Making the most of your organisation’s data relies more on creating the right culture than buying the latest, most expensive digital tools.

In an economy defined by the looming threat of recession, spiralling cost of living, supply chain headaches, and geopolitical  turmoil, data-driven decision making is increasingly making the difference between success and failure. By the end of 2026, worldwide spending on data and analytics is predicted to almost reach $30 billion. 

A recent survey of CIOs found that data analysis was among the top five focus areas for 2024. 

However, many organisations are realising that investment into data analytics tools does not automatically equate to positive results. 

Adrift in a sea of data 

A growing number of organisations in multiple fields are experiencing a gap between their data analytics investments and returns. New research conducted by The Drum and AAR (focused on the marketing sector) found that over half (52%) of CMOs have enormous amounts of data but don’t know what to do with it. 

In 2022, a study found only 26.5% of Fortune 1000 executives felt they had successfully built a data-driven organisation. In the 2024 edition of the study, that figure rose to 48.1%. However, that still leaves over half of all companies investing, trying, and failing to make good use of their data. 

Increasingly, it’s becoming apparent that the problem lies not with digital tools that analyse the data but the company cultures that make use of the results. 

“The implementation of advanced tools and technologies alone will not realise the full potential of data-driven outcomes,” argues Forbes Technology Council member Emily Lewis-Pinnell. “Businesses must also build a culture that values data-driven decision-making and encourages continuous learning and adaptation.” 

How to build a data-driven culture 

In order to build a data-driven culture, organisations need to shift their perspective on data from a performance measurement tool to a strategic guide for making commercial decisions. Achieving this goal requires top-down accountability, with buy-in from senior stakeholders. Without buy-in, data remains an underutilised tool rather than a cultural mindset.

Additionally, siloed metrics lead to conflicting results, hindering effective decision-making and throwing even good data-driven results into doubt. Taking a unified data perspective enables organisations to trust their data, which makes people more likely to view analytics as a valuable resource when making decisions. 

In the marketing sector, there’s a great deal of attention paid to the process of presenting data as a narrative rather than just statistics. Good storytelling around data insights helps various departments ingest and align with the results, in turn resulting in more stakeholder buy-in. This doesn’t happen as much outside of marketing and other soft-skill-forward industries, and it should. Finding ways to humanise data will make it easier to incorporate it into a company’s culture. 

  • Data & AI
  • Digital Strategy
  • People & Culture

Human error remains the most common point of failure for cybersecurity measures, but almost three quarters of European companies aren’t training staff.

A shortage of cybersecurity professionals and a lack of organisation-wide training may be exacerbating a lack of cybersecurity skills in many European companies. 

More than 70% of companies in the European Union have not taken any steps to train their employees on cybersecurity, or raise awareness of cybersecurity as an issue. This data comes from a new survey by Eurobarometer of companies in 27 EU countries in April and May. 

Security breaches are worse than ever 

It would appear that, for most organisations, increasing employees’ cybersecurity capabilities would be a top priority. Data breaches and cybersecurity attacks are becoming increasingly common. A survey of more than 500 IT and cybersecurity professionals within UK businesses found that 61% of businesses experienced a cyber breach last year. A quarter of those companies suffered three breaches or more. 

Worldwide, the number of data breaches rose by 20% from 2022 to 2023, due to cloud misconfigurations, ransomware attacks, and exploitation of vendor systems. However, while attackers are using more sophisticated tools—like AI deepfakes and Chat-GPT generated phishing emails—humans still remain the best defence against cyberattacks, but also cybersecurity teams’ most glaring weakness. 

According to data published in the State of Email and Collaboration Security 2024, 74% of all cybersecurity breaches are down to “human factors”. These include errors, stolen credentials, misuse of access privileges, and social engineering.

Not only is it becoming more likely that breaches occur, but data also suggests that they are wreaking more havoc than ever. A study released in April found that an overwhelming proportion (93%) of breached enterprises reported the consequences of their breaches as “dire”. Fallout commonly included operational downtime and financial losses, as well as reputational damage. 

So, why is no one being trained? 

The figures only make it more alarming that well over half of all EU companies have made no progress towards improving the overall cyber-readiness of their workforces. Additionally, 68% of the companies surveyed reported thinking that no training or awareness raising about cybersecurity was needed. Another 16% said they were not aware of relevant training opportunities, and 8% said such measures were too costly.

The most common reason cited by organisations not training their staff on cybersecurity is that there doesn’t appear to be anyone who can do the training. Just under half of all respondents (45%) identified their biggest challenge as finding qualified candidates for cybersecurity positions. Almost half (44%) reported having no applicants at all.

Around 20% of companies reported the fact that the continuous training required to keep cyber professionals abreast of industry developments was an obstacle to hiring. A similar number also cited rapidly evolving technology as a challenge to finding qualified workers. 

As a result, it appears that, in Europe at least, the cyber skills shortage is driving a lack of cyber awareness across the whole business. It’s also possible that a lack of cybersecurity professionals leads to a lack of training, which then leads to a lack of awareness of a need for better cybersecurity measures. Until there’s a breach, of course. 

Things are similar in the UK. According to the British government’s 2023 Cyber Security Breaches Survey report only 18% of businesses said that they’d organised cybersecurity training for their employees in the last year.

Kayne McGladrey, Field CISO, Hyperproof, commented that employers “should provide annual training at the very minimum, supplemented by micro-training modules after policy violations or incidents”.

