Russell Goldsmith
Russell Goldsmith 18 December 2017

Podcast: Driving Digital and Cultural Transformation

In our latest C-suite podcast, Russell Goldsmith spoke to a number of speakers from the recent Microsoft Future Decoded event in London about Digital and Cultural Transformation including Microsoft UK’s COO, Clare Barclay as well as guests from London Midland and Dentsu Aegis Network

This was the first of three episodes recorded at Microsoft’s recent Future Decoded event

In this episode, Russell Goldsmith spoke with:

  1. Clare Barclay, COO of Microsoft UK
  2. Ian McLaren, Finance and Contracts Director at London Midland 
  3. Hector Minto, Microsoft’s Accessibility Evangelist for EMEA and Andrew Cook, Microsoft’s Senior Product Marketing Manager for Firstline
  4. Patience Wootton, Office 365 Product Owner at Dentsu Aegis Network



1. New report: ‘Creating a culture of digital transformation’

In the last 12 months, Clare Barclay, COO of Microsoft UK, said that as well technology change, customers are struggling with the cultural and people aspects of digitally transforming their businesses. Microsoft’s report ‘Creating a culture of digital transformation’ therefore focuses on helping organisations understand how to overcome some of the cultural challenges faced when embedding technology change.

According to Cindy Rose, Microsoft UK CEO and Area Vice President, whilst 53% of UK businesses & IT leaders that were surveyed in the report forecast digital disruption in the coming two years, 57% have no formal digital transformation strategy in place to deal with it and many are struggling to capitalise on investment already made in technology to improve their business effectiveness.

Clare added that 61% of leaders were worried about employees’ fear and anxiety when faced with a changing roles and tasks and she offered practical help in four steps:

  1. Have a plan, be clear of the reasons for change.
  2. Focus on communication and how you tailor that communications, it will be different for different groups of employees.
  3. Think about the innovators and change makers in the organisation and how they will continue to work.
  4. Give employees an opportunity to experiment, allow them to feedback and act on the feedback to show you are listening.


2. London Midland’s Digital Transformation Journey


Russell Goldsmith with London Midland’s Ian McLaren (right)

London Midland are one of the big four UK train operating companies and in 2014, the company made cumulative losses of £7 million.  However, the business has been transformed into one that’s now looking to exceed £24 million in profit.  According to Ian McLaren, London Midland’s Finance and Contracts Director, that turnaround was achieved, first and foremost, by engaging with their staff.  By rolling out Office 365, they suddenly had a plethora of communications channels after they switched on Yammer and Skype for Business, giving them a massive step change across the business.  As a result, engagement within the company has increased, for example, the number of employees responding to the company survey has grown from less than 50% to 76% this year.

Within the transition period, London Midland stopped for six months to allow people to catch up, plus continually reviewed personas to understand how people are using the technology and as the technology continues to move more rapidly, they try to understand how they need to change what they’ve deployed or what technology is now more available.

Ian’s advice for people in a similar role or industry to him who are at the start of their digital transformation is to not procrastinate and to get on and do it!  You need to create an environment that enables both your voice to be heard but where you can listen and understand how people are using the technology too.  He also advised to talk to some start-ups or to talk to people outside of your industry to get a different perspective and approach.

3. Firstline workers


Russell chats to Andrew Cook (middle) and Hector Minto (right)

Firstline workers make-up approximately 80% of the global workforce, around two billion people.  They are typically not at a desk, i.e. ground crews, shop assistants, factory employees, truck drivers etc, and in many cases, will tend to be the closest people in the business to the customer.  They will often represent the brand or experience to them and therefore that customer experience needs to be positive because, due to social media, negative experiences can be amplified very quickly.

Andrew Cook said there are five ways to help Firstline workers:

  1. Fostering community and culture – many firstliners are disengaged with the company and their corporate mission.
  2. Training and upskilling – achieving this in a scaleable and flexible way that’s accessible through mobile devices, for example.
  3. Digitising the business process – for example, using apps such as Microsoft Powerapps and Microsoft Flow, to provide the ability for an organisation to know if workers have turned up to a construction site so that they can bill them out.
  4. Minimising risk and cost –  firstliners may not be as comfortable with technology as those using it every day at a desk and therefore you will want to minimise the number of support calls that come into your help desk, for example, providing self-resetting passwords.
  5. Harnessing the expertise and knowledge within the workforce – firstliners have a great deal of experience with the customers that they can communicate, but it’s not always easy to gather it.  Social tools such as Yammer could therefore by used to share stories so other colleagues will get to hear them.

There are over a billion people with a disability and that it isn’t just employees but customers too. Hector Minto therefore believes the best way to understand how to make things easier and more accessible to people with disabilities is to employee people with disabilities on the frontline and making their workplace accessible.  

4. Dentsu Aegis Network’s Digital Transformation Journey


Russell chats with Patience Wootton of Dentsu Aegis Network

Patience Wooten explained that Dentsu Aegis Network has around 40,000 people working across 24 different time zones.  Since 2013, the group has acquired over 100 companies and naturally that brings with it a number of challenges on geography, technology and processes, particularly when going through digital transformation too.   She said that when you have many acquisitions, you will always get some resistance to change and whenever a company is bought or goes through a merger, some people will say “we used to have this” or “we used to have that”.  However, by using Microsoft Teams, they can now have a conversation and if a newly acquired company is on a different set up, they can still collaborate from the start, using external sharing.

In terms of rolling out changes across the group businesses, rather than controlling all the various applications too tightly, or turning off all the new features that come on board, Patience said she gets less headaches by letting things move in the natural devops or continuous roll out manner that it should be. They therefore try and test an app on a mac, PC and mobile device when it comes into first release of alpha and then move through to a beta as soon as possible.  However, her beta programme has early adopters and anyone in the business can request access to the new apps.  This means that she gets valuable insight from across the business on why those individuals wanted to use the apps and what is it that their teams are missing that they needed.  They then move through to General Availability as soon as possible and then share success stories across the business.

All previous shows of the series are available on this website as well as Soundcloud,  iTunesTuneIn and  Stitcher.  There is also a growing community on Facebook and Twitter, where you can get involved in the discussion.  Finally, if you subscribe to the show, please can you give it a positive rating and review on iTunes in particular as this helps it up the charts!

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