EY-Seren’s Yvonne Kiely: ‘Digital is an ecosystem of enablement’


In October, Siliconrepublic.com reported how consulting giant EY expanded its digital design and consultancy business EY-Seren to the Irish market.

With a team of 20 in Ireland and more than 100 globally, EY-Seren is an international leader in digital design and innovation, working with firms across all industry sectors.

Yvonne Kiely, director and digital lead of advisory at EY, and head of EY-Seren in Ireland, specialises in designing, implementing and enhancing customer lifetime value programmes with the goal of driving sustainable customer engagement and ultimately increasing firm value.

Kiely has gained practical, immersive experience across the spectrum of income generation activities in blue-chip, dynamic and diverse industries, enabling her to lead, deliver and succeed in both advisory and internal roles in North America, Europe, Australia, the UK and Ireland.

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

It’s both! Digital transformation is considered a loaded term for those who have had little or no experience of delivering transformation, or who have had poor experiences in previous delivery of these types of projects. It’s definitely something that can be daunting and challenging for organisations to understand, order and agree on tackling. It is usually an excellent case study in expectation management, and ‘digital’ in and of itself is an ambiguous term that means very different things to different organisations and, again, will and does conjure different understanding within teams and individuals.

And transformation tends to evoke images of huge legacy systems overhauls, organisational complexity in absorbing vast amounts of unknown and previously inexperienced change, and lots of ambiguity around the outcomes – except a hefty cheque departing the organisation.

In reality, with a tightly defined deliverable, married to business objectives and appropriately governed structure and support in place, digital transformation should, and does, take complexity out of nearly every aspect of relationship management with your employees, vendors, users, partners and of course your customers. Digital is an ecosystem of enablement. If the solution or transformation isn’t going to do that, ie enable you to do your job with less friction, with better return on resource and more efficiency, then you have to ask: ‘Why are we doing this?’ In the overwhelming majority of clients I work with, the question at the end is: ‘Why didn’t we do this sooner?’

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

Some of the classics spring to mind here, such as the revolution Angela Ahrendts delivered in Burberry, the literal and idealistic transformation in Apple on the return of Steve Jobs in the late ’90s, and look at how the pillar banks here are responding to customer demand and emerging tech to drive customer journey-led digital transformation through the value chain.

I think that one of the most important things to remember when thinking about digital transformation is that it’s a way of life; it’s not a ‘one and done’. The best organisations at digital transformation are the ones that feel the fear and do it anyway.

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

Digital transformation is about continuous improvement. It’s also about the new 4 Ps: purpose, planning, persistence and pace. Thinking about what digital can do for you and for your organisation, and how best to get that capability built and embedded in your team, area and business in order to create efficiency and ease, is what all transformation should deliver. Digital transformation is no different. It’s a capability that touches people, process, data, systems, technology and your customer. It’s about renovating what you have in order to make it right for the future. And, fundamentally, digital transformation is intrinsic to customer experience delivery. Bad digital capability across the organisation is bad customer experience outside of the organisation.

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

Digital transformation strategy can be led by any C-suite leader or team who has a firm eye on the need for change and the challenges of the future. Attributing limited ownership of outcomes to specific traditional roles is the legacy way of doing things. Executive sponsorship and accountability is of course needed but the modern C-suite knows better than to think their responsibility to organisational change and customer centricity stops at the written limits of their job description. It is far more important that the executive sponsor and driver is customer-centric, who knows the outcomes that need to be delivered and understands that it’s a journey, not a destination.

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