What does Digital Transformation Look Like Right Now?

Episode Summary

After COVID-19 hit, we ran a webinar about how companies could accelerate digital transformation. Now we’ve seen a ton of companies do just that. From small retailers hopping online to everyone moving to the cloud – digital is here to stay and here to reign. How can your business stay abreast of these changes and adapt to digital even more? Well, that’s what this podcast covers. Tune in and let us know what you think has been the most incredible digital transformation that you’ve seen.

Visit cityinnovations.com/ask-an-innovator for some helpful links and the full transcript.

Helpful Reading on Digital Transformation

Our Webinar at the Beginning of COVID-19
Digital Transformation Is Not About Technology
Why is Digital Transformation Important?


Digital Transformation in the World 00:40
Digital Adaptation & Acceleration 01:53
Obviously we have to throw Amazon into the convo – 05:50
Death of Commercial Real Estate 07:04
Adding a Human Element to Digital – 08:59
The Cloud and Chatbots 10:56
Let’s talk about specific industries – 12:00
Making a case for analytics – 15:20
But, what about security? – 18:01
How can we help? – 19:57

Full Transcript

Erin Srebinski: [00:00:00] Hi everyone. We’re back. We’re here to talk about digital transformation. We did a webinar back in April about innovating in uncertain times back when COVID-19 was just at the beginning. And so now we’re into it. We’re six months in, we’ve seen companies pivot, we’ve seen companies change, we’ve seen them break through a bunch of different challenges. There’s been a bunch of weird and interesting things coming out of this. So Josh take it away.  What do you think has been interesting that’s come out of this? What have you seen in the marketplace and what changes have you seen? And what still needs to change? Let’s go through all of that.

Digital Transformation in the World

Josh Barker: [00:00:35] Yeah. Hate to say it, I don’t remember what I said in the webinar.  I don’t know if I’m gonna cover similar ground. I always go with this, I’ve read this book from a great consultant of like talking about times of crisis going through the 2008 recession.

And he was saying, think of your business like a house, right? You go in your backyard and revenue is the river stream that flows and when the stream or the river dries up in your backyard and you go,  where did the water go?  The revenue go?  You have two options. One, you can go stay and kind of gather up all the stream trickles,  and say, Hey, I’m going to save all these and, you know, ration them out.

Rivers don’t just dry up they actually just defer course. You can go find where the river diverted course. And so If we’re talking in terms of digital transformation, I think that might be a good frame door conversation of like, what are people doing from a technology digital sense in this landscape?

And what have we seen, like you said, the last six months. One thing I can say we haven’t seen, is we haven’t seen companies reduce the amount of money they’re devoting to digital transformation and digital efforts. We’ve actually just seen an increase.  Which is obvious, right? We’re all remote. Like you and I are socially distanced, across long lands.

Erin Srebinski: [00:01:53] We should be wearing out masks.

Digital Transformation, Adaptation & Acceleration

Josh Barker: [00:01:53] We should be wearing our masks, yeah, exactly. So, we’re not seeing a decrease. we’re really seeing two things. One is what I would call digital adaptation or digital acceleration.  the way I would define each of these is like digital  adaptation is more of like a small pivot.  versus digital acceleration, an example might be a moon shoot of an opportunity. We wanted to be here in 10 years, and now we’re kind of in a corner where we really need to accelerate all of our efforts. So what’s amazing is I think  talking about digital acceleration for a minute is there are so many instances you can look around and say, how long is your digital transformation strategy?

They’re like, 10 years. Well, people are accomplishing things that had 10 year timelines in literally, like we’re talking months, right?  Because they have to. Do or die.

Erin Srebinski: [00:02:44] Yep. No choice.

Josh Barker: [00:02:45] Exactly. So it’s interesting to see. That’s what I would call digital acceleration. It’s also interesting to see digital adaptation and  giving you some simple examples, I think you’ve seen these too, Erin,  I’m all about efficiency. I don’t know about you. My wife knows this about me is, I go to a restaurant, I go through a drive-through I’m like the most impatient person known to mankind, like in some contexts.

