Blog Post

Successful digital transformation made simple (webinar recording)

By: Marco Campana
February 27, 2023

In this February 2023 webinar, Simon Kemp discusses the rapidly evolving world of the Internet and how companies can implement their digital transformation strategy. Simon is the brain behind the Datareportal, which I wrote about last year.

Some of the topics covered:

  • Main trends happening online and in tech
  • Common misconceptions about how people behave online.
  • What is digital transformation and some of the challenges faced by organisations
  • Practical tips on how companies can successfully implement a digital transformation strategy

On a LinkedIn post, Simon provided his list of highlights from this episode:

  • Digital is only ever a means to an end: technology can help us to achieve amazing things, but we need to make sure that the products and solutions we implement are suitable for the outcomes that we're hoping to deliver.
  • The media are misleading us: All too often, stories about digital trends that we see and read in the media misrepresent the facts, and increasingly, they actively deliberately distort the truth. This leads to poor management decision-making, and we (as leaders) need to do more to ensure that we and our teams have access to relevant and accurate data to enable us to make better choices.
  • Jargon isn't helping: "digital transformation" is a business "buzz phrase" that gets thrown about with abandon, but it means different things to different people. To ensure aligned outcomes, it's better to avoid management-speak clichés, and instead focus our attention on the specific changes we want to implement.
  • Focus on questions, not answers: drawing up a "roadmap" to success is a critical part of the journey. There's no point buying new systems or hiring expensive consultants to implement tools and train teams if we haven't first identified what those systems and processes are designed to change. However, the good news is that this roadmap only really needs to answer three simple questions in order to deliver improved success.
  • One question to rule them all: when it comes to digital trends, one question is far more valuable than any other – but that very question tends to be the one that people ask least often. (Spoiler, it's the question why. Why does someone behave the way that they do should be your fundamental question.

Video transcript

I copied this mess of a transcript from YouTube directly. It's messy. But if you want to search for keywords, etc., it might be useful.

