EXPAND: Mike Beldie on Strategizing Digital Transformation in 2021 & Beyond

Today, we’re back with one of Acorio’s most popular content series: EXPAND Executive Insights. This is a regular monthly series in which we interview top ServiceNow and digital transformation experts about the top questions, concerns, and successes that we’re hearing from clients.

In case you need to catch up on any of our previous segments this year, check out last month’s EXPAND segment for a quick recap of all our EXPAND insights from 2021, covering everything from platform strategy to ServiceNow’s projected growth and this year’s top digital transformation trends amongst clients.

For our August interview, I sat down with Acorio’s Vice President of Advisory, Michael Beldie. Based in Atlanta, Michael has over 20 years of experience in the business transformation space. Because of his expertise in strategy consulting and management (as well as his passion for insight-driven decisions), our conversation centered around the question of

Ready to learn what two mistakes Michael sees most companies getting wrong, along with where he finds inspiration as a leader? Keep reading to find out, then check out this 7-slide summary on LinkedIn.

The Secret to Making Strategy Decisions in 2021

A thoughtful strategy is a core component of successful digital transformations – without a plan to direct decisions, true change is completely out of the question. But what goes into making the right strategy decisions for teams?

Strategy decisions can be divided into three key steps. Here’s the breakdown:

  1. Setting goals. When it comes to setting goals, the most successful companies in the world take a systematic approach to their strategy development. The best way that firms can do this is to ensure that their operational goals clearly align with and effectively support overarching corporate strategic initiatives. For example, earlier this year, this Fortune500 healthcare payer had the goal of establishing a safe and effective Return to Work plan for its team. Their main focus for the project was to guarantee a safe and smooth transition for employees returning to the office.
  2. Making choices. Another critical component in strategy decisions is making choices. With innumerable paths in front of you, you must make choices based on how best to achieve the goals set by your organization. When I think about strategy, I think about the opportunities that an organization will pursue and then the value proposition that is needed to execute against those opportunities. There’s a constant symbiosis between these two critical components. Returning to our previous example, the Fortune500 healthcare payer chose a solution that accommodated all of their identified requirements, including the ability to:
  • Track employee COVID-19 exposure and test results
  • Grant employees approval to enter office sites
  • Gauge employee readiness to return on-site
  • Track vaccination status
  1. Getting leadership buy-in. Lastly, a successful strategy necessitates getting your leadership to agree on the rationale behind strategy decisions. When the decision-makers at a company align on goals and how best to achieve them, then they can ensure that the same shared vision is communicated down through the lower levels of their respective teams where the strategy actually gets executed. This cascading approach is the best way to ensure your entire organization is on the same page about where it’s headed.

Aspiration: A Double-Edged Sword

The two biggest client challenges that I see both stem from a disconnect between an organization’s vision and its strategy to get there.

Oftentimes clients will attempt a digital transformation without thinking about what they’re trying to solve at the operational level. When this happens, corporate agendas very quickly turn into operational initiatives that don’t actually tie back to any macro corporate priorities. Without a clear list of tactical goals (that each relates back to one of the firm’s greater organizational business initiatives) then your aspirations cannot bring about the intended change nor potential value.

The other related client challenge is that organizations will perform large software implementations without considering the organizational changes that must occur as a result. Organizational Change Management is an absolutely critical component of any project. Before beginning any new projects, clients should take the time to carefully consider what cultural and procedural changes must take place, and then draft a detailed plan for how to communicate those updates with the team and secure their buy-in.

To put it simply: installing a piece of software alone will not enact any change in and of itself. Instead, organizations must deploy technologies with a holistic view of how they’re serving the business at large. By doing so, firms can better guarantee that their team will not only embrace the new tool but actually use it to achieve measurable success.

Directing a Successful Transformation Strategy

The biggest opportunity for companies to make an impact on their technology strategy direction is, first and foremost, focusing on building their capabilities. That starts with establishing a clear value proposition, then identifying the capabilities (automation, for example) required to achieve it.

We tend to look at technology as a crutch that gets in the way of capability, but I find that using technology to enable capability building is the best way for organizations to successfully impact the direction of their technology strategy.

Rather than focusing on building solutions, firms should think of macro corporate needs along with day-to-day operational needs and then identify what business capabilities would best serve both.

Another opportunity to impact the direction of your strategy is to focus on gaining visibility to quantify not just operational outcomes but also corporate outcomes like ROI and Employee Experience.

Today’s Top Client Question

Another trend we’re watching first-hand is a rise in shared services amongst our clients. With that, I’m here to confirm that indeed shared services are here to stay. Especially in light of changing work and buying patterns due to COVID-19, organizations need to think differently about the ways in which they serve customers and employees alike.

However, after having invested significant spending on Enterprise applications, it’s not uncommon for large firms to complain that they aren’t seeing the value they initially envisioned. As clients begin to ramp up their strategy after many slowed their roadmaps last year, a popular question amongst our customers is how to increase the value they get from their Enterprise applications.

Most often, this is the result of overemphasis on operational and tactical decisions. When clients use strategic platforms as a simple ticketing system or order management system then they likely will not unlock the strategic intent of the system, thereby missing out on the full value of the platform.

The answer to this question goes back to strategy and taking the time to truly align your use of the platform to your organization’s strategic initiatives. This starts with enabling digital capabilities, analytical skills, and data-driven decision-making.

Additionally, this year we’re seeing a lot of continued emphasis on long-term platform sustainability in order to reach and maintain platform ROI. Tactically that means that clients are focused on returning to out-of-the-box, so that they can minimize the pain of performing future platform upgrades. Unlike in the past when clients asked for software customizations, they are now seeking Acorio’s guidance to redesign their processes with an emphasis on long-term platform value.

The main challenge for most companies is finding a balance between a short-term focus on returns while maintaining a long-term focus on platform viability.

Leading with Empathy

And since the rest of this conversation has been focused on the technology and processes I’m going to finish with something more human. I’m a strong believer that work starts with kindness. As a leader, I find inspiration first and foremost from people that demonstrate empathy – everything else, from technology ROI to efficient automation, will follow.

Studies have shown that most business leaders demonstrate left-brain quantitative, rational skills and that societally we lack leaders that demonstrate right-brain strength towards emotional and empathetic skills. Following that data, I firmly believe that we all need to be more caring, kind, and thoughtful in all of our interactions.

As a result, I find the best leaders are those who can simultaneously embrace their rational and emotional sides, combining their data-driven skills with an ability to connect with others. When we drive business results while also demonstrating true care for our people, that’s when we create an environment for all team members alike to feel inspired and empowered to do their best work.

About Mike

Mike Beldie brings 20 years of business transformation experience, most recently serving as Global Strategy Lead at North Highland Consulting. He oversees Acorio’s Advisory Practice to guide clients on their business transformation journey, deliver industry best practices and align the ServiceNow platform to deliver business goals. Previously he was a Managing Director of Strategy at Ericsson.