Breaking Barriers, Not Budgets: Leading cost-effective Digital Transformation

Michaela Hermans
Head of Digital Transformation & Innovation
Automatic Summary

Leading Cost-Effective Digital Transformation in Businesses: Breaking Barriers and Building Innovations

Welcome to today's blog post, where I share insights and strategies on leading cost-effective digital transformation. I am Mia Hermans, currently heading Digital Transformation and Innovation at Visa. With my rich industry experience, I aim to guide businesses in effectively navigating the digital transformation journey while optimally utilizing resources.

Why are cost-effective digital transformations necessary?

In today's volatile economic environment, with geopolitical tensions and soaring prices, companies of all sizes are shifting focus from growth-at-all-costs to cost-effectiveness. This focus on financial performance is critical to achieve long-term goals. Hence, the year 2023, as meta said, is expected to be the "year of efficiency."

Three Key Principles of Digital Transformation

  1. Love the Problem, Not the Technology: It's vital to identify pain points and understand your business's core value drivers while aligning your attention with technology. Whether it means building custom solutions or adopting the best of breed software, always keep a close eye on your strategic advantage.
  2. Future Belongs to the Fastest: It's smart to observe closely and follow proven technologies swiftly. Digital transformation should focus on resolving real business issues while driving tangible, measurable business impacts.
  3. Maximize Value Through Collaboration: Reimagining collaborations, running frequent tenders, and co-innovating with partners can significantly improve cost-effectiveness. Always, seek to make partnerships mutually beneficial.

Major Takeaways from Leading a Digital Transformation Journey

  1. Simplicity is Powerful: Keep things simple. Complexity can hinder scale. Users generally value simplicity, and it's beneficial when trying to expand an organization.
  2. Mind the Process Gap: Adequate process governance is essential for a successful digital transformation. Understanding your processes, maintaining the right data governance, setting standards, and being clear about decision-making is crucial.
  3. Humans at the Center: Engage end users early. By involving users and learning their pain points, you can better iterate on products and services, creating and delivering products that resonate with them.

Remember, the purpose of digital transformation isn't strictly about technology. Instead, it's more about people. Always prioritize the needs of people and seek to address their pain points through innovation.

Getting Your Business Case Approved for Digital Solutions

Getting a business case approved can be particularly challenging, especially when dealing with unproven ideas. Here are some strategies for success:

  • Request for a Small Portion: Instead of going for a big bang, request a small part of the budget for a proof of concept.
  • Perform a Detailed Discovery: This iterative process helps quantify the business case and validate the value of a solution.
  • Educate Leaders on Innovation Management: Leaders must understand that not all ROI can be proven immediately. Innovative KPIs and proxy metrics can be very useful in such cases.

Thank you for joining us in today's session. I hope that these insights help you navigate your digital transformation journey effectively. Please feel free to share your insights or questions as we continue to explore the world of cost-effective digital transformation in businesses.

Video Transcription

I hope everyone can hear me. I hope everyone can see me. Welcome to the session around breaking barriers, not bad yet and how to lead cost effective digital transformation. A bit about me, I'm Mia Hermans and I'm heading digital transformation and innovation at Visa.I had a privilege throughout my career to be moving across industries. I started in finance and banking. Then I moved to retail, I worked for the retailers such as Grand Vision or Nike. And then I moved to the airline and travel industry. And I recall when I was accepting the role, I told to myself if I can be leading digital transformation and innovation in such dynamic, constantly changing industry and it will travel low cost. If I can do that, I can do probably anything in the world. I'm very honored to be here today because this event and the purpose of the event is has a special meaning to me. I believe we can really make a positive change. And as, as we see moving through the ranks, there is way less women in the technology. I had been part of several technology leadership teams and it was either me or a few women only. So I'm very glad that we are here with women in tech in our alleys. Uh As I will be speaking and going through the talk, please share your feedback and the questions in the chat. I will make sure to spend some time in the end uh and allocate time as well as follow up later. I want to engage with you.

So please feel free to comment and add questions to the chat. Let me warm you up. Who of you has been asked to decrease the budget or find a cost saving and please use a thumbs up in the chat. Use a thumbs up to make sure I can see who has been asked. It's warm up exercise. So we all know that this topic is very relevant. The key takeaway, I would love that every one of you gains after this talk is how to maximize the value of digital investment, how to get the most out of any euro you spent. We know the economic environment is very difficult, the poli the geopolitical tensions to war in Ukraine, the inflation as well as soaring prices of fuel and food. Uh We see a clear shift of companies of all sizes, moving from growth at all costs to cost effectiveness and focus on financial performance to achieve the long term goals. And it applies to all the sizes uh start ups multinationals. So this will be the key topic of today, as meta said, 2023 is the year of efficiency. Let me share a bit how we will structure the top. I would love to give a bit more background uh around visa.