What I love seeing an increase in efficiency in a lot of these areas. So taking restaurants, for example, my wife and I, we ended up traveling to Alabama and we were, being very careful using our masks and six feet of distance.

And when we did that, one of the things we found is we went to her restaurant in the airport and it was great to see, I’ve always envisioned, I’ve told my wife was tired of me telling these envisions of the future of sitting at a table and seeing it QR code to be like, scan this and just order your food right from the table.

And we’ll just bring it out to you. So yeah.


Genius, Right? And a lot of restaurants saw that future like five, 10 years from now, but like to see it now, that wasn’t there just months ago. And now it’s like, that’s where we’re at is QR code scanning delivery services, obviously significant delivery services now.

Right. Everything’s being delivered. So, Uber eats. I talked to an Uber driver. I Ubered as well. And I know it sounds risky, but masks again, the six feet, if I don’t know how you do six feet of distance at a car, but flash shields my backpack in front of them. But,  talking to the Uber driver, I was like, how has this affected you?

And what interesting their response was? It actually hasn’t affected me very much because I just switched over to Uber eats and I just became an Uber delivery driver.  which was interesting to hear, you know?  It’s like delivering food rather than delivering people.  I don’t know if you’ve watched any movies during this time of like, COVID-19 like, like you would normally go to the movies?

Erin Srebinski: [00:04:44] Yeah, we bought the Trolls movie, cause kids. And so we got the Trolls and then we have this huge thing on our calendar because Mulan is going to be releasing on Disney plus on like September 4th. We have plans to buy that and watch it at home.

Josh Barker: [00:05:01] See that’s where it’s at. And it’s funny, we did the Trolls thing too. You can tell we both have children, right?

Erin Srebinski: [00:05:07] I know it’s so not exciting.

Josh Barker: [00:05:12] But I mean, that’s an innovation. You think about the decrease in amount of people because of all the closures of the movie theaters. Well, they just pivoted very quickly and just said, we’re gonna offer live streaming of all these different movies in the comfort of your own home.

That’s definitely some what I would call a digital adaptation of okay, we’re going to allow it kind of digitally streaming. They already have the avenues Disney plus, you know, with Mulan, they already had the ability to do that. They just kind of pivoted slightly. So, the other thing that I’m seeing is when you look at Amazon, you know, obviously tons of people ordering food online.

Amazon orders were behind.  I don’t know if you tried ordering Amazon. I mean, it was like a week or two to get stuff.

Talking about Amazon

Erin Srebinski: [00:05:50] Amazon was behind. And Whole Foods, which is obviously owned by Amazon was like completely out of stock at  grocery stores and everything , they were struggling.

Josh Barker: [00:05:58] That was strange. It was a huge struggle. I was  reading an article about a week ago that was talking about how  small companies are talking about selling their goods online for curb pickup or delivery, but they had never been online before.

And so they’re using technologies like Shopify, which kind of compete against Amazon, where instead of centralizing everything in Amazon, they’re creating their own storefronts kind of all the way around. So that’s definitely some other things we’re seeing as well, as I mentioned, you know, a lot of this can be bundled under contactless, right?

Contactless technologies,  you see a lot more scheduling? Right. I was going to get my haircut or go to the grocery store or like go to my church and it’s like sign up for a spot. Right. And we have limited spots and certain times, and so you’re seeing a lot more curbside pickup delivery, but also scheduling appointments of like being certain places physically cause they’re limiting capacity.

So it’s, it’s interesting to see that these are all things I would call digital adaptation. and obviously remote work. Yeah. We were working remotely.

The Death of Commercial Real Estate

Erin Srebinski: [00:07:04] We’re all working remotely. But I was talking to a friend and her company is literally remote until August 2021. No one’s allowed in the office. They’re downscaling all their buildings. They are completely changing the way that they do business. Their huge headquarters in San Francisco, it’s not even on the table anymore because everyone’s only coming into the office at the most two days a week. And like you said, you have to sign up ahead of time.