  • Cybersecurity
  • People & Culture

Skills gaps and replicating bad processes are more likely to be harming your digital transformation than technology, according to people who make technology.

A shockingly high percentage of digital transformation projects fail. According to McKinsey, the figure actually sits at around 70%. Not only that, but less than a third of digital transformations manage to improve organisational performance and sustain those improvements for any length of time.  

Nevertheless, digital transformation has become a ubiquitous endeavour. Organisations in every industry in every market are engaging in some kind of technology transformation effort. This could mean adopting a new ERP platform, digitising paperwork, migrating to the cloud, or any number of other efforts to use technology to improve efficiency, solve pain points, and create value. 

However, across such a broad range of applications, companies, and markets, digital transformations keep failing at roughly the same rate. One reason for this could be that, wherever digital transformation goes, people are waiting for it. 

Humans are the problem with technology, according to Google VP  

At Google’s Cloud Next event held in Las Vegas in early April, Phil Davis, Google Cloud’s VP of Global GTM for Applications, SaaS and SMB, suggested that people and process are the biggest hurdle to successful digital transformations. 

“I think the biggest hurdle is the people and the process change that goes with it [digital transformation]. It’s not the technology,” he said in an interview at the event. Davis believes that the problem with many digital transformation efforts is that they replicate existing problems using new technology. Processes that don’t benefit the business on premesis also won’t work in the cloud. Fundamentally, nothing’s changed. Moving an inefficient process into the cloud doesn’t change the fact the process is inefficient. 

“The biggest thing is how do you train people to do things differently,” he said. “We see this even with Workspace. People may be used to doing things in a very suboptimal, clunky way and this is a very different, more efficient way to do it.”  

The ubiquitous cloud skills gap and digital transformation

According to a report by SoftwareOne, the vast majority of digital transformations struggle due to lacking cloud and IT skills. 

The report found that 95% of businesses around the world are dealing with a cloud and IT skills gap. As a result, technology transformation projects are falling behind by an average of five months. Not only this, but one-third of businesses believe their finances will suffer as a result. 

“For companies who want to accelerate their digital transformation, closing the cloud skills gap is critical,” said Craig Thomson, an SVP at SoftwareOne. 

For businesses looking to prevent their transformation efforts from being delayed, derailed, or ineffectual, closing the skills gap is paramount. As such, it’s not a huge surprise that the top three places where businesses plan to spend money in 2023 are in hiring and wages (29%); retention, “upskilling” and engagement (22%); and digital transformation including cloud, security and automation (20%), according to a report by SPG Global.  

  • Digital Strategy
  • People & Culture

From skills gaps to data security, here are the 5 biggest risks that threaten organisations’ cloud migration efforts in 2024.

Cloud migration is a key stepping stone for businesses on the road to digital transformation. Moving IT infrastructure into the cloud increases agility, makes it easier to scale, and unlocks new capabilities for organisations. According to data from Accenture, a successful public cloud migration can reduce the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of an organisation’s IT stack by as much as 40%.

Migration from legacy to cloud-based services has accelerated even more in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, with 80% of organisations using multiple public or private clouds at once. However, much like digital transformations, cloud migrations are also fraught with complications. As many as half of all cloud migration projects fail or stall. Not only this, but around 44% of CIOs approach migration without a sufficient plan, and 55% of business leaders are unable to optimise their process to match a clearly defined business case. 

The benefits of a successful cloud migration far outweigh the risk of failure, but that risk is nevertheless very real. Here are the X reasons why your cloud migration is in danger of failing. 

1. Skills gap 

Transitioning to a cloud computing environment involves implementing new technologies, procedures, and third-party integrations. In short, it’s complex and new. Often, existing teams won’t have the necessary skills and qualifications to perform IT roles within the new infrastructure. 

Training and upskilling is a necessary part laying the foundations for a cloud migration. In order to bridge the gap between your current capabilities and where you need to be, partnering with a cloud migration specialist can be helpful. However, relying too much on outside help can cause costs to skyrocket. Also, relying on third party talent can prevent your own teams from developing the necessary skills, leaving you in the lurch when the consultants leave. 

2. Complexity and lack of visibility 

Cloud migrations are complex, especially when moving from legacy on-premises IT environments. As a result, progress is best made in stages to ensure each step is successful before advancing. Underestimating a project’s complexity can create potentially disastrous pain points for a cloud migration. Simply porting legacy software over to the cloud can result in downtime, loss of key functionalities, and dissatisfied customers. 

A complex IT architecture can make developing and implementing a cloud migration strategy challenging. Identifying and documenting interdependencies and creating a phased plan for moving specific components to the cloud can be particularly difficult.

Osterman Research claims that 97% of enterprise cloud apps are unsanctioned purchases. Departments, teams, or employees purchase new tools to support their productivity efforts independently from the broader IT or cloud migration strategy. The result can be spiralling complexity and an inability for IT to gain the necessary visibility to govern a cloud environment. 

3. Cultural inertia and change management 

Cloud migration is not just a sizable logistical undertaking. Moving from an on-premises IT environment to the cloud (especially the public cloud) requires a meaningful shift in attitude and approach. As a result, cloud migrations often encounter internal resistance and complexities when it comes to managing people, just as much as processes.

Transitioning from a strong on-premises IT culture to the cloud may meet staff resistance, potentially delaying the process and sparking conflicts. Top down buy-in and advocacy for the migration is crucial. Migrations where the leadership team champion the initiative are much more likely to be successful. Specifically, C-suite engagement has been proven to heavily influence employee engagement and adoption. 

