Organisations in the digital age must get everyone in the business to think about what technology means for them if they are to move away from legacy into a more agile future.
Sharon Cooper, chief digital officer at medical publisher the BMJ, explained how it has undergone a digital transformation over the last three years.
She said the IT department doors must be ‘unlocked’ and employees encourage to interact and collaborate to share ideas.
She used the analogy of the Strangler Vine to illustrate how firms can gradually ease out legacy technology.
The parasitic vine grows on the outside of a host tree or plant which eventually dies leaving the vine alone.
“You build bigger and bigger and eventually you can switch off the technology that’s inside,” Cooper said. “We use a lot of home grown software that allows us to bring a lot of things together.
“A few years ago we would have to stop the car the change a CD, today we are changing the wheels on the car as we are driving along.”
Cooper said the secret to digital transformation was to encourage everyone to consider what it means for and to change people, processes and perceptions.
“Everyone has to think about what digital means for how they work, changing skills, and getting everyone to think about how it relates to what they do and what it is their users want.
“One of the biggest problems an organisation has is we actually have way too much technology.”
Among the changes Cooper has brought in at the BMJ is to allow the use third party external tools like Google Docs and ditching Windows XP to facilitate people’s work.
And she said it is important to use platforms according to local requirements, so the BMJ has adopted WeChat in China.
“You have to focus on the user, on the consumer. That’s what we are doing, really understanding what our user is, designing our products for them. People take the path of least resistance.”
As well as its external customers on the medical world, the BMJ also has internal users, and Cooper said if a member of the sales team misses a call it could cost it a £2 million or £3 million contract.
“If you are going to be in the digital world you have to actually be in the digital world. You can’t just say it’s the marketing department that does Twitter.
“Get staff talking, use social media, it brings a company together. Then they start to share professionally and get together virtually as well as physically.
“We use tools that are free. There are so many out there you don’t need to pay.”