We will quickly touch upon it and then three principles and three key learnings and then we will together wrap up. And as mentioned, I'm really curious to hear your questions and feedback. So Reserve, reserve is an ultra Locust airline which has been built around simple purpose, yet very meaningful purpose. We liberate lives. We aim to liberate lives through affordable travel. If I could circle a world in this slide, I would circle the affordable anything we do goes back to the cost because we believe if we provide the lowest cost, we can enable more people to fly even in the countries where people just dream about flying. We are usually the first airline who opens many of the countries we call it the put the places on the map before Google does. And for us, the cost effectiveness is not strategic pivot of the last year. This is where we are laser sharp focus. As of the day one of our company which has been almost 20 years ago. We are not only ultra Locust airline but we are growing. So we are continuous on the continuous growth path, 30% growth year over year, we are set to be in the next seven years, three times bigger. We are also number one ancillary revenue airline.

And what I'm very proud we are, we have been named as the global sustainability airline. This is all given the investment in the youngest fleet. So the planes which we are flying are the youngest as well as the technologies. We do not have business class. We are very proud not to have business class because we believe it's against the sustainable concept. We focus on high density of the seeds as well as high utilization whenever I am speaking and or speaking with peers or at the conferences and I am sharing the ultra low cost airline growing 30% year over year. We want to get higher profitability as well as keep the unit cost, push the unit cost lower and lower. This is the look I'm usually getting and I get it. There is some contradiction around the growth, profitability, pushing the unit goes down. So how do we do it? And what's different about our digital transformation? Our digital transformation focuses on solving real problems, real business problems and driving tangible measurable business impacts. We view the ultra locust constraints as stimulating extraordinary creativity. If I would ask you to clean your office and get it done in two days, it would take you two days. I would ask clean your office and do it in two hours.

You would be surprised that you can do it and you would just focus on wood methods. And this is the concept how we are thinking through the constraints as well as uh making sure that we focus on wood methods. There are some principles which we are applying as we are driving digital transformation. I summarize it in the three, the first one fall in love with the problem, not with the technology. It is very easy to get mesmerized by the technology. And nowadays, especially with all the developments in A I, it is very easy. It's very tempting, but just because something looks like a great idea or technology, it might not be worthwhile sinking your resources in. And here we are really focusing on how we identify what are the pain points, what are the pains and gains as well as to get a deep understanding of our business. What are your core value drivers, maybe now in the future growth value drivers as well as close drivers. And there is a very simple model we apply and I can guide you through that. Uh if it's area which we believe is bringing a strategic or innovation advantage. See your differentiator, this is an area where we will be custom building or buying best of breed and exploring basically innovation. Kps.

You are trying to learn quickly, iterate as much as possible, the non linear path until you prove the value until you validate and then you move to the scale and execution. But there may be many areas which are very similar to any company, commodity areas. We don't need to be the best airline in accounts available. We want to have them as standardized and as as hyper efficient as possible. On the other hand, our web app, we have more than half a billion sessions every year, around 35 million customers are flying with us. So this is an area where we are heavily investing. This is an area where we will be custom building and focusing our efforts on. Another principle is future belongs to the past. We are as mentioned, one of the airlines which is moving extremely fast where we see the gaps in the market in many areas. We are the first airline to open the country or we are the first ultra locust airline to enter to flight to maladies for technology. There are certain nuance around it. Uh Sometimes we are not attempting to be the first mover if it's unproven technology and by unproven, I don't mean machine learning or A I because we know these are proven. But if it's something that's not validated, we will be closely observing and then we want to be the second fastest forward to give you an example. Let me uh close eyes for a moment and imagine a pilot and I want everyone to imagine she pilot.

We are very proud to be focusing on women uh in aviation and envision the person she's walking through the airport through the security gate. I'm sure you envision the person walking with the back this bag till quite recently was full of papers because the pilot would have to bring the flight bag, the information around the weather, the conditions and so on. Obviously, the airlines have an opportunity how to get rid of paper. Move to ipads, move to connected devices. I'm sure we have not been the first airline to provide this to our employees, but I would be very sure that we were the first ones to hyper efficiently deploy it and get it to hence our employees. And we keep innovating on that because you can still look what are the right, right, real time data. What are the insights you want to provide to your employees? So definitely we believe future belongs to the past third principle and I would almost call it one plus one equals three. If you want to maximize the value of any investment, you have to focus on how you reimagine the collaboration.

These are compared to many multinationals I have been working in is heavily focused on tendering. We do not sign the products or services for too long because we like to frequently retender. And by that, we are stimulating the competition and we are pushing the price point lower.

I can assure you that 99 I would say 100% of times whenever you run the tender, you either get back better price point or you get more value for already the price you are paying and the moment we have certain examples, even if we are not able to push the price point lower, we still look for ways how to make the partnership mutual beneficial.

