A conversation with John Appleby, Avantra
Many business leaders would tell you they speak with other executives about how they are transforming their organization and becoming a tech company. However, with all of the focus on digital transformation, we end up missing something really important: How do you get there?
Avantra CEO John Appleby urges enterprise leaders to consider this: whether you are migrating to the cloud, keeping your business on-premises, upgrading to the latest versions or staying with legacy systems, you still need to support the business targets. John recently spoke with Software Business Growth about why this may mean restructuring more traditionally (more planning and assessment) or taking an agile approach (speed and flexibility) while considering the fact that IT managers need the ability and the infrastructure to handle more complex systems and better support the change.
Q: What are organizations, attempting to transform tech companies, missing?
Appleby: Many organizations looking to transform tech companies are focused on the back office and front office. For example, IT teams are focused on Finance (ERP), Sales (CRM) and Customer Experience (CX) looking to enhance how Order to Cash and Opportunity to Order business processes run.
OTC and O2O processes are essential, but many tech companies forget to look at their own customer experience, onboarding, and retention processes - those that are key to driving adoption and renewal rates.
Q: What advice would you give to organizations that choose a singular approach and choose not to deviate?
Appleby: Organizations would be wise to consider the Toyota approach of Lean Six Sigma - focused on the reduction of waste as a framework for organizational change in eight different types of waste: Defects, Over-Production, Waiting, Non-Utilized Talent, Transportation, Inventory, Motion, and Extra-Processing.
Delivering this approach to organizational change helps focus on where the specific issues exist - whether they be in finance, sales, marketing, customer service, or engineering. It is necessary to look across the whole business to identify priorities.
Q: What are the differences between restructuring more traditionally (more planning and assessment) and taking an agile approach (speed and flexibility)?
Appleby: There are pros and cons to an approach with more planning vs. agile. In some cases, it's preferable to prioritize carefully planned change, and in other cases, it's better to deliver change in an agile fashion. There is no right and no wrong.
Q: Is one approach better than the other?
Appleby: Yes, because a change requires the right approach. If the business requirements are not well understood, and the schedule is tight, then an agile approach is best suited. In other cases, it's better to understand detailed requirements, build them out into a plan, and execute. It's all about choosing the right approach for the right situation.
Q: What considerations need to be made when training staff on various technologies and best practices?
Appleby: Digital transformation takes a lot of time and can become quite costly. Yet, organizations often fail to plan and invest a sufficient amount of time and resources in training people on how to use the new processes.
Q: What advice would you offer to keep budgets in order while maintaining the eagerness to change?
Appleby: Plan for flexibility. Digital transformation efforts always involve a level of uncertainty as there are many challenges to factor in at the beginning of the process. It's essential to reallocate resources, where needed across the business, as the transformation takes place.
Q: What benefits would an organization gain by using a combination of techniques?
Appleby: Many of today's organizations consist of a cross-generational mix of experiences, ideas, and backgrounds. Using a combination of traditional and agile approaches to digital transformation allows businesses to gauge what will work best for their team. Transformation is inevitable. The secrets, or the not-so-secret to succeeding at this, involves listening to the team who will implement these ideas and processes daily. Their feedback and insights become invaluable to your organization and can provide the desired outcomes you are seeking.
About John Appleby
John Appleby leads Avantra as the Chief Executive Officer. Prior to Avantra John serve as the global head of DDM/HANA center of excellence at SAP and as the global head of SAP HANA solutions at Bluefin Solutions, subsequently acquired by Mindtree. John is a recognized thought leader in the SAP market and was part of SAP’s mentors’ group. John holds an MA in computer science from the University of Cambridge.