From digital transformation to hyperautomation, how leaders can foster innovation so their companies thrive in a post-pandemic world.
As we slowly emerge from our Covid shells, change is seemingly everywhere—it’s in the way we work, live, and interact.
On the surface, the pandemic was the catalyst. But look a little deeper and you’ll see that these fundamental shifts began before Covid, and will continue to evolve once the days of masks and social distancing are long gone.
This is true across industries. In transportation, electric vehicles continue to improve and autonomous ones roam the streets. In healthcare, new vaccines bring new hope to the fight against intractable diseases like malaria. And in technology, artificial intelligence grows more sophisticated and impactful each day.
It’s hard to predict the lasting result of these shifts and advances, but if anyone has an idea, it’s Dave Wright and Chris Pope, ServiceNow’s chief innovation officer and VP of innovation, respectively. During Knowledge 21, the two sat down to discuss digital transformation, new forms of work, and the role of automation in the enterprise.
Dave Wright: Today, I get to spend time with my good friend Chris Pope talking about innovation and digital transformation.
The latter is an interesting concept because people tend to put time bounds on it, but the reality is, you’re never really finished. You’re always going to get new technology that needs to be applied.
Chris, I’m wondering if you see the same thing I do, where 80% of digital transformation isn’t really transformation. It’s just doing the same things people did before but with new technology.
Chris Pope: Yeah, absolutely. The customers out there that are truly transforming are stepping back and saying, “let’s find a more modern way of working.” And then, what are all the underpinnings of that? So, it’s less rip-and-replace, which is what you’re describing, than “we’ve got five or six core platforms that we use, so how do we join the dots and create the journey together?”
Wright: It’s interesting. We have echoed the same journey at ServiceNow. So, you start off doing the system side—how do I change the way I do customer service management or ERP or IT service management? But now, people are saying, “how do I transform the way I do business?”
It’s looking at how you take the digital workflows you’ve used in the back office and move those towards the front office to improve the productivity of the goods you manufacture or the relationships you have with your customers.
Do you think we will maintain these new ways of working or will we gradually go back to the way it was?
Pope: As a guy that used to do 200,000 air miles a year, I don’t want to go back to that model. Our habits have changed—the way we interact, the way we talk to people. Now, people are digitally savvier. They’ve got their patterns. They’ve organized their lives differently. You actually have more thinking time and space to solve problems.
Wright: Well, I hope it’ll change a little bit, too, because things like commuting or working set hours are all things we created for ourselves. We took places that were shipping ports 200 years ago—Hong Kong, Singapore, San Francisco—and we centralized around that. But in this digital society, there’s no reason for us to do so. Digital opens up the world.
Pope: It also supports more than ever the idea of the gig economy where I work for an organization or with an organization to gain critical skills I might not currently have. And I’ll do that in a short burst of six months or 12 months because that means for the next role I’m really looking for, I’ve started to put all the pieces together in my toolkit.
The concept of careers and staying somewhere, I don’t think the next generation sees that.
Wright: We’ve talked about the transformation side of how people work and how they change their lives, but let’s go to the digital side for a little bit. One of the things that comes up a lot lately is the concept of hyperautomation, and I was talking to a customer who said, “Oh, so you want to automate everything.” Well, not really, but if you can automate it, why wouldn’t you?
Pope: Customers and employees do want a human touch. They want empathy for their problems. There are certain things like leave requests or changing a home address—automate the hell out of it. But when I’m applying for paternity leave or dealing with mental health issues, you want a seasoned practitioner involved with you because you need that hyper-care.
So, you’re right, you can automate to a point and the automation piece is where we start to get cost savings and benefits beyond digitization. It’s when ROI starts to kick in. But I think there is a tipping point where some things make sense to automate and some just don’t.
Wright: That’s the problem we’ve got with technology full stop—people just using technology for the sake of it, rather than for the benefit it creates.
Pope: You need to ask your end users what good looks like. Then work backward and start to say, “Well, how do we get there if that’s our target?” And recognize that by the time you get there, it may have already changed because digital transformation should really be continuous transformation. You’re never done.