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Leading a digital future

Gavin Payne

In my new role at Coeo as Head of Digital Transformation, I’ll be helping Coeo to help its customers become digital businesses.

Sometimes when walking through my corner of Oxfordshire I pass a hundred years of railway innovation.  Steam trains at the museum whistle and empty their deep lungs of smoke while their diesel cousins speed past on the mainline.  Both of them though can see the future being built around them – the gantries and cables that’ll finally bring the era of the electric train to Oxfordshire.
Innovation in the railway industry has been slow but very visible when it has happened.  The smoky days of train travel also managed to create a sense of nostalgia and romance about them.  That’s why at weekends people travel on a new, fast and quiet diesel train to be able to ride on a steam train because it’s old, slow and noisy.  Using the new world to indulge in the old world isn’t limited to train enthusiasts, vintage cars and fashion are also loved and cherished just as much.

Steam powered IT

The same love of the old can’t be said anymore for the technology businesses use.  Staying with the same tools and technologies may for a long time have given business leaders a feeling of stability, but today it should give them a feeling of worry.  As an example of the traditional IT world, businesses tended to improve their customer facing capabilities and business processes whenever their vendors upgraded the software they use.  Unless a business was one of the few who has always created its own IT systems, then it risked operating in the same way as its competitors did.  So what will it mean for them when their newest competitor starts taking market share using a mobile app, integrated with a SaaS merchandising system, that’s able to give the perfect customer experience?  When it’s agile enough to react in the blink of an eye to changes in market trends?

The digital era

The last few years though has seen a generation of technologies and business models emerge that allows businesses to completely rethink how they do business.  When was the last time you waited until your monthly bank statement was posted to you to see how much money you had in your account?  When was the first time you used a smartphone app to do that instead?  When was the last time you saw a new business application advertised that needed software installing on your own servers in your own data centre?  The world is changing and while this blog post isn’t the place to discuss the digital revolution and digital transformation, it’s an insight in to how technical innovation and services have started changing.

Becoming a digital business

According to analysts, most businesses are now somewhere on their journey to becoming a digital business by 2020.  A few have already got there, some have only just started, whereas most are somewhere in between.  To support them, Coeo is helping its customers with their digital transformation in the same way as it helped them with their traditional IT in the past.  But digital transformation isn’t just about using cloud services or advanced analytics, it’s about adopting new technologies, such as machine learning, and paying for them in different ways.  What if you were a large retailer, you could anonymise the sales data in your data warehouse and then you charged your suppliers to query it?  Imagine if you sold access to anyone using a public facing API for a monthly fee?  If you did, then you’ve probably found a way to get other people to pay for your new data warehouse.

A new digital future

While it’s already been here for a while, more and more businesses are now moving into the digital world.  My role from September is to make sure Coeo can help its customers as they transition from being a traditional IT business to a digital business.  This is as much about guidance and evangelism as it is about commercial strategy and innovation.  But it builds on my knowledge of having been a data platform architect at Coeo for almost six years.  It’s knowing that what our customers do today is very different to when I joined Coeo.  But it’s also about having the experience to help them work in a world where even the next two years will be different.

To find out more

If you want to read more about what digital transformation means for a technology-centric organisation, then Microsoft’s global IT team has written this informative blog article here.

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