INSEAD Participant Interview
Demystifying digital transformation
CEO and Founder
"I won’t say I am a changed man, but my vision of what I should do and what I could do has totally changed. It was really beneficial for me."
Can you please introduce yourself and explain why you decided to join the Leading Digital Transformation and Innovation programme?
I’ve been working in IT for the past 21 years, with the last two years spent running my own IT consultancy company. I specialise in cloud business.
Over my career I have built up strong technical knowledge. However, now that I am running my own company, I realise that having the technical knowledge is good, but there are many other things you need to consider when helping clients, most notably the business reasoning for implementing technical solutions.
For this reason, Leading Digital Transformation and Innovation was interesting. I felt it could help give me the business point of view I was maybe missing.
I also felt it would give me insights into digitalisation and transformation. My clients are affected by this and I wanted to help them manage it.
Another reason for joining the programme was to make connections and indeed, what I found on the programme was a very diverse classroom. I work in IT, but there were participants working in banking, insurance and retail, for example. Having this diversity broadens your mind-set and points of view. This in turn can help me propose new solutions to my clients.
How does the programme help you offer better solutions for your clients?
Leading Digital Transformation and Innovation has helped me come up with ideas that can help the whole company, not just the IT department. I am confident pitching to top management on organisation-wide issues.
The programme has also helped me be more proactive. I am able to pitch solutions in advance. To anticipate rather than react to questions that my clients may ask me.
What are the dangers of not taking digital seriously?
You could lose your competitive edge and be overtaken by smaller, more reactive companies. It’s harder to change a large company, compared to a small one and so this is one of the biggest challenges these organisations will face.
Transformation and digitalisation is affecting companies of all sizes. However, you need the right mind-set in order to accept, and enter into, a transformation. Some feel companies don’t need to change and in that case innovation won’t happen.
What are some of the new insights gained on the programme?
There were interesting debates between participants. For example, how do you make a company ready for digitalisation? Do you involve all parts of the company in transformation, or do you create a start-up on the side? In other words, do you want to transform the whole company or a small division that will lead the transformation and pull the company forward? This is what we did when I worked for Microsoft. We had a small incubation team. I have done both and the small incubation team is perfect.
Another key insight was the importance of planning. Why do you want to innovate? Only innovate if you have a need to do so. Not because your competitor is. Do I want it, or do I need it?
What were some of the highlights?
The brainstorming session was great. It taught us that you should not be afraid to put everything on the table. You have to go crazy! Your ideas might work. They might not. The important thing is to put something forward.
That was really fun.
What was the mix of content on the programme like?
The mix added to the programme and it made it really interesting. The different faculty brought different points of view. It was very fast paced. Being able to work in groups and brainstorm was really good. It’s something we should do in the real world.
Speaking of faculty. How were they?
Nathan was extraordinary. He is a professor with a lot of experience in start-ups. I was amazed by his knowledge. He was very open to questions and discussions and was really accessible and fun.
He showed me how it can be done. I came for the knowledge, not to find solutions. I wanted to be shown how it could be done. How to be better.
Why is it important to ‘go back to school’ and learn?
If you don’t learn, after 6 months you might feel left behind. Things are moving so fast when it comes to digitalisation. The programme was really interesting and a lot of fun. I loved the environment at INSEAD. You are in a place where there are many brains. Surrounded by students who are the future.
Did the programme give you new tools?
More than tools, it gave me inspiration and frameworks. Some participants were the tools. They came looking for answers. I wanted to be inspired. There are no answers. I was like wow. There are so many things I can do now.
The state of mind also is very important when you are on the programme. You have to be open minded. I came for the ideas, the frameworks and the points of view of different industries. Banks have problems, insurance has problems etc…It was interesting to have this diverse industry in the room. We all need to transform.
How did you find the participant mix and what did you learn from the other participants?
It proved to me that I won’t be out of business any time soon because lots of businesses want to transform. Yet, they don’t know how to do so. There are solutions to help them, but they might not be aware of these.
Through the participant mix and speaking to the others I also realised that technical knowledge good, but also need people with a good mind-set and a willingness to change things.
It was really eye opening. After just one week my mind was open and I could see so many possibilities.
The programme and the mix gives you confidence as you see you are not the only one facing issues. Certain things are common to everyone.
So you left more confident?
Yes, more confident in my knowledge. I have greater confidence when speaking to clients as I have the INSEAD name on the CV. This helps give me credibility.
Were your expectations met?
They were exceeded.
It was a refresher for some of my knowledge, but also gave me new insights. I have been working in the digital and cloud space for the past seven years. That part was more of a refresher for me.
What was new was the way the programme changed my thinking. It changed the way I looked at digitalisation and how to present it to my clients.
What would you tell someone about the programme?
If you want to change your approach to digitalisation and not embark on a transformation project just because x, y and z are doing it, then go to the programme without hesitation.
Leading Digital Transformation and Innovation has added to my skillset. I no longer just have the technical, IT insights. I can now bring business insights to the table. I can go to teams and say I have proof that this or that way works. I have tools and frameworks in place. This can help me accelerate digitalisation.
So, the programme gives me the edge as I can combine the technical and business point of views.
It’s important to keep on learning. All the time. The programme was eye opening in this respect and was a big reason for joining.
I won’t say I am a changed man, but my vision of what I should do and what I could do has totally changed. It was really beneficial for me.
Find out more about the Leading Digital Transformation and Innovation programme.