The Secret to a Successful Digital Transformation

Posted April 26, 2017 by Paul Stratton

The world we live in is changing at an exponential rate. Technology has insinuated itself into almost every moment of our lives. We live in smart homes, drive smart cars, use smart appliances. The way we consume information and services, the way we create, the way we connect with each other: technology has radically changed the way we live our lives.

In turn, it’s also heightened our expectations of the companies we buy from. As technology evolves, so too do our expectations of service providers.

It’s broadly acknowledged that the financial services industry has been comparatively slow to respond to these changes. However, over the last few years, we’ve seen a massive uplift in the investment in technology across the sector.

Organisations can – and do – invest millions of dollars in technology transformation programs. These are often big, complex programs that have the potential to radically change the way work is done and how organisations deliver products and services and engage with their customers.

However, we know that the vast majority of transformation programs fail. McKinsey research1 places the odds of success at around 30%. Not a great return on such a significant investment of time, money and people. So what’s going wrong? And how can financial services companies embarking on a digital transformation increase their odds of success?

Recently, DST hosted an intimate dinner for senior industry executives where we broached exactly this topic. We were delighted to have as our special guest Steve Vamos. Having formerly held roles as CEO of Microsoft Australia & New Zealand, Vice President and Managing Director of Apple Computer Asia Pacific, and CEO of Ninemsn, Steve is widely considered one of the most influential people in the Australian technology industry.

Steve has a fairly unique perspective on digital disruption and transformation. During the course of his 30+ year career, he’s sat on both sides of the fence. At Microsoft and Apple, he led organisations that created disruptive technology; at Ninemsn he harnessed technology to disrupt and radically transform the Australian advertising industry.

But as Steve told our dinner guests, when it comes to organisational transformation, technology is merely an enabler of what is fundamentally a very human process. “Technology does not innovate, people do. Technology serves to enable and amplify the potential of people,” he said.

So what does this mean for organisations embarking on a digital transformation?

Steve believes that successful change requires a fundamental shift in mindset – starting at the very top of the organisation. He says that most of today’s leaders have grown up in the Industrial Age: an age where the people who got promoted were those who appeared to be in control, didn’t make mistakes and knew all the answers. But with change, comes fear: fear of the unknown; fear of failure. And Steve says the “control-oriented, mistake-adverse, know it all” brand of leadership of old is not only irrelevant, unless it’s applied to things we consciously don’t want to change, it can work against us.

Instead he believes transformational leaders need to move from a control to care mindset. This means that leaders need to:

  • Really listen to their people and leverage what they know.
  • Help them to connect with and learn from each other.
  • Allow them to make – and learn from – mistakes.

It’s easy to get distracted by the siren-call of technology. Let’s face it: technology is enabling some seriously cool stuff. And in some sense, even though it can be complex and stressful, managing the technology side of change can seem somewhat easier than facing into the human – and therefore emotional – aspects.

But if you only focus on the technology, there’s a big chance you’ll fail to realise your transformation goals.

Watch Steve’s “Digital Disruption is a Human Thing” Tedx Melbourne talk to learn more.


The views expressed in this publication are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of DST Systems, Inc. or its affiliates, subsidiaries, joint ventures, officers, directors, or management.

1How to Beat the Transformation Odds, McKinsey & Company, April 2015

Featured Insights
  • Driving Success through Digital Transformation
    Learn More
  • Predictions 2017: In Digital Transformation

Digital Edge Blog Subscription
Complete the form to receive Digital Edge newsletter by email

Take Your Business to the Next Level