Luis Suarez: With data analytics digital change can be measured and trends, troubled areas and potential future direction can be anticipated! #ioms18

For our first speaker’s interview we are happy to publish the transcript of a short exchange with Luis Suarez – “digital transformation & analytics doer” at “panagenda”. The former IBMer is somehow one of Europe’s digital collaboration gurus and evangelist – being the first trying to realize a “email-free” collaboration internally at IBM and evangelizing for a new way of working. At IOM SUMMIT he is giving a introductional keynote on the importance of data analytics for the digital transformation progress.

In advance to the event we have talked with him and asked him a few questions on why we need to turn into the “data analytics” thing while discussing the digital transformation and employee experience initiatives.

(1) Luis – you will be giving one of the introduction talks at IOM SUMMIT 2018 – talking about the link between data analytics and the digital workplace transformation. What can we expect?

Luis Suarez: A bit of a wake-up call of sorts for everyone. I’ll be making up the case of how without data analytics vast majority of digital transformation initiatives are bound to fail, if they haven’t done so already. If you look into it, and over the course of the last 12 years, plenty of transformation programmes haven’t delivered on their initial premise to change the way we work while nowadays we are starting to see a regression towards messaging and chatting tools, never mind email or file sharing services for that matter. Somehow we need to do better than that.
It’s hard to compromise transforming how we work is bound to be done through technologies that have been with us for over 40 years. That’s where data analytics comes in enabling us to have a better understanding of the data we produce within the different collaborative environments we utilise both inside and outside of the firewall (email, file sharing, ESNs, etc. etc.). That way our decision making process will become much more effective towards influencing a shift in user behaviour, which is eventually what every single digital transformation initiative is all about.

(2) Is the emphasis on data analytics the missing link towards the progress of the digital workplace transformation?

Luis Suarez: Yes, it is! And it has been rather problematic all along, because most of the times our decision making process has relied, almost completely, on gut feel, unfortunate political decisions or limited experiences and know-how of a few people and the results are showing. In order to make better decisions, with data analytics, we can address all of that with a much more powerful and undeniable source: facts!
All of that hands-on experience, knowledge and know-how from different change initiatives can now be contrasted with data analytics to not only measure good progress, but also to anticipate trends, troubled areas and potential future directions of where that digital transformation journey should be heading to and effectively aim at not only solving our business problems, but also changing the nature of how work happens today, specially, when we go past teams and into social networks and online communities. Only then we can start talking about the *real* Digital Transformation.

Q3: So we have to move forward towards the idea of the Quantified Organization as Lee Bryant called in a post a while ago?

Luis Suarez: Yes, indeed, and for a good reason! When I first heard of the term ‘Quantified Organisation’ by Anne McCrossan back in 2012 I knew she was on to something that may have been with us all along, but that we kept ignoring it and neglecting it at our peril: the data we produce when we collaborate with our peers, customers, business partners and competitors.
Lee amplified the understanding of the Quantified Organisation by helping unleash the gold mine of data available to us all to make better decisions in defining new organisational structures based on how we interacted with one another through social networks and communities. And fast forward to September last year Anne put together this brilliant piece on ‘Introducing Interaction Value’ that pretty much describes the key role of data analytics within organisations: get the most out of the data you produce through interactions to help transform your organisation and do better.
Somehow, all along we seem to have been blinded about all of that data we produce through our collaborative environments and it’s about time we start doing something more purposeful with it. Starting off with better decisions.

Q4: What are the key challenges of measuring the digital transformation progress and of getting insights out of it to improve the digital transformation journey?

