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The challenges of digital transformation: A view from the front lines

  • Anne Johnson's experience as a management consultant has prepared her for digital initiatives.
  • The head of data at CSFB joins us at Tradestreaming Money 2016 on November 14.
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The challenges of digital transformation: A view from the front lines

For the largest financial institutions, competing in digital isn’t about technical know-how. These firms aren’t slow to roll out digital products because they lack development chops. Their challenges are more existential and they keep bumping into themselves. Senior business-line managers withhold support for projects that will transform, and frequently cannibalize, their divisions and their revenues. How do you get buy-in across the organization?

CSFB's Anne Johnson
Anne Johnson

It’s a major challenge and one that Anne Johnson is tasked with at CSFB. As the head of data, her mandate spans the organization, helping to translate technical requirements into business cases for the management team. Tradestreaming caught up with Anne to discuss the challenges in running company-scale digital projects and what she’s learned along the way.

What are the biggest challenges in your role?

There are three big challenges:

  1. Lack of trust that IT can deliver
  2. Finding room in the budget when we are swamped in technical debt of past IT builds
  3. Getting buy-in from sponsors to not only see the vision but have the wherewithal to rethink and change end-to-end processes

Heads of digital projects need to compress BAU and make the case to spend that in innovation.  They need to get senior people to buy-in that innovation won’t mimic current business models and doesn’t require a joint venture to deliver it. Concentrate on quick milestones with high-value items to prove that you can deliver.

Can you do digital transformation piecemeal? Can you have transformation without full buy-in?

Yes, top-level people do need to understand it isn’t going to happen all at once.  Actually, it will probably evolve into something even better if you realize you can’t build the perfect spec with all the capabilities from day 1.

It is usually best to insulate innovation from the rest of the company.  It is very difficult to launch something when you are potentially cannibalizing existing business.

How does your experience as a consultant help or hinder?

Management consulting taught me how to benchmark to competitors and bring in industry trends to find the answers I need and build my business case.

It also taught me how to communicate effectively with senior stakeholders, but also my peers and my teams.  Achieving big things means I need to influence, build consensus, and drive change.

It has helped because I pull from the front. Don’t ever forget to keep asking yourself, “How am I changing the bottom line?”

Hear more from Anne Johnson at Tradestreaming Money 2016 in New York City this November 14.

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