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Plutarch: Thoughts on People Management


Digital: It’s Not a Matter of Life and Death …It’s Much More Important Than That

Friday 12th October 2018


Omar Abbosh (Group Chief Executive – Communications, Media & Technology at Accenture) said at a recent Marketing Group of Great Britain event:

“customers do not choose a product or service based on what you tell them, but instead on what they experience”.

Digital interactions are generally the primary experience customers have of a company. It must therefore become the first and most central function of any consumer business.
This relatively new situation has a profound impact on the structures and peopling of all functions within a consumer business.


For businesses with a pre-digital heritage, this poses a significant challenge, to wit rewiring how products and offerings are developed. Organisations need to change innovation processes (from sequential to scrum methodology) to put digital front and centre, informing the product specification, proposition, marketing and life cycle management. This poses many challenges; culture, processes and technical infrastructure need to evolve accordingly. Nevertheless, it is the reimagined nature of what is offered, and how money is made, that makes true digital businesses so disruptive.



Aviva have been grappling with these challenges for some time. Three key thrusts emerged from their experience, as Andrew Brem, their former Chief Digital Officer, recently told Hunter-Miller:


1. Make Digital a business, not just a route to market
To make digital transformation succeed, the digital team has to have ownership of commercial results. This way, it has a seat at the table where business performance is managed and delivered, directing the resources of other functions, rather than being viewed simply as a channel.

2. Make Digital a challenger culture
Driving change at speed requires a new culture. This means new teams, new hires and even new physical environments that challenge the status quo. Aviva set up the ‘Aviva Digital Garage’ in Hoxton. The aim was to attract talent from digital-native businesses and to prevent them from getting ‘smothered’ by the wider business.

Equally key at a senior level are those that are ‘bilingual’: Directors and CxOs who can speak both ‘Digital’ and ‘Corporate’. As the challenger culture moves closer to the centre of the business, these leaders help to ease the transition.

3. Enforce Digital within your organisation
Digital transformation invariably comes up against blockages. Legacy systems, processes and culture can present practical challenges, but they are only insurmountable if people also refuse to change. Setting different, digitally oriented-KPIs can help, but ultimately senior management had to lead the charge and truly enforce change.

Here the role of the CEO is paramount: it is their responsibility to remove blockages, and in the process, remove excuses for not achieving digital transformation. They must be willing to take tough calls and be ruthless in staffing decisions and proactive in sourcing new talent.


Plutarch in no way claims to offer comprehensive statistical reports – the absence of numbers reveals that much, and individual confidentially remains his priority. Nonetheless Hunter-Miller's vast network offers compelling anecdotal evidence, and some occasionally interesting insights.

What would you be interested to know? Get in touch.