Productivity through Innovation

Why operational managers are building digital capability within their teams today?
Oct 04, 2018

Digital transformation.  Everyone has heard of it by now but what does it mean exactly?

For us, digital transformation is not so much about digitising your environment but more so about setting people up to embrace constant change.  Change is hard, it always has been, but with the digital capability offering available today, the time to unlock and deliver value has dramatically improved.  This means greater employee satisfaction and retention of those employees who are eager to make a difference and now feel they can.

By now, most managers are starting to see a set of digital initiatives alongside the more traditional safety, productivity, environmental and cost savings initiatives.  These digital initiatives are the result of a larger digital transformation program of works to ready the business for rapid adoption of new technology.  So, whilst managers are paramount in the success of any organisational transformation, it has never been so important to get digital transformation right given the upside of rapid business improvement and therefore competitive advantage.  Integrated information systems, self-service analytics and an innovative culture (through failure we learn) are some of the key ingredients to get right in digital transformation.

IT departments have never been as important to business as they are today with CIOs becoming the norm in the boardroom, the drivers of digital transformation.  The attitudes towards servicing the business with a strong focus on customer experience and satisfaction has been the biggest shift for IT departments, finally we are seeing true collaboration between IT and business users.

So, what can proactive managers do today to build digital capability within their teams and start seeing faster business improvement?

Management can augment their team capabilities by sourcing digital talent, to help ‘get their backyards in order’.  Data preparation is likely the worst offender here and is the low effort, high value opportunity for operational managers today.  Complimentary to the broader transformation efforts from executive management, this bottom-up approach will see managers more autonomous in accessing and preparing data, build awareness of how digital can add value in operations, continue the innovative culture journey and help ease the overall effort around digital transformation.

Self-service analytics tools are another great opportunity for operational teams and are really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to empowering your workforce with the ability to identify new insights without reliance on IT.  It is important to note that these tools are for quick analyses and the discovery of insights and not so much for the application of scalable data engineering solutions.  This is where IT still plays a very important role in packaging data assets for internal customers.

Information systems have never been so important as they are today, and it is an absolute necessity for operational management to understand the value of these.  Large enterprise is better meeting internal customer needs, including operational management and their teams, by building tailored data assets for consumption (typically reporting or analyses).  As an operational manager, think of all the times you really needed data from different parts of the business on existing reports or the number of times you have been told you cannot get specific data to feature on a report or dashboard because of [insert reason here].  The good news is those days are now becoming a distant memory with a new purpose of IT teams to service the business by providing ‘data-as-a-service’ resulting in tailored data assets rather than a single data warehouse to suit everybody’s needs, with information systems being better integrated and accessible to operational customers and the ease of self-service analytics tools usage meaning operational customers are no longer reliant on either IT or Excel to transform data into a state suitable for ad-hoc analyses.

So complimenting teams with digital talent, self-service analytics tools and better understanding how to use information systems properly are just some of the ‘low hanging fruit opportunities’ operational managers can focus on today, allowing them to better manage operational variability and deliver faster business improvement with less hassle.


Aaron Sharpe,
Principal Consultant – Operational Intelligence
Data Engineering Pty Ltd

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