Practically Digital

Digital Transformation Reimagined: Insights from the HMG Strategy CIO Summit 2017

Digital Transformation Panel, including Ramon Baez, CIO's from Abbott Labs, Baxter International, Crowe Horwarth LLP, CMO from Alfresco, and Practically Digital CEO Rob McGillen

Digital Transformation Panel, including Ramon Baez, CIO's from Abbott Labs, Baxter International, Crowe Horwarth LLP, CMO from Alfresco, and Practically Digital CEO Rob McGillen

This week HMG Strategy and their local partner SIM Chicago, hosted a CIO Leadership summit in Chicago that focused on digital transformation and how enterprises can successfully adopt for their own business.    Being part of a great speaker panel on the discussion today, the pearls of wisdom shared are worth passing on.      

7 key insights from the assembled digital leadership:

1.     Digital transformation is a journey, not a destination – while stating the obvious - focusing on digital strategy (and transformation) as a singular activity or deliverable is missing the opportunity.  Digital transformation and the strategy to achieve it is business specific, and keeping in mind that the journey will have achievement points (goals), and transformation journeys (projects and sprints) - an important perspective to embrace. 

2.     Transformation success takes executive alignment – a key theme from many of the speakers today is the importance of executive sponsorship and alignment of digital transformation with the CIO / CDO in a company.   Whether an enterprise mission statement and a reoccurring dialog, or spending time frequently with the leadership team on the digital needs – alignment is crucial to success.

3.     Cyber-security is a major factor to the transformation journey – and should not be under invested.  The continuous attempts against all organizations (commercial, government, and academic / not for profit) to breach and disrupt needs to be a crucial factor in your digital changes.   Defense is no longer enough – offensive considerations need to be considered when your company is clearly under assault. 

4.     Customer focus is key, and partnering with Marketing and Sales is crucial to aligning the IT organization with the revenue generating streams of the business.   Digital is not about a platform or ‘new app’ – it is about the customer experience, brand alignment, and enabling the customer journey / experience.   Ensuring your marketing leadership and IT are aligned are important components of the successful digital transformation.

5.     Culture matters Realizing the importance of culture and ensuring everyone understands and feels part of the digital journey within the company.    Ensuring the balancing act between customer experience (#4 above) and internal culture attenuation to the digital change are equally important. 

6.     Differentiate your business with digital – identify how your company can be different in the market is crucial to your digital transformation journey.    Use digital business platforms work to your advantage (Marketing centric, Sales Centric, delivery and collaboration centric are all good areas to focus on) in that differentiation journey.   

7.     Stay digitally current – continuous digital awareness is crucial for IT leadership to be useful and influential to the broader business objectives.  Being part of organizations (including SIM Chicago) and continuously educating yourself on the new trends of digital are a must in the digital journey.   

8.     Start now – digital transformation is not waiting on a business unit or a leadership objective – it is happening in every area of your business today.  Start now in your digital leadership efforts, focusing on the journey for the company and your customers!


To learn more about Digital transformation and forming an effective digital strategy, get in touch !



The robots that can: A digital customer service future

When the robot asks your size, what do you say? 

When the robot asks your size, what do you say? 

The robot(s) that can: a digital customer service future

“我能帮你吗?” (May I help you) came the slightly feminine voice behind me.  I was caught off guard at first, thinking that I had someone walk up behind me while I was studying the store map.  Turning around, I stared down at the cute 3-foot-tall robot, which blinked up at me with an animated, smiling screen.  

“I am not sure, actually” I responded in English, intrigued.  The robot flashed for a moment on the screen, and responded in English this time “Would you like to look at clothing or jewelry, both are nearby?”

Curious now, I responded “Clothing” and the robot chirped a friendly ‘follow me’ and proceed to roll towards the nearest branded clothing section in the incredibly large shop in the suburbs of Beijing.    During the roll / walk over, I heard in my native language the retail sales opportunities on clothing in advance of Spring Festival coming soon.    By the time I found a jacket that fit, I received two further advertisements (both tailored to a male customer), and a friendly reminder to join the affinity card program to receive more discounts.  

This was not the first or only interaction with digitally enabled customer service bots or experiences while in China.   Over the course of three weeks visiting in-laws, we encountered robots delivering food to the table (with beacon technologies and IoT making it possible to track us in the restaurant after ordering), banking robots that rolled around the branch lobby helping place people in the right queues and dispensing rate information, and digital touch displays from KFC and McDonald’s that provided Mandarin and English options (and prompts / advice) for ordering and payment.       

What struck me about the experience was the rapid adoption of the digital / IoT / consumer technologies by the customers (including me), and how fast these brands/companies have adopted digital business capabilities to reduce friction and better service customers.    I found over the weeks in China, I would gravitate to these digital brands more than others I encountered.  I felt a convenience and comfort with the experience, and actually was intrigued by the next experience I might have.  


While digital capabilities are great, and the strategy is working for these sectors in the early days – the future is more complicated.   The economics in China are shifting with government intention  towards a greater services industry focus (and less towards infrastructure and agro-business).   The services industry, especially in metropolitan markets, has become the hot area for growth. 