So  is this the way the world is going to work? are all these gigantic companies going to take a smaller commercial real estate imprint, but move everyone more to like a remote or almost like a coworking space, right? Like you have to sign up for room in the office. So I thought that was a really interesting thing to see if other companies are going to move that way.

Josh Barker: [00:07:46] Yes. Oh, totally. I was talking with someone about how, it was actually a law firm , how their specific industry has changed because remote work with lawyers, it’s interesting because some of their sales technique is,  he let me in on a secret, is to schmooze people by bringing them in to see their fancy offices.

I feel like it’s leveling the playing field for like these new, smaller players coming in where it’s like, no one cares as much about how nice your office is. They care about the value they’re being delivered, which is the direction we were heading anyway it’s just accelerating.

Erin Srebinski: [00:08:18] Yeah. It’s just so much faster. Yeah, I think that you’re right. But I think that we still have, I think there’s still opportunity there. I think there’s still room for companies to do it better. And what freaks me out a little is like how, how digital everything is. Like, you don’t have to talk to anyone.

You can literally have all these services done for you. And it’s like, Whoa, wait, I miss having people. So you still have to figure out ways to do that, which is strange because it’s just this time. It’s weird. But yeah. Sorry for the segue, but like going further,  what else can companies do?  where do you see technology going? What other things can companies implement that are going to be important going into 2021?

Adding a Human Element to Digital

Josh Barker: [00:08:59] You know, it’s interesting. I mean, playing off of what you just said. They ran a survey by a bunch of people. A lot of people that said, what is the biggest problem with working remotely? And 20% of what they surveyed said it was loneliness. So we’re all  off in our own world. And you said digital is really moving us kind of almost wedging us, sometimes unintentionally, of like away from people and humanity.

And I think there’s a huge opportunity of how do you use digital technologies to bring a human element versus like, I want to just talk to people. That’s where people are at right now. They’re  going crazy climbing the walls.  my wife is like, let me go to the grocery store before it was like, please go to the grocery store.

Now, it’s like,  let me go somewhere.  So it’s okay. I will do anything to get out of the house. Yeah, so, I mean, I think that’s a huge opportunity and differentiator if you’re in any industry is thinking about how can you provide that human element? Because that’s what people are craving.

They’re craving it. And that’s why Erin and I, you and I are here because we’re sick of talking to ourselves. Right? So we’re talking to each other here.  I mean, moving into what I would call digital acceleration from digital adaptation, digital acceleration is kind of taking the next leap.

So I think you can swing the pendulum too far, as far as what you’re talking about of going digital, where you’re like. Everything digital, contactless, I don’t want to touch, talk or see anyone in my peripheral. Right? And it’s like, wait a minute, it’s all about people. You know, this is people centered, technologies should be here to help people.

So talking a little bit about the moon shoots of a digital acceleration cause where else, you asked, can we go and where are companies going? And it really is interesting to see what digital acceleration is doing in the industry.  I’m just listing some stuff off.

You’re seeing cloud migrations that people have said getting to the cloud is going to take us years. And it’s like, boom, overnight. They’re like on the cloud. And it’s so funny to see that happen.

The Cloud & Chat Bots

Erin Srebinski: [00:10:56] Yeah. I read  an article this week that was  two huge cloud companies are IPO’ing for these insane amounts that no one expected. Literally everyone had to move to the cloud. So it’s, it’s crazy. Yeah. That’s the business to be in right now.

Josh Barker: [00:11:10] It is. And another thing is speaking with a human element. You and I just talked about this AI chat bots. So it’s interesting, I don’t know about you, one of the more annoying things about like being locked in your house besides being lonely and not talking to people, is just little things  like, I want to go talk to someone at my bank.