that story simply isn't getting reported it's weird the media doesn't seem to want
to tell the good stories about big tech it only ever wants to sell the bad story these
are assumptions that we make as businesses but when we actually look into the assumption is
there enough data to back it up and nine times out of ten the story is a lot more complex than
a single headline what have you believe until you've clarified what the outcomes you want to
deliver are you're going to really struggle to find how technology can help you I think it is
that bit that a lot of the time in a digital transformation conversation we miss so we
forget that this is not about how do I train people to use this tool the real challenge is
how do I help my teams to understand that this tool will make their lives better
Simon before we start I have to ask you are you sure you want to do this I am convinced
Rodrigo okay that was pretty pretty all right good it's I'm so happy having you
here welcome Simon thank you Rodrigo all right so let's first start tell us straight away why
should people listen to this conversation a lot of the things we're going to talk about
today relate to what the world is doing on the internet and the mystery is that
almost everything most people think they know about the internet is wrong so we're going to
correct a lot of those misconceptions and give you the real insights on today's episode oh
how corporate was that very good okay so since you've been at the Forefront
of tracking the evolution of behaviors on internet
what is something that you've you understood that will surprise a lot of people
there's an uh you know to start the answer to that question there's an awful lot of surprises out
there I think one of the things I'd really want to look at with you today is the misconceptions
that we have about what people are Believing on the internet so whether or not people are
using certain social media platforms whether or not they are still using search engines which
devices they're using to access the internet there is the full scope of online behaviors that are out
there I think we probably want to talk about in some detail today an eight hour episode for
you today Rodrigo but I think when it comes to making business decisions we are constantly fed
insufficient information misinformation all sorts of stuff and the good news is there is data out
there to help you make better decisions it's just not being properly surfaced so a lot of today's
conversation hopefully will be about surfacing that better information to inform better decisions
and what looking ahead what do you see as the main trends from your reports digitally we could talk
about so many different things here Rodrigo but I'm going to choose three for you in the
interests of time so you can look at relatively straightforward things like the devices that we
use on an everyday basis one of the things that I've been tracking in the data that we share in
our reports is the rise of smart watches he says without one but things like the Apple watch things
like the Fitbit there has been a significant growth in the adoption and use of these devices
over the past couple of years so even post covid we've seen a big jump in the number of people that
use these devices so research from gwi shows that roughly three in ten internet users of working age
around the world now have a smart wrist device that's pretty high to put that in context that's
much higher than the number of people who own a games console so we're now looking
at a situation where these devices are becoming widespread what does that mean for organizations
and for businesses and all that kind of stuff the more that we get notifications on our wrist the
less likely we are to take our phones out of our pockets or out of our bags and therefore it has
all sorts of implications for how we interact with our digital devices if you want to stretch that
a bit further we've been promised AI spectacles for the longest time that one as well is really
going to change the way that we interact with our devices because up until now every every
digital device that we have is a screen so we have to divert our attention either to our phones to
our computers to whatever it is once the content gets overlaid on top of everything that we see
around us our relationship with content changes because it's a part of life not a distraction so
that's that's part one so devices that we use then we start to look at some of the really
interesting things that are coming through in technology and I think the thing that is going
to have the greatest impact on Industries over the next five to ten years especially in the creative
world but even beyond that is Generative AI now lots and lots of different examples of this it's
almost unfair to just choose one or two but if you've heard of things like Dali and Mid-journey
so these generative engines that create content from text prompts so I say I want to see Rodrigo
in the style of a Monet painting doing Flamenco dancing it will actually create this from scratch
it doesn't need you to give a photo it doesn't need to do anything else it just creates it from
text prompts this is going to have the same level of it this is me predicting here but I am
confident this is going to have the same level of impact on Creative industries that photoshop did
20-30 years ago this is a fundamental step change in our ability to transform ideas that we have in
our head into things that other people can see and hear of whatever else so I mean this impacts text
it impacts video it impacts audio everything so anything that is a creative content format these
tools can produce from text prompts and output now for obvious things like you know for video for
advertising for TV all that kind of stuff you can see this has magic but even if you are just you
know if you're in a non-creative industry trying to translate the ideas that you have in your head
into forms that other people can engage with this is straightforward as a business presentation all
of a sudden you know you imagine the PowerPoint of tomorrow where you just put in your ideas and
it creates things that other people can relate to that are better than those terrible clip art that
