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Q&A: Enabling transformation

David Cornwell, Head of Solutions for O2 Business, on how O2 helps organisations through their digital transformation journey

digital transformation illustration

Every year, David Cornwell's pre-sales team at O2 Business helps hundreds of organisations take their next steps with technology and digital transformation. As more organisations look to build and consolidate on the shifts to remote working and hybrid workplace strategies, David's team works to guide them towards solutions that will support them both now and in the long term. We spoke to David about the process and how O2 empowers its customers through their journey.

Q. Your team spends a lot of time with organisations helping them through their transformation. How does the process usually start?

It can start in two or three ways, and simply receiving an RFP (Request for Proposal) is one of the most common. What we like to do, though, is start much earlier. We engage one of our senior consultants, and we'll talk at a strategic level about where they see their business going in the next few years. What are they trying to achieve? What do they need to offer their people to support that change? We need to make sure we really understand the core of their business.

Even if a customer already has a set idea of what they want, we often find it mutually beneficial to challenge their plans. If there is a clear ask for certain devices, or services, or plans for their infrastructure to support their transformation project, we systematically work through those asks: "Why? Tell us more? How have you arrived at that conclusion and are there different conclusions we can draw?". We have a duty to test their thinking, because our experience and expertise can add value to the overall outcome. If we start at the foundation level and build in the requirements slowly, then we know the destination will be more beneficial to the customer's objectives and challenges they are looking to address.

Q. And do organisations come to you with a clear idea of what they're looking to do, or are they aware that they need to transform, but not always clear about how they do it?

It's both, and it depends on what they're trying to implement. Organisations that want a replacement WAN, for example, generally have a set idea of what they want, though we will still focus on why they're changing and the problems that they're trying to solve. The scenarios where we can add even more value are the ones where the customer sets us a broader challenge: "We know we need to change, we know we need to keep pace with the industry, but we don't know what to do." We love that, because we can really stretch our legs and offer the full breadth of experience and expertise of the team. We have some of the leading consultants in the country, and if we're not sharing our experience with these businesses, we're not doing our jobs.

In any project, there's any number of areas that will benefit from transformation. Some will be revolutionary, and some will help edge competitive advantage forward, but for others the ROI may not justify the investment. So we always go back to the problems that they're trying to solve, and the strategic priorities of the organisation. Are they trying to drive efficiency? Are they trying to transform customer service, or are they looking to transform the employee experience? If you want the best talent, then you need to offer them a good experience, but before you can get into that you need to understand what good looks like.

If you take that example – we need to transform our working environment so that we can attract the best talent in the industry; the most advanced thinking, digital-native people – what would the best experience look like? What do we need them to be able to do? What do we know from working with all our other customers about what a good transformation experience looks like? We can work from there and say that, based on those experiences, we know what solution will resonate and solve that problem.

Q. Does that mean taking the end user's perspective onboard?

Definitely. There can be a disconnect between the people making the decisions and the people using the solution. If it's a digital workplace or digital transformation project, or an app or service that really matters to the people who use it, then we need to bridge that gap. The continual feedback loop from the people who actually use the solution or system is paramount. That's why we have consultants who are technical and focused on bytes and features, and others who work more on the user experience and service elements. They understand that, if you've got people out in the field with a device, then they need to be able to find help and support if something goes wrong – they map detailed experience flows and processes. As humans, we often tend to focus on the day 1 solution, and the service experience or user journey isn't thought about closely enough. We ensure we focus on every detail for that end to end journey to maximise the benefit and output of every project.

Q. And how do you take all these elements to identify and implement the right solution for each customer?

Again, it depends on the situation and what each organisation is setting out to achieve. What we like to do is get to the point where we have a broad view of what the solution looks like, then start filling in the detail. Often that means balancing the 'wishlist' against the budget and taking a pragmatic view. We look at the wishlist and we'll start to bring things in and out of scope, then evolve the solution to the point where we're all happy it's going to deliver what the customer set out to achieve – that's always priority one – and that it's going to work in the long-term. If the solution works on day one but doesn't work on day 100, that's not a solution.