I could not get someone at my bank for months. And so I would end up getting this chat bot, I mean, bless its heart. You know, this technology is supposed to be great, but I want to talk to a person. Right? So there’s a lot of evolution in the AI chat bot, a lot of how do we add a human element? Making it better, connecting to a human!

Talking about specific industries

You also see the human element in health. Like telehealth. Explosive, you know, so it’s just like blowing up and all these regulations were around telehealth and I remember President Trump announcing he was alleviating some of those regulations with telehealth for this time. Therefore, people could get the healthcare they needed, even if it was remotely.

Going industry by industry from healthcare, look at the auto industry. no one was buying cars.  it was weird to drive by, right. You drive by these lots empty. You’re just like, Oh man, like all these cars are just doing nothing. Like they’re just. No one’s buying.

Erin Srebinski: [00:12:32] we were looking for a car and you cannot buy one because the car manufacturers weren’t making any new cars. So everyone bought up all the used cars and now they’re not getting any new cars, so there’s literally no cars to buy. So it was crazy. And so now people are turning to  Carvana having cars delivered. I’m like, what is this world that we live in?

Josh Barker: [00:12:49] Yes. You hit it right on the head. Like we were just talking with, we have a customer of ours in the auto industry and their moonshot is buying cars online, like Carvana. They’re like, we need to help our people be able to buy cars online.

That was the moon shoot. So they’re working on that now that was a 10 year goal. So yeah, it is nuts. Yeah. And I think you’re also speaking to something interesting about not producing certain items during this time. There’s something to be said about that too, because I know that one of the things we’re also learning about is how do you and I talked to a lot of different people.

One of them is in sanitizing wipes and  cleaning materials. And so they’re saying obviously if you think about them. Skyrocket of growth. And I said, “Oh , this must be a great time for you guys.” And so they’re like, Yes, on one hand. On the other, they’re saying it’s nuts because  every time we scale and we add people it’s consumed.

And so it almost seems like you scale indefinitely, but the danger is as you go we’re playing a little bit with fire. They’re having to figure out a model of how do we scale up really as high as we can, and then scale down when the things start to stabilize?

 That’s tricky and tangentially related to that is even supply chain, you know? So our supply chain interruptions of,  how do you deliver items to here to here or items not being delivered here to here or people stop driving on the road. And so there’s just all these different interruptions , they can’t get supply fast enough for these sanitation wipes.

So how do you do it faster? And it’s like, the exact words were, “Josh, we deliver a pallet of wet wipes to clean off your surfaces and the wet wipes are gone within two hours of delivering them to the store.

And so he’s like, I don’t know how we can deliver it fast enough. So a lot of logistic problems too. So a lot of crazy things happening in the world.

Erin Srebinski: [00:14:47] And so in that situation in supply chain, in some of these areas, is there an opportunity for more digital to  help them just be more efficient, like do that in a way where you’re not necessarily having to hire a bunch of people, but there’s  a digital solution?

Josh Barker: [00:15:05] Yeah. Yeah.  I was talking with someone at  one of our large connections here in grocery store chains and they said that the Holy grail for them, talking about that problem for a second, that they’ve had to do. They had it on their digital roadmap for a long time was they had to implement really predictive analytics and put predictive modeling over a lot of this, using their data and using industry trends to help them understand  supply and demand.

Making a case for analytics

Now, there’s a lot of technologies out there that help with that. And they’re all digital. And so before he was saying, they kind of did, I call it on our team, Kentucky windage. They do like Kentucky windage of, Oh, I think based on last year it was this and we could ship this. It didn’t take into account external factors like coronavirus and the current demand of what’s the current political climate and all these different external factors.  I mean, I would call that like supply chain 4.0.

The future of that is using data and using not just the data you own historically and empirically, but data all around you of external data to make decisions on your supply chain. Using digital technologies is really the only way to do that. And if you’re still doing it by hand and you’re still doing it by a Kentucky windage, you’re definitely in the danger zone of scaling too high too quickly, or scaling down, not timing it well enough.

