Connected Organisations: Three key lessons

George Proudfoot
By George Proudfoot under Insights 04 October 2018

The most successful organisations are designing, building and implementing software to connect all aspects of their operations. By doing so, they are able to create the capabilities necessary to outperform their competitors and disrupt highly competitive industries.

We call them Connected Organisations.

Our recent white paper explores what makes an organisation truly connected and how businesses today can accelerate their journey towards becoming a more connected organisation. We set out to identify some of the opportunities and challenges associated with enabling organisations to take advantage of the glut of new mobile, cloud, data and machine learning technologies.

While our paper is based on hard earned experience working with our clients - including TfL, Unilever and Dunnhumby - it is mostly an invitation to explore and discuss these issues further, with those who are trying to solve them in the here and now. Are we right about the technology opportunities in organisations? How can we better grasp them in the context of employees, incentives, structures and behaviours we see in organisations today?

On Wednesday, September 26th, we invited a panel of experts to TAB HQ to reflect on their own experiences and debate a series of questions...

Firstly, why this is a challenge? What prevents an organisation from shifting and changing to better utilise today’s technology?

Secondly, what technologies and even types of products are really interesting? Which are overhyped?

And finally, and most importantly, how do you affect significant change in organisations that are demanded to take advantage of new technologies at hand, today and tomorrow?

1. Legacy tech, and the data opportunity

We anchored the discussion with the challenges our panellists faced or had seen in the organisations they’ve worked within.

While many people are talking the talk on data and new technology changing things, there was some scepticism about the actual progress companies were making. Even those who might have started

“5 years ago I was building out the digital capability. Like with most organisations, you face legacy and politics issues. For our industry,  we are forward thinking in some ways - content. Some of our growing pains have halted us.”

Legacy technology is something that is raised time and time again in discussions like these, but some of the panel were sceptical about it - not that it isn’t a significant barrier itself, but that it can become an excuse or crux that organisations focus on at the expense of making the process and organisational changes to be truly successful.

“Legacy creates a challenge in itself. Do we look to fix legacy or do we transform the way we operate? The cheaper or easier solution is often to change legacy rather than transform the way we operate.”

2. Cross-functional, outcome oriented teams drive progress

Our audience and our clients generally can get excited about technology. But almost everyone on the panel had a war story about programs floundering, or sympathised with the frustration of slower progress within organisations when compared to the consumer world outside them.

“We have a fundamental challenge, because of how big we are, and the often siloed nature of the organisation. How do you do a great job of cross-functional collaboration? Everyone is fighting their silo in their corner. We aren’t really looking at the opportunities to become more connected.”

Many of our panellists pointed to tasking small cross-functional teams focused on organisational outcomes to circumvent the traditional slow-going of enterprise IT. These small groups, when empowered and able to test hypotheses in context, can quickly uncover the concepts or products that will really thrive within an organisation.

“What works is getting people to try new behaviours. The most effective way to implement technology and change is to get a small cross-functional group together. Ask them a specific question to look for insights. And quickly identify what needs to happen next.”

3. The frontier for creating any connected organisation - the people within it

Creating the future in small cross-functional teams is all very well, but it doesn’t count for much if those findings and new products don’t scale out across the organisation. Bridging the chasm from cross-functional teams, pilot programs, prototypes and ‘innovation’ to day-to-day reality is the hard-yards of creating more Connected Organisations.

"People love innovation but hate change. How do you bridge that gap? You bring the users into the process."

In the case of organisations like Tesco that can sometimes mean bringing over 300,000 employees with you. The scale of these organisations means product user groups can encompass five generations and the full breadth of mindsets from techno-utopian to total refuseniks. The panel was keen to explore different strategies on communication and onboarding the organisation.

“We’ve launched a major digital skills programme - it’s started a much deeper digital conversation with people. How this helps them in their life, let's look at how it can help at work and then the impact on employees.”

As a key takeout from the debate, it is clear that just creating or installing software in the organisations of yesterday, bound within the structures and approaches of the last century, will never fully realise its potential.

To truly change how organisations create value for their stakeholders - from customers to employees, shareholders and suppliers - we need organisations to adopt new mindsets, structures and approaches. They must also change the support and infrastructure functions they fund and maintain.

To find out more about the behaviours that characterise a connected organisation, download our guide here.