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New software platform speeds up digital transformation: Interview (Includes interview and first-hand account)

The Workboard software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution is designed to transform an antiquated approach into a dynamic, data-driven practice augmented by analytics and intelligence. The aim is to help organizations iterate, measure and achieve their strategy at market speed.

Deidre Paknad is CEO and co-founder of Workboard, Inc. She has decades of experience leading large enterprise and emerging startup teams on strategic pursuits. Digital Journal caught up with Paknad to discover more about SaaS applications.

Digital Journal: How important is it for companies to consider digital transformation?

Deidre Paknad: Crucial. “Self disrupt or self destruct” may be the adage for our times. According to BCG, roughly 1/3 of companies faced a sharp decline of 10 percent or more in total shareholder return over any two-year span, and another third of those companies deteriorate even more over the following five years. Objectively, this suggests companies have to transform at least once during any five-year window.

DJ: What’s driving this change?

Paknad: The two forces driving change are, first, faster and more data, which agile competitors use to strategic advantage, and second, the erosion of traditional market borders and barriers. Where once markets were defined by well- established competitors, we are now in an era of disruptive new entrants and entirely new business models.

The digital transformation process needs to begin in the C-suite — often the least digital of enterprise stakeholders. In order to accelerate this transformation, the most senior leaders of the organization need to exemplify the digital change they want to see.

DJ: Does this apply across all sectors?

Paknad: Yes, to varying degrees. The media and entertainment vertical is driving the most aggressive transformation with 62 percent of companies in or beginning their transformation efforts, according to research from McKinsey and Company. Retail follows at 55 percent and high-tech industries at 54 percent. We can expect industrial companies to change dramatically as IoT and driverless vehicles mainstream, and the utility industry will fundamentally shift as nearly $2 trillion is invested in sensors. The telecom industry is in upheaval as well.

DJ: Why are some organizations hesitant about starting or completing the digital transformation process?

Paknad: There are two major reasons companies hesitate: One is the perception that it’s unnecessary and markets will continue to behave as they are into the foreseeable future. The second is the tension of running a slowing business and changing it at the same time. Both situations are about risk and confidence – one perhaps overconfident about risk and the other underconfident given the risk.

The latter is a very challenging dynamic as slowing growth usually requires companies to reduce current run rate costs, and it’s all hands on deck to maximize revenues because you can’t afford to under execute. Running a stressed business while transforming it is particularly hard.

DJ: To make things easier for companies, how can they best manage the digital transformation process?

Paknad: According to Tom Siebel in his recent McKinsey article and John Chambers, former CEO of Cisco, “40 percent of today’s businesses will fail in the next ten years; 70 percent will attempt to transform themselves digitally but only 30 percent will succeed.”

We believe there are five core tenets to success:

First, the CEO and most senior leaders have to believe in the transformation and drive accountability for it. Transformation is profound change. There will be resistance, friction, conflict and politics; it will require a high sense of urgency and many people to change habits and actions. The CEO must set the tone, tempo and transparency expectations.

Second, velocity is crucial, because it accelerates learning and data as much as results. Set short range success metrics and drive hard and fast toward them. Raising the velocity quotient of the organization is both a part of the journey and one of its benefits.

Third, activating and iterating on the strategy quickly will separate winners and losers. If your strategy involves being data driven, digital and intelligently automated, then the approach to aligning, measuring, and managing strategy execution should be all those things as well! It’s absurd to manage a digital transformation with 10,000 PowerPoints and 10,000 meeting hours.

Fourth, communication is where strategy execution breaks down. Even in slower times, fewer than 1/3 of senior executives’ direct reports understand the strategic priorities, and that drops to 16 percent of front line employees and team leads. But make no mistake, strategy is not executed by the few people at the top of the house that understand it! It’s potent and important to “localize” short range strategic priorities for teams at every level – literally translate it into the nouns, verbs and numbers of each functional team so they see themselves in those priorities.

Fifth, change agents and heretics in the organization need to be heard, cultivated and given room to run – rather than crushed or pushed out. The existential threat driving the transformation is from fast growth disruptive players; you need employees with that mind set to succeed or you may find they’ll quickly work at the company disrupting yours.

DJ: What types of services does Workboard offer?

Paknad: The Workboard Active Strategy Management solution helps organizations set, measure and execute strategic priorities faster. It’s a data-driven, digital approach to defining, aligning and managing strategic outcomes so your organization competes at market speed. It’s ideal for teams changing the world or changing their business who need radical clarity and true alignment; plus accountability for outcomes, motivated engaged people and faster results .

DJ: Is there any special software involved?

Paknad: Yes, the Workboard solution includes software to activate and achieve strategic priorities faster and coaching to “localize” priorities and engage everyone in results. The software transforms an antiquated approach to strategy alignment and progression into a dynamic, data-driven practice augmented by analytics and intelligence. This helps organizations to quickly cascade and measure multi-pronged strategies in large, complex organization structures.

In addition organizations can localize strategic priorities and metrics at the team level, link strategy to execution continuously, thread real-time data about strategy pillars, metrics, risks and execution into group meetings and one-on-one agendas for live updates; and use a smart conversation bot to ask about strategy and execution, find risks, and view progress metrics in charts and graphs.

DJ: Which types of companies do you work with?

Paknad: Workboard’s broad customer base includes fast-growth startups driving market transformation and mature enterprises transforming their organization. By serving both the disrupters and those concerned about disruption, we have a unique opportunity to see the very different approaches to aligning and executing on strategic priorities between these cohorts.

Candidly, their approaches are dramatically different – particularly their velocity, transparency and fact biases. Many of our customers are in the technology industry including large players like IBM, Samsung, iGel, AES, 8×8, Catalina, and Disys and startups like TaskTop, TrendKite, Influitive, TeraRecon and others.

DJ: What plans does Workboard have for 2018?

Paknad: We are investing heavily in applying machine learning and augmented intelligence to strategy iteration and understanding execution patterns to help companies achieve smarter strategies faster. And of course following Microsoft Ventures’ recent investment in Workboard, we are deepening the integration with Microsoft Teams, which is quickly becoming ubiquitous, leveraging Microsoft Graph technology and jointly serving enterprise customers.

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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