4. Data security 

Data security and regulatory compliance are significant challenges faced by every organisation transitioning to the cloud. There are meaningful differences between being compliant in an on-premises environment and in the cloud. Migrating to the cloud has the potential to expose your data to new risks. As such, a robust approach to security is absolutely essential.

Setting up a new cloud environment means ensuring that data and applications hosted in the cloud are as secure as those in an on-premises data centre. 

In public cloud deployments, companies share servers and infrastructure with other customers. Vulnerabilities in these servers or inadequate isolation of virtual machines can result in data leaks or other security incidents. It can also be difficult to gain visibility into the exact location of valuable data and applications, posing challenges for compliance with regulations like General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

5. Cost containment 

Only about 3 in 10 organisations know exactly where their cloud costs are going, according to CloudZero’s State Of Cloud Cost Intelligence 2022 Report. One of the most common pitfalls that derails cloud migrations is excessive project spend. 

Overspending in of itself is typically an indicator of larger underlying issues. inadequate understanding of the amount of work required to complete a migration can see costs rapidly spiral. A lack of focus and direction can see dramatic overspending on products and services that don’t create value for the organisation. Not having enough internal expertise can result in massive overspending on third party consultants that could be better spent on training internal staff.  

  • Infrastructure & Cloud
  • People & Culture

Businesses that invest meaningfully into digital transformation experience better business performance and outcomes compared to those that don’t.

It’s widely reported that the majority of digital transformations are unsuccessful. However, the fact remains that organisations investing heavily in digital transformation are nevertheless “more productive and see overall better performance” than companies with lower levels of investment. 

Major benefits of technology investment 

According to a new report from Autodesk, when comparing companies that invest more or less than 45% of their revenue in technology, the outcomes for organisations investing above 45% reportedly “create a compelling case that effective digital transformation investments are now essential to business success.”      

Half of respondents to Autodesk’s survey of industry leaders whose companies were investing over 45% into technology reported their organisation’s performance as “exceptional.” By comparison, only 32% reported exceptional performance at companies that invest less. 

In organisations with higher levels of investment into technology, 34% reported that their companies were keeping up with changes in their industry “very well,” compared to 25% at companies investing less. 

Most importantly, perhaps, respondents reported significant productivity gains as the direct result of technology investment. Those citing productivity as the top benefit of digital transformation said, on average, that digital investments have improved productivity by 62%. Profitability, customer satisfaction, sustainability, and collaboration were all reported as benefiting from higher levels of digital transformation

Major barriers to digital maturity

The percentage of digital transformations that fail is as high as 70%, according to a 2021 McKinsey study. The figure comes from a report that cites barriers to successful digital transformation as “insufficiently high aspirations, a lack of engagement within the organisation, and insufficient investment in building capabilities across the organisation to sustain the change.” 

Autodesk’s data, at least in part, reinforces the findings. Report’s authors note that there are a number of barriers preventing companies from investing in technology as much as they would like. They also admit that implementing new tools is “not enough to drive effective digital transformation.” Instead, they stress that new tools and solutions must be accompanied by process improvements and cultural transformation. Importantly, Autodesk’s data highlights the fact that cultural transformation needs to come from both employees and executives.

“There is still resistance to digital transformation from people who have been working for a long time,” Eiichiro Okano of the Obayashi Corporation commented in conjunction with the report. 

Regardless of whether barriers to digital transformation hindered investment or implementation, the data overwhelmingly points to the fact that organisations that successfully overcome these obstacles unlock meaningful benefits. According to respondent’s from “digitally mature” companies, compared with digitally immature ones,  34% more experienced “above average” or “exceptional” performance; 20% more kept up “very well” with change in the industry; 26% more “agree” they are prepared for the future; and 19% more said they were “very effective” at leveraging data.

  • Digital Strategy
  • People & Culture

Digital transformation is a critical element of successfully, sustainably transitioning from in-person to hybrid or remote teams.

In a world where remote work is here to stay (albeit maybe not in as big a way as we thought), digital transformation is allowing companies to support and better harness the potential of a partially or fully remote team.  

Remote work and the long shadow of COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic continues, in many ways, to cast a long shadow across the ways we live today. One of the most significant changes that the pandemic wrought was to the ways in which we work and view the traditional dynamic of the in-person office

The number of people working remotely in the US tripled during the pandemic. According to the US census bureau, 17.9% of people mostly worked from home in 2021, compared with 5.7% in 2019. Fast forward to 2024, and the situation is a little more complicated. 

During the pandemic, many companies claimed that, due to the initial successes of remote work, they would continue to operate hybrid teams in the future. Some claimed that remote work would be on the table forever. This trend didn’t last, as reactionary backlash against remote work pushed numbers down again over the past 18 months in conjunction with public health restrictions lifting. 

Today, in the US, slightly more than one-third of workers whose jobs allow them to work remotely do so full time. Just over 40% are at least part-time remote on a hybrid setup. A survey by USA Today found that remote work remains popular, with hybrid remote being preferred among white collar workers. Over half (58%) of white-collar employees prefer to work remotely at least three days a week. 

Also, a mere 16% of workers said they would be willing to consider a role that doesn’t offer any remote work opportunities. And, almost half (42%) of office workers said they would be willing to take a 10% pay cut to have the option to work remotely. 