we need to use today that's going to be magic so Generative AI the next five to ten years is going
to be the biggest change in industry in my mind I mean it's the best form of AI that I'm seeing at
the moment in terms of the output once you add that on top of the blockchain off we go magic
but blockchain segues perfectly into the third thing that I wanted to talk to you about today
which is self-sovereign identity it's a very complex term for something which is actually
quite straightforward at the moment one of the biggest problems in technology is that the
platforms own your data so Facebook Apple you name it Google they all have your data they own it and
they they'll sell it out to their customers and that's how they make money obviously privacy is
a big problem you've got the EU doing all sorts of regulation about it you've got people around
the world saying that they're worried about how organizations use and misuse their data
self-sovereign identity flips the Paradigm on its head so instead of the companies owning the
data you are in charge of your digital identity and this is as broad as it gets so when I say
digital identity if you imagine digitizing your entire self not to create an avatar but to store
all the information that's important about you so something as simple as the login that you use
when you want to access a social media platform you know your passwords and stuff are contained
within that then you've got the basic stuff like my preferences I prefer dark mode rather than
light mode when I'm reading the news so I want a dark background with white text I can take that
to every single platform across the internet if I own my identity and I don't need to keep updating
it every time but when you stretch self-sovereign identity out into the real potential this becomes
where you store all your financial data not just the stuff that you use on e-commerce but when I
go into a physical word store this is how I pay for things it has all my health information but
because I own it because it's secure that's a really good thing I can go to any doctor I go
to any hospital around the world plug it in so to speak it's not going to be a plug-in it's going
to be you know scanned or whatever else that data is available when it's required so God
forbid if I'm ever in a bad accident overseas I don't speak the language they can access it
they know that I'm allergic to this medicine they know that and off we go you know the data
is there to be used to add value to me not to turn me into a product as is case at the moment
ultimately this will become our digital passport this will actually be when we go from one country
to another this is our identity you get your iris scan or whatever else it may be the data is then
available because we've made it available to that particular system and to nobody else and then we
go and we only share the bits that need to be shared we're not leaking data everywhere else
that doesn't need to be shared that is going to fundamentally change the digital business model
once that becomes a thing and the good news is this is already available in some instances but
unfortunately the majority of the internet is resisting it because it's going to break their
financial model but if you look at things like so Tim berners-lee who invented the World Wide
Web has this thing called solid socially linked data there's The Sovereign network is another
good example and then ironically the EU given all of their sort of you know the activity against
privacy um they've actually been developing blockchains that are exactly this so Sovereign
identity networks to allow a lot of their um the people that work with governments across the
EU they're actually able to transition from one government system to another so you can understand
the benefits in an EU context of that so there are plenty of things that are demonstrating this
is possible and is you know there are proof proof of concept cases out there in the world today it's
coming now whether it becomes the default is the big question because there's commercial resistance
But ultimately what's right for the customer is right for business so my advice to anybody
listening today thinking about whether they should explore this the best relationships in the world
are built on mutual trust this provides Trust on both sides let's embrace it let's push it because
then everybody's going to win so that's my high horse moment for today Rodrigo let's Embrace that
stuff wow I believe you see so much information so maybe you can tell us some misconceptions That You
observe today yeah I think a lot of this is about believing that behavior is very sort of binary and
then we have these these individual things that define us as Internet users or whatever else so
let's take something as simple as search so if you look at the reasons why people use the internet
today finding information is still the number one motivation for going online but it's only
just ahead of staying in touch with friends and family and things like that and actually when you
look at the data it's not like there's a dramatic difference between the number of people who choose
finding information versus staying in touch with friends and family finding entertainment wasting
time which is actually another reason why we go online if you think about younger kids waiting
at the bus stop they've got to do something so wasting time or putting your free time to better
use perhaps better way of putting it but there's multiple reasons why we go online but it's very
difficult to tell that story in a headline and so again when when we are told sound bites or
headlines as to what's going on in the internet everything tries to get distilled down into these
like handy little trivia points that's just not the way that the world works though I mean if you
think about the reason why you were online today before you found this show of this podcast and
whatever else there was other reasons you came online it's not just to see Rodrigo and Simon
chatting if it is that's brilliant I'm guessing it's not so I think you know the misconceptions
that we have when we try and distill everything down into these neat little packages of sound