 Like I said, at the very beginning, if you’re not investing in digital technologies right now, You’re definitely destined for a world of pain.

A world of pain. there’s no deceleration, there’s no ignoring or putting digital innovation strategy off.  this is the lifeline. Honestly, digital innovation is the lifeline of how people are getting through this time. So, yeah, don’t put it on the back burner.  Definitely a time to be innovating.

Erin Srebinski: [00:17:01] Yeah going back to that, before all of this, you were seeing an increase in data science and all these analytics-based companies popping up. And now it’s just more than ever that’s necessary.  At City Innovation Labs we’re even doing that, like really concerned about what the analytics look like for our customers, so that they can keep track of it and we can keep track of it.

That’s super important. It’s funny how some things were starting, but they just had to explode because we’re stuck and we’re all hoping that digital saves us, which as you said if you don’t do it bye. But it’s just interesting to you. Interesting to think about how we were headed that way, it’s just put this, as you sat in a huge acceleration on it.  but I had a question kind of the antithesis to that.  I feel like some people are holding out in a digital solution because they’re nervous about security.

They’re nervous about  all this information, not being secure, I guess I’m saying this in a bunch of different ways. But what are your thoughts on that?

But, what about security?

Josh Barker: [00:18:01] Yeah, it’s a good question. Holding off because of security reasons. What I will say is, I think what makes all the difference in the world  is partnering together with some people that have gone through security breaches and through security problems and been able to help with those things.

Because  People are nervous about cloud, right? And  I’ve been  in large organizations where they’re nervous because their data is in the cloud now. And they can’t go to a physical data center and unplug their server because they’re nervous that they’re under attack  by some outside force.

 I think we’re at the point where being in the cloud, there is so much progress being made . I mean, you look at Amazon and they’ve got gov cloud and they’ve got a very secure mechanism for  putting  your data securely into the cloud. And it all depends on again,

I go back to the partner too, because while the technologies are there to secure your data, what opens you up is that human element of there’s actual people implementing these security measures. And what gets companies into trouble is if they forget to implement a certain security measure or don’t know it exists.

So encrypting your data while in transit  you know encrypting it at rest. what we’re seeing here is not only people moving to the cloud, they’re having to get over their fears of the security implications of moving to the cloud  and moving a lot more quickly to somewhere, they might be a little bit nervous about, but what I’ve seen and what I encourage my clients in is saying, this has been vetted for a long time.  COVID-19 has closed that gap of making that decision a lot easier due to outside forces saying, we have to do this.

Erin Srebinski: [00:19:41] Yeah, well, no longer an option. You just take the risk, get on board.  if the right people are doing it, you’ll have that security. Alright, well, Josh is there anything that you want to dig into a little bit more?

How can we help?

Josh Barker: [00:19:57] The biggest thing would be is if anyone needs any help from a digital perspective, Give us a ring. We’re happy to talk with you about where your business can go and how digital can really help during this time of COVID-19.  even if we aren’t the ones selling you any services we’re here to help.

We’re a custom software development company make no mistake, but when we look at solving a problem, another thing that’s been exploding has been open source solutions and off the shelf software, because there has to be a need for rapid deployment for this stuff, stuff that already exists.

For us,  as we meet with clients, I’m often even not selling our services by saying, “Hey,  during COVID-19, this makes a lot more sense.” Go buy this piece of software, implement it, and run with it. That would be what I would say is if there’s anyone that, during this time, who’s just want someone to talk with about digital strategy. I’m happy to talk with them about that.

Erin Srebinski: [00:20:54] Yeah. You love doing that. Helping people vet ideas, helping them walk through  what they need to do. I think  that’s something we do really well here.  we’ll keep doing these  videos and webinars and hopefully  people learn a lot and they can take stuff away and obviously if they have questions they should keep in touch.

Josh Barker: [00:21:11] Awesome. Cool. What was great chatting, Erin.

Erin Srebinski: [00:21:14] Great chatting Josh. I’ll talk to you soon.

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