With the introduction of digital capabilities – from robots, to IoT,  and digital engagement points (displays and beacons / tracking and tailored digital advertising), the services industry workforce will be challenged with alternative modes of customer interaction.   In a country of over 1 billion, how these brands / companies adapt their business to the digital opportunity over the long run will be a very interesting story to watch.   

Taking this construct outside China, the future implications in other geographic markets will challenge our services economy expectations soon (if not already).    What is required is a robust data / telecommunications infrastructure, the expertise to make these technologies work, and the ability to connect the digital experience with the underlying brand experience.     Understanding the digital disruption at work, and opportunities these new capabilities present will help companies differentiate in the new digital era.    

Ready to explore your digital opportunity? 

To learn more and discuss how digital transformation opportunities can help your business, get in touch at    And remember, when the robot asks what size you are, always go up a notch or two on the belt.   They can’t see the difference (yet).


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Rob McGillen is the founder, CEO and principal consultant at Practically Digital, a digital transformation consultancy focused on helping companies leverage the opportunities presented by new digital innovations.  




Growth, efficiency and security: three digital technologies every executive should know in 2017

As companies gear up for 2017, digital business opportunities abound for forward thinking leaders.   For Sales Growth, Efficiency, and Security (+speed) - the digital landscape holds a number of strong opportunities in the year ahead.   Understanding the possibilities, and how they add value to the broader business, is key to any digital transformation. 

For Growth - Sales Engagement Platforms  

The number one thing that drives corporate growth is sales.  And the growing number of sales engagement platforms in 2016 was not by accident. The recent Aragon Research report on Sales Engagement Platforms has pegged the market today at $780m, and expected to grow to $5b by 2021.    Often times sales engagement (or enablement depending on the marketing twist) – is focused on helping business leaders best identify the ‘hot leads’ and strong sales candidates that can help move a quarter or make a business year.   

Why should CxO’s and IT leaders care?  The need for better sales techniques and technologies has reached an all-time high as companies have realized static growth through traditional sales processes and solutions.   Many of the leading platforms in this area are ‘born on the cloud’ – and integrating with the leading CRM and contracts management platforms.   Breaking the mold and finding new ways to identify, connect and engage customers will be key in 2017 for growth minded companies.    

This year, solving what your sales engagement platform play will be key to many companies’ growth success.  

For Efficiency - Cognitive computing (and the variations of artificial intelligence)

The proverbial genie is out of the bottle with artificial intelligence, and 2016 witnessed a number of tech vendor commitments (and some deliveries) of A.I. for sake of business.   The commercial leader, IBM, has brought to market strongly the IBM Watson platform, enabling dozens of industries and thousands of companies in the quest for great efficiency.    Salesforce, always a tech leader, will also be introducing Einstein into their platform in 2017.  And Microsoft is quick to follow with Cortana and other predictive analytics capabilities.   

Key questions to answer on artificial intelligence:  In the mash up of buzz words and hype around the capabilities, does your business (and IT group) know the difference between machine learning and cognitive computing?    More important, do you know which is right for your business now, and in the future? The efficiency gains (and in some cases, workforce transition or replacement) from the use will be long running.    Building a strategy today that embraces the possibilities, with a long term view will be crucial to maximize the efficiency gains possible for your business.  

For Security (and speed) – Blockchain

From his recent TED talk, Don Tapscott, a leading digital strategist and speaker, shares his insights into how the block chain technology will impact nearly all facets of human life.

How will blockchain make the world different in 2017?  In short, Blockchain helps drive security (and speed) by improving the real time authentication of transactions and removing the ‘middle man’ in the clearing and authentication process.   By making the transactions ‘completely trustworthy’, the authentication time and processes can be changed from hours and days (think transferring funds across a banking network or between countries), to microseconds.  

Two illustrative scenarios that are impacted by blockchain (and more to come): 

First, in Financial Services.  The availability of funds, and real time acquisition time possible with the blockchain authentication process, changes the underlying business model for the financial services market itself.  The fees, processes, timing involved, and infrastructure of over 100 years is challenged with the adoption of block chain.  How does a bank or institution charge for microsecond processing in the future state?    More important, how does that impact the flow of capital between individuals and businesses worldwide.     

Second, Verification of financial reports and records in the accounting industry.  Today millions of auditors and tax processors around the world conduct regular analysis, reporting and auditing processes, mostly still in a quarterly or annual cycle with complex platforms and processes.    When the need for ‘trusting the books’ is automatically performed with blockchain capabilities, how does that impact the accounting industry?   In short, it can drastically shift the value proposition (and need) for financial review and reporting.   And it forces a digital rethink of the industry itself and the value it will provide to companies ahead.    

As companies consider security and speed opportunities in 2017 – consider how your company might adopt block chain to transform your business.   If authentication, authorization, and speed are priorities for your company, block chain will provide a competitive advantage which you can take up.

Digital capabilities and transforming your business in the implementation process is something we help companies with every day.  Are you ready to become a digital business?  

Get in touch to learn how!