We're always aiming to exceed expectations. Sometimes there's an ask that's not going to drive enough benefit to justify the cost. Or we might say that, if you over-invest in an alternative area, there's going to be a measurable difference, either in terms of the overall experience or, say, having a better fixed SLA. My team aren't salespeople; we identify and present the options in real business terms.

Q. How involved do you get with the implementation?

We're focused on pre-sales and design, but we have robust processes to ensure a smooth handover to our implementation teams. We're still there in the background, though, and there's always someone on my team who owns the design and can help the customer if requirements change throughout the implementation process. We can help them make the appropriate changes and adjust the design, while still sticking to our values of 'does this drive real value and does it align to the core objectives' and 'it must work on day 100 as well as day 1'. And we always track success metrics. Has the project gone as expected? Has the rollout gone as expected? Is the customer happy? Is the outcome delivering against customer expectations and objectives? In almost all cases, it's yes, but where something unexpected has crept in, we'll track it, address and resolve this with the customer, learn from it, and feed it back into the team. We don't make many mistakes, but where we do, we only make them once. Every design gives us a bit more experience of what works, and what leads to any uncertainty.

Q. What are the biggest challenges that organisations face with transformation?

Cultural change is the biggest challenge. Digital transformation and the hybrid workforce have gone from being a 'nice to have' to 'we must do this' driven by the immediacy and demands of the pandemic, and budgets to accelerate the support of flexible working have been found. Yet we're seeing a real mix of opinions; some CIOs are adamant that the need for flexible working is a blip, and that in a couple of months we'll all be back in the office. But we've proven – the world has proven – that people are often more productive remotely, and arguably much happier.

Cultural shift can be a challenge for users as well, and, for a minority, it's futile trying to get them to change. You need to be flexible to that. You can encourage, you can show the benefits, you can let them come to their own conclusions, but you have to remain flexible. Most people today are flexible. They understand that they'll get some benefit by not being in the office every day. At O2 Business, we've profiled seven very different types, or personas, of users, and each one has slightly different needs. So when you talk about flexible working, you need to be flexible in terms of what you're providing, as well.

Q. Are there any challenges around devices and services with regards to how companies support remote working?

In a way, the device is everything; it's your window into every app, service and means of communication you use while you're at work. So it's crucial. Yet, on another level it's not as critical as those communications, apps and services, or their data, because a well-managed environment works independently of any one device.

Let me explain. With our cloud and our managed logistics services, we can do forward and reverse logistics. That means that, once purchased centrally, the device can be sent to the end user (regardless of location) fully configured, enrolled in the user's name and ready to go. They can take it out of the box, turn it on and they're already set up with no interruption to their day job. And with reverse logistics, if the user breaks or loses their device, we can quickly replace it, again with a fully configured set up. We know that this means a significant saving in time and productivity, and because we're used to handling hundreds and thousands of devices, we are well placed to deliver against even the most challenging customer needs.

The more advanced problem with digital workplace transformation is people not knowing what's possible, or not believing it's possible. We've got the full spectrum of customers, from those who are really forward-thinking, but still need our help to determine what's possible, to those who really need our assistance just to get started. And whichever it is, we can reassure the customer that we've delivered before. We've successfully worked with hundreds of organisations so are likely to have delivered for a similar type of organisation in the same sector, so it's highly unlikely that it will be the first time that we have encountered, and resolved, any challenges posed.

That's consultancy – offering your experience and your guidance. What you must never do is tell organisations what to do. You can present options and you can present experience and you can nurture their own thinking, but you should never tell them what to do.

Q. Because that wouldn't be right for their individual organisation?

Yes, and it won't stick. Even if they buy it, they won't have bought into it, and it won't stick with the end users. The customer needs to be invested in making transformation work, and in bringing the users on that journey. If they have their own ideas, their own passion, then they can change their internal culture and drive transformation through.

Find out how O2 can help you on your digital transformation journey

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