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The benefits of data-driven digital transformation strategies

At the 2018 MIT Sloan CIO Symposium in May, global business leaders gathered to share their best digital transformation practices with those in attendance. But too often, according to conference speaker and Deutsche Bank CIO Frédéric Véron, business leaders dive too far into the "transformation" aspect and ignore readily available data, in particular from IT systems, when it comes to developing digitization strategies.

In part two of this video interview from the MIT Sloan CIO Symposium, Véron encourages business leaders to analyze data for potential digitization weak spots, and to consider their own unique pain points when developing digital transformation strategies. He also discusses how Deutsche's enterprise-wide adoption of an Agile methodology was one of the bank's key digital transformation strategies.

Editor's note: This transcript was edited for clarity and length.

What kind of data is especially useful when it comes to driving companies' digital transformation strategies?

Frédéric Véron: First, the term is really bizarre, because everything is data; therefore, everything is digitized to start. But that aside, the data that I am looking at now is what we were discussing in the seminar at the Symposium early today: It is the data about the health of the systems, the usage of the systems, the normal operations, all the parameters that would baseline a normal version of a system.

If something were to happen to that system, we would know in advance that something is about to happen so that we could proactively manage the situation. That data is in the systems we have today. It is an incident management system, what we refer to usually as the IT management platforms. It is just there, and I don't think IT organizations have done a good job at mining the data and running the analytics on it to predict how the system is going to behave and to avoid incidents or a negative impact on customer service.

What strategies are you finding most useful to benefit digital transformation?

We think about the how, but we don't spend enough time on the why.
Frédéric VéronCIO, Deutsche Bank

Véron: In my previous organization, we moved everybody to Agile. It was not just a [systems development lifecycle] methodology that is different from waterfall, but it was also a business management system where we got the business to also understand what it meant. It is not just for software; it is about making decisions quickly and focusing on the minimum viable part, then delivering value quickly in the environment. When you do this, you start having a better alignment of people's objectives and you get to digitization much faster. In doing that, what happens is people adopt this approach and then others can see what the adoption results in, and see the results right there.

Instead of having a three-year project that is hundreds of millions of dollars in investment, you see smaller projects, smaller development efforts that actually translate into true value in supporting the production of the organization. Other groups can actually see that and that the output is much faster, get excited about it, and want to do the same thing in their space.

We are seeing some companies, especially legacy companies, really struggle with implementing digital transformation strategies. What makes the process so difficult?

Véron: I think it might be that, sometimes, we forget why it is that we are doing it. I think we all get excited about new, shiny objects, new ways of doing things, new technologies. We hear about startups that become big and we want to do the same thing. We think about the how, but we don't spend enough time on the why.

I think the digitization efforts that I have been involved with and were successful were because we started with a real problem in the beginning and we focused on resolving that problem. I think often people build platforms hoping that people will come. You build something, you hope they will come, and nobody comes. Well, was the platform really targeted at resolving someone's problem, someone's need?

Earlier today, here at the Symposium, there was a person who was referring to a new music application they decided to develop. She was flying with her business partner [and] the two of them were talking about music. And they went, 'Oh, it would be great to develop a music application.' They were developing it for themselves and it just happened to catch on. And now, she was saying it is the top music platform in India.

That worked because they had a clear sense of the why. They wanted to do it and they did it. They were solving a very specific need that they were able to appreciate themselves. Very often, organizations don't have that laser focus and lose themselves in many different innovative activities what are quite interesting, but not producing a business outcome.

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