In short, despite tantrums from various executives and business owners, remote work isn’t going anywhere. 

The question is, how can companies support and capitalise on this new, distributed form of working?

Digital transformation and remote work 

Working from home is no longer a coping strategy. Millions of people around the world now work fully remote, with still more working in hybrid remote setups. 

Digital transformation is the key to unlocking the potential of remote teams, through collaborative tools, data analytics, and platforms that automate manual tasks and increase transparency. 

Utilising data for more informed decision-making is a critical step for any organisation, but especially for one with a distributed remote workforce. As organisations transition away from the traditional 9-to-5 workday, leaders need to give decision-makers actionable data. This involves optimising data flow, preventing information silos, and empowering teams with tools that facilitate faster, informed decisions.

Digital transformation—correctly deployed—can increase efficiency and enable operational transformations at the workflow level. Implementing automation tools to handle repetitive tasks can free up employees for higher-value activities. This synergises especially well with the more autonomous, flexible nature of remote work. 

First of all, leaders driving a remote-focused digital transformation should implement digital solutions that increase workflow visibility. This enables the necessary clarity remote teams need when it comes to highlighting objectives and delegating responsibility. 

Real-time project tracking enhances productivity and empowers employees, but management should be careful not to overinvest in oversight. Mistaking micromanagement for support is a managerial sin that can, ironically, be even easier to commit remotely. 

It’s all about collaboration

Most importantly, digital transformations for remote teams should always return to the importance of enhancing seamless collaboration. Adopting cloud-native solutions, videoconferencing, and collaboration tools is something companies now have the breathing room to do deliberately, as opposed to during the mad scramble of 2020. 

Implement the right tools and train your team correctly, and leaders can ensure seamless collaboration across any number of locations. These tools bridge the gap between remote and in-person teams, and can help create unity without the need for digital presenteeism. 

  • Digital Strategy
  • People & Culture

A lack of gender diversity in the fintech sector hurts women, men, and the bottom line, according to a damning new report.

Fintech has exploded over the past decade from a nascent offshoot of the tech sector to a multi-billion dollar industry. At its height in 2021, the fintech sector attracted more than $225 billion in investment. 

Apps like Klarna, CashApp, and Monzo are redefining the ways in which consumers and businesses interact with their money. The profound success of the fintech sector is causing a frantic scramble (by the standards of large financial institutions) to invest, acquire, and adapt from traditional financial institutions.  

In short, fintech is one of the most dynamic, forward-thinking, and exciting sectors you could hope to work in. At least, that’s how it likes to present itself. 

However, new research conducted by Dr Chloe Fox-Robertson and Professor Dariusz Wojcik suggests otherwise. Despite attracting a great deal of financial investment, “FinTech is causing minimal disruption to the financial landscape, tending to represent a process of re-intermediation rather than dis-intermediation. FinTechs collaborate with or replace incumbents,” they write

This undercurrent of conservatism—linked to Fintech’s heritage in the entrepreneurial, financial, and technology sectors—is also responsible for the underrepresentation of women in the industry. This is especially true among senior positions. 

Fox-Robertson and Wojcik’s suggests that, in fintech, “discriminatory practices are overt and implicit, everyday and exceptional, micro and acute.” 

A “triple glass ceiling” 

“Fintech gender inequalities result from male dominance in finance, technology and entrepreneurship,” Fox-Robertson and Wojcik argue. Each of these three sectors is grappling with its own gender imbalance. Women might make up 47% of all employed adults in the US, as of 2022. However, they hold only 28% of computing and mathematical roles, according to data from Zippia

According to data from Accenture, the ratio of women to men in technology roles actually declined in the past three decades. Half of all women who enter the tech industry drop out by the age of 35. As a result, far fewer women reach higher level executive positions within tech companies. 

The same is true in finance, and across startup culture in general. Fox-Robertson and Wojcik found the male dominance of the FinTech sector to be “particularly salient” at the senior levels. Under 5% of companies studied were led by a female CEO. Women accounted for, on average, 18.2% of executive committee positions and 27.67% of FinTechs were found to have an entirely male executive team. 

The contributing inequalities stemming from each, highly male-dominated, industry conspire to create a “triple glass ceiling.” 

Technology, finance, and entrepreneurship each have a tradition of “longstanding male dominance” and “continued privileging of masculinity.” Masculine coded traits are rewarded within these industries’ cultures, while traditionally feminine characteristics are undervalued and dismissed. 

“This ‘boys’ club’ culture within the senior levels of Fintech” is a significant barrier to women progressing within the sector. 

In the UK, women account for 28% of the fintech workforce but only 17% of senior roles. In 2019, just 12.2% of the 3,017 fintech startups in the UK had at least one woman (co-)founder. 

A challenge to the industry

Fintech’s image is ostensibly one of progress, of disruption. The sector is supposedly taking the innovative spirit of startup culture and the transformative power of technology to profoundly change the nature of the conservative, lumbering financial sector. However, Fox-Robertson and Wojcik argue that fintech’s actual impact is much less disruptive than its messaging claims. Not only that, but they observe that the industry has synthesised the ingrained misogyny of all three industries it pulls from. 

As a result, Fox-Robertson and Wojcik are calling for “a collective challenge that holds the industry accountable”.  Such action would be “necessary for (re)developing the fintech ecosystem to make it a more inclusive, equitable, and attractive environment for individuals.”  

