IBM’s Paul Murphy: ‘Digital transformation is not a solo journey’

18 May 2018

Paul Murphy, country leader for IBM Global Business Services in Ireland. Image: IBM

The beauty of digital transformation is that it’s about using customer co-creation, and this is becoming all-pervasive, says IBM’s Paul Murphy.

Paul Murphy has been the country leader for IBM Global Business Services (GBS) in Ireland since 2011, with responsibility for the P&L and day-to-day operations.

GBS is the consulting and systems delivery organisation within IBM and, under Murphy’s leadership, the operation in Ireland has significantly grown market share, revenue and profit.

‘The rapid technological changes that are widely available and used by consumers are fundamentally altering traditional business economics’

Murphy specialises in the delivery of complex business solutions and has led numerous high-profile national projects, reporting at CEO and board level.

His core skills are in the areas of applying technology for strategic business advantage, solution delivery, and project and programme management.

Is digital transformation a loaded term or does it mean real, tangible transformations of organisations?

At IBM, we see digital transformation as the transition from traditional tools and business methods to digital technologies. And it’s not a set of buzzwords, it is a fundamental change that is taking place all around us. Digital transformation is enabling innovation in industries like retail and banking, offering mobile apps for shopping or banking; to business functions like supply chain innovating with blockchain to prevent contaminated food entering your kitchen, or building maintenance managers using IoT data to track a heating problem within minutes rather than days.

Digital transformation is leading to improved business performance and much simpler user experiences.

Digital technologies have altered how people and businesses interact. Today, we have smartphones that connect us to our family members in Australia as we share a live video stream from a birthday party in Dublin. Using the same smart mobile and cloud computing technologies, we can share all sorts of documentation with our colleagues, partners or clients around the world as we travel across our cities and towns.

These digital technologies that we talk about – mobile, cloud, AI, IoT, blockchain and more – are creating unprecedented levels of industry dislocation and fundamentally changing business economics. To succeed in this disruptive digital transformation environment, organisations need to offer compelling new experiences, establish new focus, build new expertise and put smart to work.

Can you cite examples of organisations where successful digital transformation projects have been embarked upon?

At IBM, we have been undergoing an aggressive digital transformation for the past several years, integrating and infusing innovations ranging from data analytics to cloud across the company. As part of our strategy, we’re rethinking how our clients engage with us and what they need most to deliver a differentiated experience to their customers. The answer is, building and delivering world-class integrated digital platforms that enable innovation and agility along their ongoing journey with a business.

Another example is the Ford Motor Company changing to become a ‘mobility services provider’, reinventing its business as it evolves from a traditional car manufacturing company. In this process, Ford is building new expertise around digital technologies that are enabling vehicle connectivity, mobility and autonomous vehicles. The company has formed a global ecosystem of start-ups and developers to build innovative solutions under its Innovate Mobility Challenge Programme, introducing new products such as FordPass, an app-based platform that lets users pay for parking, share vehicles and obtain virtual personal assistance to move around more efficiently.

And digital transformation is not a solo journey; it’s about using customer co-creation, a concept first popularised about 10 years ago, and is well on its way to becoming pervasive.

DHL, the global market leader in logistics, has conducted more than 6,000 co-creation engagements with its customers to date. Innovations include Parcelcopter, a drone delivery service created through an R&D partnership that DHL is testing in Germany, and a service delivering packages to the trunks of Volvo owners’ parked cars, a delivery experience created in collaboration with Volvo.

What are the core tenets of what digital transformation actually means, in your opinion?

The rapid technological changes that are widely available and used by consumers are fundamentally altering traditional business economics. As a result, traditional value chains are fragmenting as technology changes are shifting industry structures and processes into ever-smaller slices. The result is a profound change in the economics, competitive environment and valuation of traditional businesses.

Leading businesses in digital transformation are the ones who are digitising their products, services and processes, and they are also using this change to rethink and redefine the customer experience and co-creating.

Traditional businesses leading transformation are learning to ‘think like a start-up’, bringing new services and new ways of engaging with their customers. They are augmenting these steps by applying predictive analytics, AI, IoT and automation to create a fully integrated, flexible, agile operational environment and co-creating, which is necessary to support and enable deep customer experiences.

Who should lead a digital transformation strategy? The CEO, the CIO or a cross-section team from the organisation?

Digital transformation is not just for the CEO or the CIO alone, as organisations need to establish new ways of working across their entire operation. Businesses that are leading in transformation identify, retain and build the right talent needed to create and sustain a digital organisation. They take measures to create and perpetuate an innovation-infused culture incorporating design thinking, agile working and fearless experimentation.

Leading organisations also contextualise organisational priorities within their business ecosystems, seeking new forms of partnering across that network and new ways to build value within overall systems of engagement. They also think deeply and strategically about how customer priorities might evolve, seeking to create engagement platforms and co-creation to the benefit of their customers, their partners and themselves.

Transformation never ends. As new opportunities – some of them disruptive – emerge, it’s the organisations that remain open to change using new trusted bonds with customers, creating new ventures to scale on platforms and developing more nimble teams that can orchestrate ‘smart’ to their advantage.

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John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years