bites and trivia and the reality is it's it's not that and I think understanding that our
activities as businesses are just one small part of a multifaceted conversation once once
we embrace that once we don't realize that that's a problem but it's actually an opportunity then
we can move into the great so where do we fit into people's lives why have they invited us into their
lives and how can we add value in those contexts that that's the magical bit so the misconception
I'm actually going to answer your question eventually when you look at the misconception
it's this idea that you know it's it's these individual points let's let's look at it as a
massive it's like life it's a mass of different things and it's the mass that makes it beautiful
wow I really like that point and I can see exactly how is that sometimes misleading us with the wrong
decisions because I think the media sometimes likes the big catchy words but between the big
catchy words and the small details there's a lot of information that it's missed but now what I
would like to see so according to your reports we see I mean the internet users are increasing
social media users also are are increasing I mean the the today we are in a digital world yeah
and so the big words in uh in everyone's leader is digital transformation so I would like to to
now to to go a deeper on this topic so for you what is digital transformation and what
is happening now because I know that you have a lot of conversations with CEOs and leaders tell
us about what is happening today it's one of my favorite questions it's when somebody says
what is digital transformation it's a bit like saying what is happiness we all know it once
we've experienced it but it's a very subjective thing right so what makes me happy may be quite
different to what makes you happy maybe for the viewers and listeners today again every single
person has a slightly different take on it digital transformation is simply a way of delivering the
plans that we have to get our organization to where we want it to be so digital transformation
is using technology to deliver outcomes yeah simple as that obviously in some organizations
that could be a complete overhaul of everything and in some organizations it's about implementing
one single relatively small tool on off we go but there are all sorts of challenges to getting that
into place and unfortunately like I said it's a bit like happiness once you've experienced it you
know what it is but until you've experienced it it's very difficult to help you get there
so yeah it's a very open-ended question I think if you ask me specifically it's about how do we
deliver certain aspects of it I can give you much more tangible answers but for the benefit
of everybody that's tuning in today let's not pretend that the general transformation can be
encapsulated in a single handy sound bite because that's only going to cause problems we don't need
to define what it is we just need to define what a good outcome looks like in your organization
and then as how technology can help you deliver it I really like that so about focusing on the
outcome and then technology will be a tool to help you yeah so so maybe now you can share from
your conversations with leaders where do you see them struggling the most in this journey
so the most common challenge is somebody will come in with it's a bit like when you go to the
doctor and you say I want to take this medicine and the doctors would sort of look at you and go
why why this medicine what what are we hoping to treat here what's the issue what's the opportunity
what's going on why have you decided that this is the right thing unfortunately in
the business sense many people seem to insist so they would look at the doctor almost as
though the doctor was crazy and say no I want to use this medicine take a step back right
the the opportunity to use technology is only ever a servant to what we want to deliver
so that's the biggest challenge is until you've clarified what the outcomes you want to deliver
are you're going to really struggle to find how technology can help you because it is just it's
a medicine it's a tool whatever you want to call it so that's the biggest challenge
is if you've got an answer that's looking for a question you are doing things back to front yeah
okay so now when we understood the the the the challenge so then if you would be the CEO of a I'd
say a big company a big company what would be the three things that you would do in order to enable
a digital transformation in the organization so before we talked about the importance of setting
the outcome you want to deliver so that's your headline you know that's the objective that's the
goal that's the target have that very very clear before you do anything else so that's not even
one of the three that's that's an organizational thing but that's not a digital transformation or
anything else that is here is my organizational goal what's the most efficient and effective
way of getting there so that's your such a big eerie goal over there once you've defined that
especially when it comes to digital activities when you're looking at implementing new technology
implementing new practices all that kind of stuff there are three things that you really
need to focus on to make sure that you get right ironically the first one is always human so it's
always cultural so understanding the people element of things until you understand that
you're going to be really struggling you need to understand strategy What is strategy is this
very clever word and it means lots of different things to different people but ultimately strategy
is where am I today where do I want to get to how do I get there it's just that's all it's a
map basically the third thing that we need to understand is how do we get from where we are
today to where we want to be what are the things that stand in the way the obstacles the challenges
the things that can accelerate what do we need to understand about the the topology of the map so
do I have to cross rivers and mountains is what we've been doing a physical sense there are sort