The impetus for this goes beyond a simple moral imperative, however. There are well documented benefits to greater diversity. The positive impact of diverse perspectives is both fiscal and societal. For example, companies with increased diversity tend to financially outperform their competitors. The economic benefit is also collective. Fox-Robertson and Wojcik note that the UK economy could be boosted by as much as £250 billion annually if entrepreneurial gender parity could be achieved. 

Global fintech funding fell by 42% last year. EMEA and Latin America were hit hardest, exhibiting regional drops of 62% and 71% respectively to $8 billion and $1 billion, respectively. North America and APAC fared better, but only just. 

The industry appears to be bouncing back, but experts at McKinsey argue that “in the new era, a challenged funding environment means fintechs can no longer afford to sprint.” Fintech’s need to take a new approach and embrace new perspectives. Addressing diversity in a meaningful way could help secure a more successful future for the industry and its stakeholders. 

  • Fintech & Insurtech
  • People & Culture

Remote and hybrid work, combined with increased digitalisation, are increasingly making workplace culture a technology issue.

In the four years since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the world’s relationship to work has changed. Remote and hybrid work is here to stay. 

Nevertheless, tensions continue to flare between workers and CEOs demanding a return to the office. Leaders fighting to reinstate “the buzzy atmosphere of a lively office” are fighting the wrong battle. Instead, some argue they should be looking to technology as a way of creating a new kind of workplace culture without the centralised workplace. 

The traditional “workplace” doesn’t exist anymore

More employees are working flexible hours from wherever they want. 

In the US, for example, there were approximately 15.5 million digital nomads in 2021. That figure represents a dramatic 112% rise compared with 2019. Last year, a survey from the Pew Research Center showed roughly one third of workers with jobs that can be done remotely are working from home all the time. That’s compared to just 7% who did so before the pandemic.

Workers today have more freedom to work from outside the office. Not only this, but foundational attitudes towards work-life balance and the role of work itself are also changing. 

In 2021, a survey of more than 9,000 UK workers found that 65% of job seekers prioritised a good work-life balance over pay and benefits. In the US, another survey of 4,000 respondents found that 63% preferred work-life balance over better pay

Several countries, including the UK, have witnessed sizable trials of four-day working weeks. Many of these trials have been successful, with the majority of participating firms electing to make the changes permanent

Data has repeatedly shown that workers are more productive with a better work-life balance and under flexible remote working conditions. Remote workers are 47% more productive, spend less time distracted, and even work longer hours than their in-office counterparts. 

Despite this, many employers have displayed strong resistance to a decrease in “presenteeism”.  

Back to the office, or else… 

The efforts of CEOs to bring employees back to the office full time have been well documented. 

KPMG’s 2023 CEO Outlook survey found 64% of leaders globally predicted a full return to in-office working by 2026. The survey also showed that an overwhelming number (87%) of CEOs believed that financial rewards and promotion opportunities would be linked to in-office attendance. 

Companies that include Boeing, UPS, Disney, IBM, Microsoft, Walmart, and Goldman Sachs have all made an about-face on their hybrid work policies over the last six months. A report by the Conference Board found that “Citing concerns over productivity, innovation, culture, and promotion, many executives have been eager to have workers return to the office.” 

This fear over a loss of culture, which will in turn stifle innovation and productivity is interesting. CEOs are aware of the risk of a mass talent exodus in response to new hardline attitudes. However, according to a CNBC report, it’s “a chance they are willing to take because of the strategic value being placed on in-office collaboration.” 

Not only does hybrid work objectively not result in a productivity decrease, but there’s every sign that the renovation and preservation of workplace culture is an area ripe for digital transformation.

What if the benefits of remote work could be compounded by the kind of culture that fosters the kind of collaborative and social benefits touted by those advocating for a return to the office?

Transforming the digital employee experience 

In a recent op-ed in WIRED UK, Dell Executives argue that “As our experience of work grows more and more digitised, the technology provided by employers has become a key part of a company’s culture—but many aren’t treating it that way.” 

The pain points inherent to the in-person office are being replaced by “glitchy collaboration tools and dated software.” A poor DEX is not only detrimental to business outcomes, but it can have a negative impact on employee wellbeing. However, the CEOs arguing that a return to the office is necessary to save their company’s culture have glommed onto the wrong idea. This is assuming they’re arguing in good faith, of course.

DEX and a new kind of culture

“Digital employee experience is no longer a ‘nice to have’,” says Margarete McGrath, an exec at Dell Technologies. She explains that any company looking to retain top talent must have a reliable DEX strategy. “By providing employees with a seamless, intuitive and personalised digital experience, organisations can create a culture of innovation and collaboration that drives business success.”

Dominic Holmes, principal consultant at Cornerstone’s thought leadership and advisory services practice, agrees. “Technology is what can make this next-generation workplace a practical proposition,” he wrote in a recent op-ed. “A high-performance workplace environment is one that is dynamic, viable and focused on growth. So, businesses that want to embrace cultural transformation must also embrace technology,” he added. 

With the right DEX, employers can remove the boundaries that prevent them from creating new kind of a workplace culture. This new kind of culutre fosters creativity and collaboration without dragging everyone kicking and screaming back to a world of hour-long commutes, grey-walled cubicles, and casual Friday

Those who manage it will have the best of both worlds, higher staff retention, and better business outcomes. Those who don’t may find themselves increasingly lonely in very big, very empty offices. 

