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2016 Digital Transformation Summit

On Monday I attended the 2016 Digital Transformation Summit at Sky City in Auckland. I'd like to share some of the key messages that resonated with me and some of the random thoughts that wandered across my brain.

Some key messages

  1. For digital transformation, the lead needs to come from the top and the ownership shared across the whole organisation. It shouldn't be a silo within IT or Marketing.
  2. "Fit to Fight". Ambition is to be applauded, but firstly you need a team in place with the skills and personalities to make change happen.
  3. It isn't a one-time, massive budget, project. It is a continuous, co-ordinated, agile sequence of milestones.
  4. Be smart about where you transform. There are no prizes for being the "most digital". Target the areas where you need a digital advantage to defeat your competition.
  5. Mobile First & User Experience is key. And the more consumer focused your company is, the more "mobile first-ish" it needs to be.
  6. Build in your measurements. If you can't measure it, then how do you know it is working?

Random thoughts

  1. Plenty of speakers were telling us how it is right now, plenty were telling us about the technology available today, mobile usage, internet of things etc. Nobody seemed prepared to tell us what will be the big thing in 5/10 years time. Now that would be useful to know.
  2. Know where you want to go but be prepared to take small, regular steps to get there - the 5 year multi-miilion dollar, mega-project approach will not be reactive enough.
  3. Know how your customers and prospective customers use digital now - and more importantly how they will be using it in the future.

The opening speaker was Shaun Rein from Beijing who talked on China and the trends that he sees happening now and into the future. It was informative to hear of the quality of life issues caused by pollution over there and how that affects Chinese demands for goods to make their lives healthier. Outside of China, very few of us know of the scale of WeChat (released only 5 years ago and with almost 600 million active users in China) and how far behind it leaves our social media apps in terms of functionality and usage.

Shaun's focus was innovation and whether China can be thought of as innovative in the digital era. Shaun sees the major issues as

  1. IP Protection (Subway has thousands of stores, only a handful are actually licenced by Subway) and the Enforcement of IP Protection.
  2. Censorship (this is often used not to clamp down on the message but to restrict the scope of competitors). 
  3. Education (recognised as being poor and hence why so many Chinese study abroad including New Zealand).

Paul Muller of HP talked on the rapid changes in the landscape of digital and how this impacts the traditionally slow release cycles that large corporates are comfortable with. This quote from Douglas Adams amused all.

Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.

Anything that’s invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.

Anything invented after you're thirty-five is against the natural order of things

The need for rapid incremental change can be a concern for IT departments, hence the rise of DevOps ( and Agile software development ( This is causing security issues with statistics showing that many apps and beacons are vulnerable to attack.

Mike Grenfell from Cigna talked on the challenges of taking a traditionally "analogue" company and transforming it to digital. Interestingly, poor management is often the major reason for the failure of digital initiatives and so buy-in at all levels of a company is key to digital.

Philip Coop of Solnet and Evelyn Seewald of Fonterra presented on the critical factors for Digital Transformation. They were presented as

  1. Innovate where it matters
  2. Build a digital culture
  3. Think small. Move fast
  4. Know your customer
  5. Leverage your data
  6. Invest in UX

Evelyn talked through how Fonterra works with farmers to provide useful apps and ones that are suitable for the farming workplace - for example colour schemes that are visible against a background of grass.

Hamish Carr of IAG talked through a case study as Digital Programme Director for IAG as they attempted to transform a number of older insurance brands to the digital age. I was struck by the first line of his plan

  1. Get Fit to Fight
  2. Differentiate your Customers' Experience
  3. Differentiate your Products and Value

Build a team of the right skills and personalities before embarking on the journey. I feel this part is often forgotten in the desire to embrace digital.

Also he had to change the thinking of IT internally that long lead times and release cycles had to become rapid incremental change without sacrificing reliablity and security.

Next I listened to Kirsty Band of Rough Sketch talk about marketing and brand in the digital age and how we have moved from Mass, Push, Interrupt Marketing before to Personalised, Pull, Permission Marketing today. Today marketing is built around the following demands

Kirsty Band Rough Sketch

(Image above kindly shared by Kirsty Band from her presentation)

At these points, there is an opportunity for marketing if, and only if, you can assist in the process in some way. Opportunities for marketing are now available much more often and in a smaller way, so you have to be reactive and monitor channels to seize the opportunities.

Roxanne Salton from ASB Bank talked about building a digital centre of excellence. Here recipe for a successful digital transformation was

  1. A clear digital strategy
  2. An impassioned and committed CEO
  3. An innovative and flexible culture
  4. A digitally proficient workforce

Her aim was to move from where Digital is a "project" to where Digital is a "core value".

Regan Savage from Kiwibank talked about building their brand and there is no doubt that Kiwibank has been very successful at achieving this within the last few years. Being able to differentiate themselves from the bigger, traditional banks was their aim.

This image from Regan's presentation was borrowed from Twitter

Digital Transformation

Gavin Jones from Pivotal talked about their tools that enable digital business covering Big Data, Agile Product Development and Cloud Native Platform.

After a motivating talk from Dr Dragos, the conference came to a close.

Overall it felt a bit like the same message was being repeated in a slightly different way by all of the presenters - the practical application of the principles set out is the massive challenge, especially for larger, tradtional companies. Cucumber's role is to be a partner to companies as they navigate their way along the digital footpath so contact us to see how we can help.

Let me know what you think on Twitter