Authority Magazine, January 31, 2021 – SQA Group’s SVP of Solutions Walter McAdams was recently profiled by Authority Magazine for his insight on how to use digital transformation to accelerate favorable business outcomes. Below is an excerpt from his interview.
AM: Can you help explain what exactly Digital Transformation means? On a practical level what does it look like to engage in a Digital Transformation?
MCADAMS: Digital transformation practically means applying technology to what you do in your every day in a way that will totally change the outcome — from the productivity of your business to the effectiveness of your workers to leadership organizational visibility to market penetration and competitiveness. Digital transformation is about the way technology changes, enables, and evolves the business and the people that make up the business; it’s never just about the technology.
To engage in digital transformation means taking new ideas and emerging concepts and making them actionable through the application of technology. It’s about layering technology atop a business strategy, navigating organizational change, and embracing the notion of a new realm of possibilities that open up.
AM: Which companies can most benefit from a Digital Transformation?
MCADAMS: Any company in any industry can benefit from digital transformation, especially as companies begin shifting their view and thinking of themselves as technology companies. In fact, it will become very evident soon that those that do not embark on digital transformation will be left behind.
We see this play out most clearly when we study the S-Curve in technology — the adoption of any sort of new breakthrough technology or any new process over time. At the early stages of something new, adoption and growth are typically very low because there’s a lot to prove out before the application of the new technology or approach is proven viable. As it’s proven viable, early adopters come forward to use the technology to drive some portion of their business. When they determine how to make that technology viable, we see the beginning of rapid acceleration and adoption. Pretty soon, adoption itself becomes the goal, and that’s when you know that you are well along on the S-curve. Technology starts to become mainstream and if you have not yet adopted that technology, you will be playing catch up.
Understanding the S-curve provides the capability to evaluate the risks, benefits and objections of adopting technology at any place along the curve. Naturally, the risks are higher early on, but very often that’s when the reward is the greatest.
As companies start developing their S-curve strategy, right alongside their business strategy, we will see a huge uptick in companies that truly embrace digital transformation. The companies that want to be the early adopters, break out of the pack, and position their business for long-term viability will be the ones that others look to as shining examples of what it means to usher in digital transformation effectively.
AM: In your experience, how has Digital Transformation helped improve operations, processes and customer experiences?
MCADAMS: We recently partnered with a health insurance company in a space that was — for them — very well established and mature. This client recognized that if it were to keep up with its growth and expand into new markets, it had to do several things: reduce the cost of operations, reduce time to market for new features, and strengthen the customer experience in a way that stood out from their competitors. Together, we explored the impact that Agile development could have on their SDLC, the new technologies that needed to be introduced to automate processes, and the organizational redesign that was needed to support the new workflows.
When we first started, the client was experiencing a delay of 182 days from when the code was done to when it was deployed to the customer. Through introducing automation frameworks, Agile methodologies, and data quality frameworks, we were able to get that time down from 182 days to 24 hours.
Another example of a meaningful project is when we teamed with an AI development company to develop a machine learning-based virtual coach for a suicide prevention line help desk. The virtual coach listens to the conversation, relying on voice pattern monitoring of both the help desk agent and the person calling to understand the best way to adapt to the caller’s mood, sense of stress and urgency. The marriage of human and technical skill sets had a measurable effect on the interaction to ensure that the callers were helped and — where necessary — escalated to the next level of care at the time they were most in need.
AM: Has integrating Digital Transformation been a challenging process for some companies? What are the challenges? How do you help resolve them?
MCADAMS: Usually, the biggest challenge with digital transformation is shifting mindset so teams can start seeing possibilities. Leaders and teams need to recognize that there will be a change of discipline, organizational construct, skill sets, and a state of operating for transformation to work; digital transformation is not something you just bolt-on. Rather, to realize the true advantage of digital transformation, you have to understand deeply the supporting structures you will need in place to realize the full potential. We work with our clients through a hands-on learning approach to ensure that whatever is incorporated technology-wise is incorporated into the very fabric and DNA of their organization.
AM: Based on your experience and success, what are “Five Ways a Company Can Use Digital Transformation To Take It To The Next Level”?
MCADAMS: First, companies must develop an appetite and curiosity about technology. Keep your eyes open and inspire your team to stay abreast of shifting macro trends and the ways in which technology positively transforms business. Regularly ask questions such as, which technologies make sense for my business? Is the technology ready for prime time? Can it move our business forward? Don’t resign to a wait-and-see approach! Your business needs to get to a point in which you have said, “Yes, technology matters to us and we are ready to change to support the business needs.”
Next, build a kitchen in which to cook… a place where you can examine a technology in a safe way without putting a lot of expectations on it in terms of cost-benefit analysis or rollout schedule. In your kitchen, you have a chance to see what the technology can do today, what it might do tomorrow, and be OK knowing that in many cases you might throw it away. That act of examining it and playing with it is how you can pick the ones that will be most impactful to your particular industry.
Third, allocate a budget for what you want to do in your kitchen. You will want to have the flexibility to move money away from things that are less promising and move money towards technologies that show capability, without having to wait a year to free up funds. Your ability to have a flexible, malleable budget will allow you to move as quickly as the technology and business needs require.
Next, you need to consider your timing. As you cook up different options in the kitchen, timing — and whether you are too fast or too slow — becomes critical. Pay attention to the technology and time your place on the S-curve. As stated above, you need to be watching. If the S-curve comes and goes and you missed it and technology is already mainstream, you will be too late.
Finally, once you’ve introduced the first incarnation of true digital transformation, don’t stop; Keep going and roll out the next. Continually think about where your business is looking to advance to next, how technology can layer onto compelling business strategy, and how your people will play a core driver in furthering your efforts. Focus on all of the elements — people, process, operations, strategy — that allow you to truly craft your culture of continuous transformation.
To read the full interview on Authority Magazine, click here.