  • Digital Strategy
  • People & Culture

AI, automation, and cost cutting are driving mass layoffs at a time when culture, not technology, is supposedly driving digital transformations.

The importance of the human element to digital transformation success is well established. Well, it certainly gets talked about a lot. 

“Digital transformation must be treated like a continuous, people-first process,” says Bill Rokos, Forbes Technology Council member and CTO of Parsec Automation. No matter how advanced, technology won’t “deliver on ROI if the people charged with wielding it are untrained, unsupported or frustrated.” Rokos is far from the only executive leader touting the essential quality of people to the digitisation process.

In a world of tech-y buzzwords, thought leaders are increasingly returning to the argument that people and the culture they create is the core driver of long-term business success. “Culture is the secret sauce that enables companies to thrive, and it should be at the top of every CEO’s agenda,” argues Gordon Tredgold, motivational speaker and “leadership guru”. The right culture, he explains, attracts top talent, drives employee engagement, builds a strong brand identity, enhances customer experience, and fosters innovation. In short: culture, not technology, is the real driving force behind ongoing digital transformations. 

“Successful digital transformations create your business future – a future that will turn out well if you emphasise the human experience,” Andy Main, Global Head of Deloitte Digital, said in a sponsored post on WIRED. Shortly after, Deloitte laid off 1,200 consultants from its US business. It’s not the only organisation to do this. 

Gutting the culture 

A slew of companies throughout the tech, media, finance, and retail industries slashed their headcounts last year. It appears as though the trend is set to continue into 2024. Google, Meta, Goldman Sachs, Dow, and consulting giants like EY, McKinsey, Accenture, and of course Deloitte all announced major layoffs. 

The tech industry is haemorrhaging people, as AI and automation are leveraged to pick up the slack. A small, but very obvious example is Klarna. In 2022, the Swedish fintech dramatically slashed 700 jobs to widespread criticism. Shortly after implementing AI-powered virtual customer service agents, the company boasted in a statement that the AI assistant “is doing the equivalent work of 700 full-time agents.” How convenient. 

There’s a contradiction, however. Culture is regarded as the key to operating a successful digitally transformed business in the modern economy. If this is the case, however, aren’t mass layoffs likely to damage company culture? 

A new kind of organisation

MaryLou Costa at Raconteur suggests we might be seeing the emergence of “a new kind of organisation.” Automation and a desire to cut overheads are conspiring to cut staffing dramatically. Costa speculates that “growth numbers recorded by freelance hiring platforms and predictions from futurists suggest that it will take the form of a small core of leaders and managers engaging and overseeing teams of skilled operators working on a flexible, third-party basis.” 

A widespread transition to a freelance working model could have profound consequences for the future of office and tech work. Companies would, under the current rules, no longer pay tax on behalf of their employees. In places with poor healthcare infrastructure like the US, they would also be free from contributing to employee healthcare.  

“This is one of the biggest transformations of the nature of large business in history, fuelled by the advance of generative AI and AI-powered freelancers,” Freelancer.com’s vice-president of managed services, Bryndis Henrikson told Raconteur. She added that she is seeing businesses increasingly structure themselves around a small internal team. This small team of then augmented by a rotating cast of freelance workers—all of it powered by AI. In a future like this, the nature of digital transformation projects would likely look very different. Not only that, but company “culture” might just disappear forever.

  • Data & AI
  • People & Culture

From generative AI to cybersecurity, the digital maturity gap between digital transformation leaders and laggards is only getting bigger.

Digital transformation has transitioned from a value-add to an existential necessity. From cloud-based computing to generative artificial intelligence (AI), digital transformation initiatives are becoming a fact of life, even in traditionally conservative industries. 

However, while a recent report on digital transformation in the financial sector by Broadridge Financial Solutions found that 75% of executives were confident that tech transformation roadmaps were sufficient to meet coming challenges, the Broadridge analysts also uncovered a slightly more worrying trend. 

The digital transformation gap 

Despite universal acceptance of the necessity of digital transformation, a digital maturity gap is emerging between “leaders and non-leaders.” While Broadridge’s report notes that over two-thirds of leaders say they have made meaningful progress on modernising core IT platforms, far fewer have made progress in other areas of tech and talent innovation. 

Far fewer financial sector leaders were confident in their efforts to leverage cutting edge technologies like generative AI. Many were also meeting pain points when meeting rising cybersecurity challenges, as well as the evolving and increasing needs for “seamless digital customer experiences”.

Skills, not technology 

For many, the digital maturity gap is in of itself a symptom of the skills gap and emerging throughout multiple industries. 

In a recent article for the Harvard Business Review, Rubén Mancha and Salvatore Parise note that “the problem most companies face in executing their digital transformation is not access to technologies but a shortage of workers with digital and data science skills.” 

From rapidly-changing requirements provoked by new technology entering the marketplace, to a perceived talent shortage (which is actually a living wage shortage), and lack of successful investment into upskilling (only 18% of leaders “believe their organisation has made ‘significant progress’ in establishing an upskilling program,” according to a survey by PwC), the very factors driving the need for digital transformation are the ones making it difficult for many companies to meet this rising challenge. 

Mancha and Parise advocate for the proliferation of “digital academies”. This approach “aims to catalyse how employees interact with digital and data science and lead the transformation of processes, products, and services.” 

