Antony Reeve-Crook looks at applying a digital strategy to organisational culture.
One of the big questions to arise from the merger between event giants Informa and UBM is the impact that the resulting entity will have on their combined ability to offer a personalised service.
With the formation of such as large company, the ability to provide a personal touch is often seen as diminished, however in the world of digital event companion and big data; the opposite can be true.
While there are many systems, departments and geographical offices at play, a company with the size and complexity of UBM-Informa is also able to make analysis on data samples large enough to be meaningful. But, while the data becomes so much more valuable, it is all too easy to let it slip through the numerous cracks.
What is key to digital success, according to Ailis McKernan, head of digital at AMR International, is first building an environment that is receptive to new technology and the motives behind it. People struggle with rolling out new technology on organisational culture, she explains, “because you have to be ready as an organisation to acknowledge that a bunch of the time – you’re just going to fail.
“You’re going to be trying something that isn’t going to work. Its sounds quite trite but the reason that failed, or the justification for it failing, is that you can then change the direction in which you’re heading, and say, ‘OK well it failed because of this’; which means that if we change that, we might be getting closer to where we need to be.
“And I think culturally that’s quite a difficult thing to embed into an organisation,” she adds. It’s an issue that will be front of mind for UBM’s director of event technology, Govind Sharma, who told the audience at the Transform Europe event in December 2017 that building such systems requires a culture that rewards more than revenue gains. One of trial and error with a longer term operational vision.
“There is an element of trial; we start with a small prototype and work up. We do alpha, beta and then live; design thinking. The philosophy remains, we need to understand that we’re solving a customer pain point with the use of technology. Ask them questions, then look at the behavioural data, and, thirdly, just let them play with the technology that you think works.”
“What you don’t want to do is make everyone feel fine about failing,” says McKernan, “because then they just spend their whole time trying random things – and then they get nowhere.
“Create a culture where failing is OK so long as it’s a step towards getting towards the right answer. It’s easy to say, let’s try and do this, and do test and learn, but you also have to acknowledge that that means what you’re going to do as part of that journey is fail. That can be quite a difficult thing to get through an organisation.”
Kim Myhre, MD of MCI, puts it another way. “You’re going to need less space and a different kind of employee,” he explains. “The whole thing changes up the model and I think we should be thinking about how other industries are changing when we start looking at our own industry, people and their behaviours, younger people with technology at their fingertips, shorter attention spans, all those things we need to be incorporating into our model.”
Digital transformation requires changing not just the systems, but the mindset of the staff itself.