I can give you an example. We run through digital experiences discovery and we worked with very well known design agency. Very good in how to iterate, how to run the discoveries, how to use the design thinking. We selected them the agreed on price point and we had no further space to go over. And then I asked guys, would you be willing as part of the contract? Give us a training, design thinking, training for digital. Of course, now we are of course never will. I would also recommend here look for options for co innovation and cofinancing. We are partnering heavily with the big players such as Microsoft, how to mutually benefit. And I would say that if you are a multinational, there is a huge value you can bring to start ups. And if you are a start up, there is a huge value, you can give more flexibility, better pricing to the multinationals. So look for those ways, how you can always make it a win, win for both sides and one last point on this topic, think through ecosystem. So definitely for us, it is partnerships with airports, other airlines as well as universities or government. This is how you get the most out of your efforts. There are obviously some of the learnings we took on this journey. First one and this one I want to iterate on simplicity is the power we call it complexity is the enemy of ultra low cost. And I believe that complexity prevents you to scale.

Keeping things simple is is something good and user value is something that will also help you on your journey as you are scaling your organization and trying to get most of your efforts. Second mind the process or do you know at the airport? You enter mind, mind the gap, mind the process gap. I hear a lot of conversations, a lot of talks about innovation and a lot of other things above waterline. But don't forget that there is a lot of what needs to be in place to make sure that your organization is A I or future ready. Here. I speak about understanding your processes, having the right governance, right, data governance, right, standards, understanding the decision making, because this is essential to help you on your journey of digital transformation. I'm not hearing that much people speaking about it, but I definitely think that this is the lessons learned uh we took and the last and probably one of the most important, if not the most human at the center. It is very easy to deploy technology. Surprisingly, it is very difficult to get it adopted by your employees and to make sure that you are really changing the ways of working and how your company operates. So here I would recommend engage your end users early at this stage.

Product management service design are great practices to help you to make sure that you continuous to iterate. You map the right journey, you understand the pain points and you involve them. Because the sooner you get the feedback, the more you can shorten the feedback loops, iterate faster and get better products, get the products which consumers and your employees will love by this. Let me uh share the key takeaways. So first one, as we mentioned, fall in love with the problem. Focus on value, speed and collaboration for success. Both very important. Your future belongs to the past and you can get more if you are collaborating and designing for scale. If you want to innovate, if you want to get beyond mvps pilots, you want to skill your organization. Definitely you need to consider principles of making things simple as well as focusing on process governance and putting the right frameworks and it's all about people. Digital transformation is not about technology, it's really more about people and you need to make sure to put them in the center by this. I would like to thank you and uh let me check on the questions which are in the chat. So uh thank you, everyone. I want to learn how I can get my business case signed off to experiment on digital solution, which is similar to a sales page and not all the sales pitch will be converted to an opportunity.

So um I think that what is proven if I understand correctly, so how to get the business gate sign off to experiment? Uh Definitely the first, what I would recommend is do not try to go for the big bank but rather request the small portion of that, which is certain we use model of discovery. So we usually use discovery to prove the value to make sure that we quantify the business case. Because sometimes in the beginning, you cannot prove return on investment. There is a lot of KPIS, you cannot clearly link it. But the methods of discovery, meaning you say time box iterative period to make sure that uh you prove uh prove your point, you do not invest that much. So that defi definitely you might need to only choose small portion and you establish a small team of few people or even yourself just to make sure that you get enough details to make sure your leadership is able to see and really put the right business case behind. And I think this is the initial stages of discovery, quickly iterating and making sure that you understand the pin points, you understand the value at stake and you build the model based on it that exploration is initial. And usually that works.

Because whenever we try to come with the big business case, when we do not have this data, it tends to be put off the table because the people tell you, hey, you don't have, it's not yet concrete, but we are applying the methods of discovery, design, discovery, which helps us use a few weeks time book period to get deeper, identify the problems, identify the gains and make sure that you get uh then you come up with more, more concrete details and then the leadership gets more confident.

I would also recommend as part of that educating your leadership on innovation management and making sure that they understand that not always, you can prove the written on investment immediately. There is a lot written about innovation kps and helping with some proxy metrics.

And I think this is one of the areas which I would definitely recommend. So let me see what we have there more. OK, let me see um how to convince leaders we need to invest in innovation in ideas, not yet proven to explore new potential value opportunities. They mostly want to invest in big rocks immediate pain points. So good question. And I wish that uh links to my previous statement, but I wish that we would have all sorted out. I believe part of it in the first place is the right education of the leaders. Second, make sure you minimize the exposure. So as I explained the discovery, you minimize exposure, you dare risk the investment. And many times it's about also getting the right sponsor who gets a bit hooked on the idea because the moment you are not in the room, you need someone to be supporting you on that journey. So I think this would be kind of the three key opportunities, educate your leaders, make sure you run discoveries. There is the investment. No one is willing to give you 10 million until you prove uh the value on a smaller scale. Use innovation KPIS and uh test score cards, Make sure you always make some have measurable outcomes and learning Kpis. And uh make sure you find someone who gets uh enthusiastic about the idea. Let me see. I think that's all. So let me thank you for uh listening.

Let me thank you for your time and uh have a great day and enjoy uh the women in technology. Thank you.