Digital academies are, they add, not purely focused on technological upskilling, but also serve to reinforce the company’s culture and narrative. Each digital academy needs, then, to be a highly contextual effort. They focus on the application of technology in the context of the organisation and its digital vision. Most importantly, Mancha and Parise stress, they “help create and reinforce a specific culture around tech and innovation in a way that more generalised online trainings simply can’t.”

  • Digital Strategy
  • People & Culture

Tech talent is necessary, even if your core business isn’t rooted in technology. Here’s our top 6 ways to attract top tech talent.

Technology jobs account for a sizable portion of the global economy. In the US, that figure sits at about 8%. With the advent of AI and other transformative technologies, that number is only expected to climb. 

Right now, demand for skilled technology workers still handily exceeds supply. Therefore, organisations need to put thought and effort into sourcing top tech talent. Even if your business isn’t a traditional “technology-focused” organisation, the amount of technology permeating the modern business environment is only going to grow. If every business is a technology business (to some degree), then every business should have access to skilled tech workers. 

Here are our top 6 ways to attract those workers, even if your business isn’t an overtly tech-focused one. 

1. Respect the work-life balance 

One of the reasons people go into technology roles in the first place is the flexibility. Having a flexible schedule that accommodates non-traditional working hours or habits can be a big draw for tech workers. The assumption that a non-tech company will try to enforce a conformist, traditional office culture is one of the reasons why people with top-tier tech skills avoid them like the plague.  

2. Create the opportunity to do meaningful work 

The opportunity to do meaningful work is going to be a huge part of attracting skilled tech workers. Skilled tech proffesionals want to do more than troubleshoot, maintain networks, and chase support tickets. Making it clear that your tech workers will have the chance to work on projects that have a tangible impact on the organisation and its customers is a big incentive, especially when that work is challenging and exciting. 

3. Be open and honest about your level of digitalisation 

Pretending your company is more digitalised than it actually is is a surefire way to ensure tech worker churn. During the hiring process, be honest and open about where you are, where you want to be, and how you plan to get there. If you don’t have a plan, make it clear that you want to work with your IT team to execute your digital transformation

4. Look inside as well as out 

External hires are, in every case, more expensive than internal ones. When looking for IT talent, consider casting your eyes inwards for people with relevant educations. You may find existing workers with tech skills outside their job descriptions and a willingness to upskill. This is especially effective if you are looking to fill more entry-level roles in support of your IT leadership. 

5. Highlight your technology usage in the hiring process 

When hiring a tech worker, it’s important to clearly outline not only the key responsibilities of their role, but the different competencies that will be required of them. Working with your existing IT department to outline these skills can be a good way forward. Also, highlighting the elements of your company that do involve technology using case studies can be an important part of your communications.  

6. Provide room for growth

No skilled IT worker wants to be stuck in the same dingy back room for years maintaining servers and asking people if they’ve tried turning it off and on again. Without room to progress within the company, skilled workers will gather all the experience they can and trade up to another role where they are given space to grow. Show potential hires possible roadmaps for their careers within the company. It’s also important to show them step by step goals and KPIs that can lead to advancement. 

  • Digital Strategy
  • People & Culture

Leaders wishing to build a balanced, successful digital workplace strategy need to balance digital employee experience, cost & security.

The modern workplace has undergone unprecedented changes in the past three years. From mass remote and hybrid work to ongoing digital transformation, the employee experience of work has been fundamentally altered.  

A recent report by Gartner pointed out that one of the most significant changes is the increasing importance of Digital Employee Experience (DEX). DEX refers to how effectively workers can interact with the digital tools in their workplace. A positive DEX empowers a workforce to be engaged, proficient, and productive. Poor DEX creates immediate pain points throughout the organisation, and can hurt morale and talent retention. 

DEX is now considered a major component of overall employee experience. This is especially true after the transformative effects of the last few years, notes the report. However, DEX is just one piece of the puzzle. 

“A successful digital workplace strategy strikes a cost-effective balance between hardware, employee support and cybersecurity while focusing on improving the digital employee experience,” write the report’s authors. 

Steps towards striking the right balance between DEX, cost, and security

Leaders wishing to build a balanced, successful digital workplace strategy need to accomplish several things.

First, at all times, leaders must focus on the return on investment for digital workplace technologies. As workplaces become increasingly digitalised, the capital investment into digital tools is becoming a bigger part of IT overheads.  Gartner’s report recommends leaders “increase the return on investment of digital workplace technologies by focusing on employee enablement and improving digital experience using DEX tools.” 

Additionally the report highlights some of the most impactful digital workplace investments leaders should consider adopting in the near future. IT should focus on designing an agile digital workplace to support a diverse, hybrid workforce and accommodate evolving technological needs. This must be done while managing DEX regardless of location. 

It’s crucial to take ownership of the operational, security, and financial impacts of increasing SaaS application usage. At the same time, leaders must also embrace employee preferences through expanded computing options and consistent support for operating systems. 

Adopting a modern digital workplace operating model, modern endpoint management practices, and empowering employee enablement are essential for scaling the digital workplace and improving technology adoption. Additionally, transitioning from traditional telephony to unified communications and collaboration enhances employee mobility and productivity, while contributing to enterprise-wide sustainability objectives by optimising energy consumption and reducing the carbon footprint. 

  • Digital Strategy
  • People & Culture

Our cover story this month focuses on the work of Arianne Gallagher-Welcher. As the Executive Director for the USDA Digital…

Our cover story this month focuses on the work of Arianne Gallagher-Welcher. As the Executive Director for the USDA Digital Service, in the Office of the OCIO, her team’s mission is to drive a tech transformation at the USDA. The goal is to better serve the American people across all of its 50 states.

