By @SimonCocking great interview with Trevor Clohessy, Digital, Transformation Lecturer, Business Information Systems Department, NUIG
Does it seem like a logical background to what you do now?
Now it seems logical, but my career path has been far from conventional. Following the completion of my undergraduate degree in sports and exercise science at the University of Limerick in 2003, I completed a masters level degree in occupational health and safety engineering at the University of Ireland Galway. I was swayed by the construction boom at the time. After 7 years working as a health and safety engineer I decided to go back to college to upskill. It was a decision I had made prior to the Celtic tiger bust and looking back now it was best decision I could have made. Following my completion of a MSc. in information systems, I was co-funded by the National University of Galway Ireland and Lero: The Irish Software Research Centre to do a PhD in cloud computing based digital transformation in 2012. I completed the PhD in 2015 following which I was hired as a lecturer in the J.E. Cairnes School of Business & Economics. In 2016, successfully applied for a digital transformation position here in the business school and I was successful. I suppose the common thread with my background is that I have always had an interest in digital technologies and have developed numerous digital based platforms to make my working life easier.
1 min pitch for what you are doing now?
I am currently working on some exciting projects concerning digital transformation. For instance, I am working with Reuben Godfrey from the Blockchain Association and we are investigating the organisational readiness of Irish companies with regards to blockchain. I am also researching a new phenomenon known as enterprise personal analytics which encompasses companies allowing workers to use personal analytic technologies to enhance (e.g. wearable technology) their working lives (https://www.cutter.com/offer/enterprise-personal-analytics-embracing-potential-avoiding-pitfalls). We also investigated how Twitter transformed the 2016 US Presidential campaign
How do you describe what digital transformation is to newbies?
The textbook answer is “Digital transformation, or DX, is the application of digital technologies to fundamentally impact all aspects of enterprises and society”. For instance, if you look at modern day digital start-ups, or the era of the mobile-app start-ups, such as Uber, Yik Yak, or Cloudmine, incumbent companies in these industries will have to undergo a profound digital transformation of their existing structures, process, technologies and people in order to compete with these companies. Ryanair understood the significance of digital transformation by releasing that they had to improve their customer service through mobile and web based applications. But what you have to realise is that some companies have been successfully undergoing digital transformation for the past 50 years and were doing it before the concept became trendy again. Whenever I am presenting about digital transformation I always like to revert to a quote by Charles Darwin which rings 100% true in the digital transformation landscape: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, but rather, that which is most adaptable to change”.
For some companies they look to ‘do’ digital, rather than ‘be’ digital, what are your tips on this one?
One of the biggest problems with regards digital transformation is that there is a cacophony of noise surrounding the term. Company’s heads are being turned by every shiny piece of new technology that comes out to the market such as artificial intelligence, virtual reality, blockchain, cloud computing and so on. Technology providers then compound the problem by stating that these technologies are the panacea for all your organizations problems. My experience of digital transformation is that it is very complex, particularly for very large organizations. For example, look at HPE, the company divided into two with one side of the business focusing on traditional hardware and software manufacturing and the new business focusing on five main pillars cloud, mobility, big data, security and social. There digital strategy has been executed meticulously by their CEO Meg Whitman over the past 5 years. That is what being digital is all about, effectively executing a digital transformation strategy using a top down and bottom up approach where there is a clearly delineated digital agenda. By doing so they have transformed their ivory tower type culture towards a more open on-demand IT culture. For companies contemplating digital transformation using specific digital technologies history suggests that two dimensions impact how a disruptive technological trend and its business use case evolves. The first is complexity which is represented by the level of coordination required by all parties in an organizational ecosystem in order to produce value with the technology. The second dimension is novelty which describes the level of effort a user requires to understand the problems that the new technological trend can solve. The more novel a concept is, the greater the learning curve and the more challenging the culture shift. I would encourage organizations contemplating adopting a new technology to develop adoption frameworks which map possible technological implementations against these two aforementioned dimensions. These two dimensions can vary from low to high in terms of the stage of technology development.
All companies operate somewhere on the scale between seeing all their employees as potential advocates & broadcasters for what the company is doing versus a tightly controlled corporate message => what do you advise & how to achieve this?
I think companies are slowly shifting from their ivory tower mentality and the days of the rightly controlled corporate message are fading. We see this on a daily basis were companies who have never partnered with each other before are all of a sudden are engaged in partnerships to develop new products and services. All of this stems from increasing market pressures where customers have a multitude of providers to choose services and products from. Furthermore, my own research with regards to cloud-based digital transformation identified that the companies who effectively implemented new digital strategic initiatives did so by creating new cloud based digital transformation leader roles. Each of these digital leaders were tasked with spreading the new “cloud gospel” via new and novel methods (e.g. social media, gamified training programmes). Employees were quick to adapt to this new cloud-based digital mindset as they were put at the core of every digital initiative. They instinctively and effectively suggested workarounds in instances were transformation initiatives were failing. Ineffective digital transformation leadership and failure to acquire employee buyin can result in deleterious consequences.
Many CEOs / C level executives have little to no digital presence – how much should they have to help communicate the company’s message?
In the past 5 years, I have seen many CEOs appear on LinkedIn. They are proactively using the platform to harness the power of the crowd to communicate their opinions, strategies and highlight the work that their employees are doing. In some instances, they have become influencers. Regardless of the polemics regarding digital privacy and security, I think that CEOs who do not have a digital presence are missing out on the multitude of benefits that having one brings. From my own perspective, I am quite active on various social media platforms. I refer to my LinkedIn network as my little blackbook of contacts which I can reach out to when I need assistance with regards to my research. I think the days of the Filofax and business card are well and truly over.
Would you agree that it is no longer a case of having a different digital profile to your offline one – ie that our digital profile is now an integral part of our working CV / and business reputation?
I wholeheartedly agree with that statement. There is a saying if a tree falls in the woods does anybody hear it? Well yes if the other trees Tweet about it. There are now a raft of platforms on which you can build your digital profile. These platforms are becoming increasingly interconnected and smarter. The trick is to make our digital profile as vibrant as possible and stick out from the crowd. I myself have created a number of digital profiles which are connected seamlessly on which I can promote my research. I use both LinkedIn and Twitter and internal university communications. However, it has taken me years to build up my digital profile. There is no quick fix. In order to broaden my digital presence, I created a student blog resource called NoiseyGen.XYZ which has been up and running for the past two years. This platform has equipped me with the skills to do podcasts, interview both internal NUIG staff and external parties, promote the interviews on social media and ultimately incorporate lessons learned within the classroom. I was chuffed when the blog was shortlisted in 2016 for the V by Very Blog Awards and even more ecstatic when I received confirmation last week that we have made the final for this year’s award in the Digital & Technology category. The final is being held on October 5th at the academy in Dublin. Fingers crossed we win blog of the year.
— Technology Ezine (@NoiseyGenXYZ) September 28, 2017