Luis Suarez: More than key challenges I always like to talk about the tremendous business opportunities we have with measuring the digital transformation progress in our journey, because by doing that we have the ability to learn and adapt accordingly as we move further along thinking that, if anything, this transformation process is dynamic, never-ending, always on the move forward and always iterating on small changes taking place for bigger impact.
With all of that said, though, one of the key challenges I keep bumping into is that one of fear, usually by senior management, about what they may bump into when unleashing the true potential of data analytics within their organisations. About the unknown. Not only because they may bump into hard data and facts of how their businesses work that they may not like i.e. poor employee engagement, digital overload, massive attrition rates, low customer satisfaction, etc., but because it may also confirm how poor their decision making process has been all along by not tapping into that data.
The reality though is that the business opportunity is there. We have constantly been producing tons of data entry points and over the course of time we haven’t done much in terms of evaluating how healthy those interactions in our collaborative environments have been and how can we make sense of them. It’s an integral part of the digital transformation journey and it’s time we get started with it, don’t you think?

Q5: What are you recommendations for turning towards a more data-driven approach in managing the digital transformation?

Luis Suarez: Initially, and like within every single digital transformation initiative, start with the why. We all know we have got huge amounts of data out there, both inside and outside of the firewall, that we may be tapping into already, or not just yet. But just because the data is there it doesn’t necessarily mean it’d need to be measure just like that. My first recommendation would be to figure out why would we want to measure this data and for what purpose? We need to remember data analytics should match the needs and wants of the organisation, not just what happens in one tool or another. Stay focused.
My next recommendation would be to build stories around data visualisations. It’s an opportunity to inject different narratives to help interpret the data while matching it as close as we possibly can to the transformation process itself and how it has matured over time. Data analytics on its own is not going to travel far, but when you convert it into different storytelling visualisations it will become much more attractive to the organisation and therefore more influential in helping shift gears accordingly.
And, finally, my third recommendation would be to start gathering plenty of the data you have got available and start playing with it in terms of what are you going to measure and what for what purpose, but don’t tell anyone about it just yet. If you do that early in the game you will become more obsessed with the metric than what you are eventually doing with the data. Don’t become the yoke of the measure, but the enabler of better decision making through data analytics.

Q6: For this year’s IOM SUMMIT we have put the focus of the discussions on the new buzzword of “employee experiences” as enabling approach to a better adoption of the digital workplace and digital collaboration – and therefore as driver for the digital transformation. From all your analytics work can you relate to this hypothesis?

Luis Suarez: Yes, I certainly can, although I should say we should probably stop saying “employee experience”, because there isn’t one. Every organisation has got dozens, hundreds or thousands of employees and each of them has their own employee experience based on the context of the work they do. Their work experience, knowledge & know-how will always be different as well, so we shouldn’t talk about one unique employee experience. There isn’t one, but multiple of them.
With all of that said, we all know change is hard and changing people’s habits is even tougher, so when thinking about your digital transformation journey we probably should shift away from trying to change people’s behaviours and instead provide the right conditions for people to decide if they would want to change or not. On their terms, not ours. And this is where the employee experiences kick in because we can certainly influence them with a focus on changing the system vs. the individuals.
This is where data analytics becomes very handy, because instead of measuring the individual performance of knowledge workers through personalitics, we can measure and evaluate how the systems are operating and inflict a certain change in the right direction. Change the system and the odds of influencing user behaviour, and therefore their experience, and change will happen by itself. That’s when both adaptation and exaptation will kick in to help employees navigate through the new working experience(s).

Q7: What are your expectations for your participation at the IOM SUMMIT?

Luis Suarez: It’s been a few years since I last attended the IOM Summit, so I am very much looking forward to checking out how the conversations may have evolved further in terms of what different folks are doing in their own digital transformation initiatives, learn about their own stories, their good practices, their struggles, etc. and see whether we are making due progress or whether there has been a regression to the past, but with prettier interfaces in terms of the digital tools we use to realise that so-called digital transformation process.
After all, these digital tools have always been one of the key enablers, so it’ll be wonderful to find out whether we have matured collectively or whether we are still on the beginning stages. Oooh, and I’m very much looking forward to finding out what organisations have been doing with the data they produce within their collaborative environments and how such decision making process has improved over time in order to work smarter, not necessarily harder.
After all, the digital transformation journey has never been about just solving business problems, but more about profoundly changing the nature of work and how we get work done more effectively through new operating models: social networks and online communities.
I can’t wait to meet up with everyone!

Thanks for the great answers.