Welcome to the latest issue of Interface magazine!

Welcome to a new year of possibility where technology meets business at the interface of change…

Read the latest issue here!

USDA: The People’s Agency

“We knew that in order for us to deliver what we needed for our stakeholders, we needed to be flexible – and that has trickled down from our senior leaders.” Arianne Gallagher-Welcher, Executive Director for the USDA Digital Service reveals the strategic plan’s first goal. Above all, the aim is to deliver customer-centric IT so farmers, producers, and families can find dealing with USDA as easy as using an ATM.

BCX: Delivering insights & intelligence across the Data & AI value chain

We also sat down with Stefan Steffen, Executive Leader for Data Insights & Intelligence at BCX. He revealed how BCX is leveraging AI to strategically transform businesses and drive their growth. “Our commitment to leveraging data and AI to drive innovation harnesses the power of technology to unlock new opportunities, drive efficiency, and enhance competitiveness for our clients.”

Momentum Multiply: A culture-driven digital transformation for wellness

Multiply Inspire & Engage is a new offering from leading South African insurance provider Momentum Health Solutions. Furthermore, it is the first digital wellness rewards program in South Africa to balance mental health and physical health in pursuing holistic wellness. CIO, Ndibulele Mqoboli, discusses re-platforming, cloud migrations, and building a culture of ownership, responsibility, and continuous improvement.

Clark County: Creating collaboration for the benefit of residents

Navigating the world of local government can be a minefield of red tape, both for citizens and those working within it. Al Pitts, Deputy CIO of Clark County, talks to us about the organisation’s IT transformation. He explains why collaboration is key to support residents. “We have found our new Clark County – ‘Together for Better’ – is a great way to collaborate on new solutions.”

Also in this issue, we hear from Alibaba’s European GM Jijay Shen on why digitalisation can be a driving force for SMEs. We learn how businesses can get cybersecurity right with KnowBe4 and analyse the rise of ‘The Mobility Society’.

Enjoy the issue!

Dan Brightmore, Editor

  • People & Culture

Digital transformations undermined by the wrong culture are part of why 70% of digital transformations fail.

Whether it’s generative artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, or just keeping important documents in the cloud as opposed to a dusty filing cabinet three doors down from accounting, successfully implementing digital transformation is what keeps modern businesses ahead of their competition. 

Gartner recently reported that 87% of business leaders place digital transformation high on their agenda, and according to Deloitte, the correct application of digital transformation strategies could unlock as much as US$1.25 trillion in value across the Fortune 500. However, the same report found that “the wrong combinations can erode market value, putting more than US$1.5 trillion at risk.” 

Identifying the risks 

While a huge majority of organisations are attempting to embrace digital transformation, there’s a significant difference between starting a digital transformation project and successfully completing it. In the finance sector—one of the most enthusiastically digitising industries—a report by McKinsey found that, between 2001 and 2021, only 30% of banks that underwent a digital transformation reported successfully implementing their digital strategy, with the majority falling short of their stated objectives. This low success rate, McKinsey analysts note, holds true across most industries. 

So, why do the majority of digital transformation efforts fall short of their intended targets, costing organisations money and valuable time? According to experts, it’s an organisation’s culture that may play a more important role in its ability to adopt new technology than IT budgets, digital savviness, or the technology itself.  Dr Jonathan Reichental, an adjunct professor at the University of San Francisco, believes this “serious disconnect between intentions and outcomes” is due to the all-too-frequent absence of a positive culture. He goes on to quote management consultant Peter Drucker, who said “culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

Across multiple disciplines, from supply chain to cybersecurity, decision-makers are waking up to the fact that digital transformation needs (and, some might argue, can only take place) in a culture willing to embrace it. “The technology challenges we can solve. Often our most significant hurdle is company culture,” explains Gary Parker, the CTO in Residence at cybersecurity firm Zscale. 

Building a culture that’s open to digital transformation

According to various consultants at Deloitte, McKinsey, and Accenture (many of whom are probably out of a job right now, so maybe take their wisdom with a pinch of salt), there are a number of ways business leaders can nudge their company culture in the right direction to clear the way for a successful digital transformation that sticks. 

Assess cultural risk by initiating an organisation-wide program that can effectively analyse your organisation’s existing culture. This will help detect areas where changes need to be made, obviate challenges, and implement behavioural changes essential for your digital transformation to be a success. 

Next, attract top tech talent to avoid outsourcing the digital transformation. In what I can only describe as an extremely evolved piece of advice from business consultants, Deloitte analysts emphasise the need to attract and retain top-tier tech talent internally rather than outsourcing transformation efforts. 

Lastly, “overinvest” in your culture shift. Prioritise investment in cultural transformation, even if not directly tied to technological advancements or short term revenue. Recognise that fostering a supportive and innovative environment is foundational to successful digital initiatives. Allocate resources generously to initiatives promoting cultural evolution, acknowledging their pivotal role in driving sustainable digital transformation.

“Ultimately, it is people that make a company. Regardless of what your company does or who your customers are, it is the people behind that logo or brand who will help you bring revolutionary change and success to your organisation,” writes Parker. “Don’t dip a toe into change. Lead and leap head first, and don’t forget to bring your people along with you.”

  • Digital Strategy
  • People & Culture