of the the metaphorical rivers and mountains that we need to over I'm in a business sense
the challenges but then there are also shortcuts that we can take that will speed our progress
understanding what those are all of those three things are absolutely critical before
we even think about anything to do with technology because technology will only ever help you cross
the rivers climb the mountains and take shortcuts that's what it's there for unless you've got the
map you're going to choose the wrong tools um and I to be honest I can really resonate with what you
say a lot of times in even conversations that I was a lot of times that was about a lot of times
we spent time talking about the technology but not enough on the outcome yeah so I really like
that but what there's a point that I've it's very interesting what he said maybe we can go a bit
deeper what you said the first thing that you said is about people yeah right can we go a bit deeper
and understand how do we bring people in this journey like in a a digital transformation journey
so almost everybody that you've got in your organization is going to be using some kind
of technology in their personal life so even before they become part of your team they have
an experience with technology that they bring with them as a human being in exactly the same
ways they bring their education as they bring their emotions as they bring their personality
they bring that the Simon technology piece Simon brings into every conversation and that is based
on everything that I do and everything I have done with technology in my life you've then got
in the organizational setting you've got what the individual does and how they sense their value in
terms of the value they perceive within themselves and the value that they believe they bring to the
organization and I think it's that bit that a lot of the time in a digital transformation
conversation we miss so we forget that this is not about how do I train people to use this tool
the real challenge is how do I help my teams to understand that this tool will make their
lives better not just how will it make more money for the organization but you know if I'm going to
give you a new piece of software why should you invest time and emotion as an individual to learn
it when you're already doing that job technically you feel like you're already doing a good job very
few people believe they're doing a bad job at work yeah now you as a leader may believe that they are
doing a worse job than they think they are but very few people believe that they're doing a bad
job and will continue to do a bad job willingly unless they want to be fired in which case fine
off they go so that I think this is the key bit you've got to understand the human motivations
the human experiences before you can even start to plan out how you're going to implement technology
um so how to do that that's the billion billion dollar in many cases questions so such a great
topic I think the answer to that question obviously is going to vary from organization
to organization but there are some fundamentals that we can address I mean understanding the
individuals involved and admittedly in many organizations you're talking hundreds maybe
thousands of people but you've still this is why we have HR functions in Largo organization
HR functions in large organizations is when you've got large groups of people coordinating
them to do things is a challenge I mean even if you look at the world's best sports teams
we have managers we have coaches we've got the World Cup going on and you've got 11 people out
on a pitch that are the very best at what they do in your particular country they still need
to be guided even though they're brilliant practitioners getting them to work together
is a challenge so imagine I mean if you were the average organization working working with
average people nobody ever admits that they're working with average people but let's face it
if you've got teams of hundreds of people that need to be trained on new tools you're going
to have some that underperformance some that over perform and there's an average in between
understanding what motivates those individuals understanding what they perceive to be a good
outcome is crucial for you to getting them from where they are today to where you want them to be
and all of this is a journey so let's understand it's exactly the same as the organizational map
that you've created you need to have almost a map for every individual sometimes you can
give them all the same map and hope that they're going to follow it but realistically as Leaders
you're going to have to give some people nudges in different directions because that's Humanity yeah
so it's about like the one size Doesn't fit all absolutely never that's this is so interesting dig
further here yeah so now I mean we I mean in this episode we talk about teams and now going back to
what you were mentioning about the behaviors the different behaviors of the the different
generations yeah like how does that um different behaviors affect the the teams in the leadership
so there's so many different things to unpack you I think the most important bit to start with is
when our brains stop welcoming new things and when we become resistant and it happens at sometime in
our mid-20s obviously each individual varies but sometime in our mid-20s our brains change and we
become resistant to change rather than seeing a new innovation as an opportunity to do different
things I am clearly past my 20s Rodrigo and therefore I can see this now I start to see
new things and I'm like when I would allowed we did things differently and it's that kind
of mentality you reach a certain age and you compare what has just come on the scene to
what you had before whereas when we're younger you know the younger we are the more likely we
are to embrace new things because we're just used when you're a very young child like when you're a
toddler everything is new to you the whole world is new you step out your house for the first time
you've never seen anything so your brain has to be able to process everything being new all the time
and I think you know in your organization you're going to have the young kids who are fresh out of
