business can adapt and kind of future proof their business based on a disruption that they may not even see coming with the expectation that people want to engage with your products and services in the way they want, when they want, how they want. How does a business adapt to that?

Alicia: Yes. Obviously the reason why a lot of businesses don’t and the reason why it’s hard is because there’s multiple components to this. It’s not just the technology. It’s not just about, do I have the right platform or do I have the right strategy around engage with customers on social media. You know, there are implications, how you hire and the kind of people that you hire to your organization. Implications for organizational design, this big implication is that how you arrange teams. I think this is where it becomes so difficult for organizations. What got you to where you are based on your past business track record? Why can’t continue to get you there in the future? I think we’ve seen organizations was a break down boundaries within their own organization, able to act within their large and tries act as a series of smaller teams, cross-functional teams. So focused on customer outcomes, did they have done better? I think part of that is acknowledging that we live in a world where volatility, uncertainty, chaos, ambiguity, these things only increase over time. You can’t put things back the boxes. So the way you organize cross-functionally, I look gives you more agility in terms of continuing to meet those ambiguities head on.

Chris: Yes. I’ll go back to something Keith talked about which was how API’s are this mechanism by which you can connect with the various technologies, through the means by which your consumers are looking to connect with you, across all of these different channels we’ve been talking about, but I think there’s another component to that. We’re API’s, even though they are a technology. API’s are really a mechanism by which it allows your organization to connect with people and that’s probably the key piece of all of this transformational conversations were having, is the people within your organization, the people within your teams, the people who are your customers, it’s how do you interface with them, that is critical.

Alicia: Yes. I think that’s kind of the modern era of the API sort of recognizes that, right. Which is in this digital world connectivity, the connectiveness across different experiences and different platforms, is increasingly important. Organizations that remove friction to make it super easy for people to move seamlessly across sort of different parts of their journey while interacting with the information of products and services that they need, that appeared to them just in time, as an even these organizations are the champions of the current age. That comes from building that connectiveness and that connectedness, of course, also is what fuels enormous first as well as innovation. So to your point, API’s have always kind of being this point of integration, across different systems, across disparate products and services, but more importantly, I think this is a sort of thing that you’re getting at. It’s not just a piece of web architecture as an integration expression, instead, it’s actually a tool for enablement of the people who are removing those bound. So they’re trying to extend those services and create that connective tissue between different experiences. It’s the tool that actually makes it really easy for them to do that, which is why this is her fundamental.

Chris: I completely and totally agree. Thanks, Alicia. I appreciate your time today.

Alicia: That’s great to be here. Thank you so much, Chris.

Chris: Our digital world has become massive and there’s never been a better time like now to generate new business value for your customers. Take your vision of the future, embrace business application platforms, and drive a culture of success fueled by digital transformation. If you enjoyed today’s episode, please share the show with your friends and colleagues and we would love to hear from you. Join us online at, subscribe through your favorite podcast platforms to listen to our weekly episodes or send us your digital questions, and we may answer them on the next episode of that digital show. Thanks for listening.


One comment on “Digital Transformation in Our Digital World”

  1. […] make more minor, incremental changes to their operations without the same risk associated with a full-scale digital transformation. This is especially important for companies that may be hesitant to change their business model or […]

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