school who've just joined who are still embracing everything as though it were new but that's not a
problem and then you've got the older folks who are more resistant because that's just the way
that our brains have fused over time unfortunately the reality is that just by by dint of the way
that the corporate world Works leaders tend to be older and therefore weirdly they tend to be more
resistant to change than the younger generations that doesn't mean that they're not good at what
they do because a lot of the time experience is valuable to us we form these shortcuts in
our brain and our decision making because we've seen similar questions before why why why trial
to solve the same question over and over again when we've got an answer that works but that's
the thing if we have an answer that works it may not be the best answer so that that's that's the
the context in which you need to address that particular question is the generations are going
to have different perspectives even exactly the same thing when first when Facebook first came
along I was still just in my just in my 20s and I embraced it because it was This brilliant way
that I could connect with all the people I had lost touch with it took a little while longer
for my older relatives in my family to embrace it but eventually they saw the benefits of it that's
the key bit how do you gradually introduce the benefits rather than the tool itself if I tell
you you should use Facebook okay I don't know I don't understand it so I'm going to resist
it whereas if I say hey there's this really easy way of connecting with all your old school friends
that you lost touch with my mum was like that's brilliant and she embraced it the fact that it
was Facebook didn't matter to her it was the fact that she could embrace this opportunity to engage
with friends that she'd lost touch with and she did you know that's how Facebook became what it
is today now if you're implementing a new SAS tool in your organization don't tell people why the
SAS tool is amazing as a piece of technology because most of the time nobody cares tell
them the benefits on their terms as you know as Rodrigo why does this make Rodrigo's life better
sell Rodrigo on the benefits to Rodrigo not the benefits of the tool based on its functional Magic
because nine times out of ten nobody actually understands it anyway I was I am in the process
of trying to find a new hosting solution for our reports we deliver millions of users of reports
every year and hosting is a real challenge for us so I'm trying to speak to various cloud cloud
companies I won't name names it's unfair but you know who they are and me saying this is this is
my challenge I need to host these many reports I need to deliver this many terabytes worth of
data what's the best solution and they go off on this nonsense journey of this and that they use
words I don't understand I have recently become an expert in network egress nobody knows what network
egress is except these Cloud companies I don't need to know what it is all I need you to tell me
is this is what you should do to deliver magic and this is how much it will cost and then we can have
a conversation but can I have a human conversation with anybody about this no and as a result
ironically I found a completely different solution and I will not be paying any cloud companies for
the benefit of delivering this because I simply could not get a human answer that is
what we face as a challenges organizations every single day because nobody's selling it to me as
Simon they're selling it to me as a bot with this technological nonsense speak you're not helping me
solve my problem every individual in your team has a problem that they want to solve how do I
get to go home and see my family on time every day how do I make more money how do I achieve
my career ambitions how do I whatever it is and everybody's got a slightly different set of goals
that's that's what you're selling to you're not saying because you are part of my team you have to
do what I tell you you've got to motivate People based on their yeah this is this is basic 101
management right but you motivate people on their terms not on your goals you've got to you've got
to sell them in on your passion yeah that that's the tricky bit you know what I think I I think you
hit the nail on the head I think I think where we're going it's to that level of understanding
each individual and leading a team is about understanding each individual and then help them
individually to achieve what they want you know and so I I really love that that point wow so good
um Simon I think we're coming to the end and I want to ask you a last question so I think well
a lot of people ask you lots of questions but what is one question that no one asks you and you would
love to answer it's the most fundamentally basic of questions ironically so most people ask me what
what is happening on the internet what are people doing with social media and almost nobody asks why
like it's why is the most valuable conversation valuable conversation why is the most valuable
question in the world in my mind how obviously is important as well but why is the thing
that transforms you from where you are today to where you want to get to so why does this person
behave the way that they do as a leader is your fundamental question like I said earlier nobody
wants to be bad at their job really it's not an ambition that we have so why are they behaving
this way why are they resistant why are they using this platform and not that platform why are they
using this device why is the magic question because once you've understood that you're
already on half of the answer to all the things that you asked what about or how and all that
stuff so why why is the most powerful question I love it good Simon it was that was absolutely
the conversation I really enjoyed and thank you for um and packing so much in a topic there's
so much you know so much talk there's so many misconceptions thank you for bringing clarity and
also solutions so what we can do as Leaders thank you for coming thank you for having me [Music]

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