Louwki Coetsee - Balancing people, processes, and systems for successful digital transformation
Louwki Coetsee is the Group Vice President of Sales & Client Value at the IT innovation and digital transformation accelerator Netsurit.
In this episode, we talk about the importance of balancing people, processes, and systems for effective digital transformation. We discuss the impact of Covid and related disruptions, best practices for leveraging new technologies and driving innovation, and the key leadership traits for a successful, balanced transformation.
Links & mentions:
“It’s not just about digital transformation. If you really want to be successful, we talk about innovation. It’s like, how do we innovate? Yes, technology is a piece of that, but, really, digital transformation is more around innovation, it’s your people, it’s your process and your systems that will give you the momentum to innovate and disrupt your space, whatever you might be doing.”
Welcome to the Agile Digital Transformation Podcast, where we explore different aspects of digital transformation and digital experience with your host, Tim Butara, content and community manager at Agiledrop.
Tim Butara: Hello everyone, thanks for tuning in. Our guest today is Louwki Coetsee, Group Vice President of Sales & Client Value at the IT innovation and digital transformation accelerator Netsurit. In today’s episode, we’ll be talking about the importance of balancing people, processes, and systems for effective digital transformation, as well as how business leaders should approach this balancing to achieve the best results possible.
And Louwki, welcome to the show, thanks for joining us today. It’s great having you here. Anything you’d like to add before we begin with our questions for today?
Louwki Coetsee: Thank you for having me on the show. And wow, what a great intro. Not a lot to add there, I think that really set the stage quite well and, excited to get into it.
Tim Butara: Awesome. Thanks for the high praise initially. I always try to get straight to the point by telling as much as possible and not spending too much time on the bio, because I know that our listeners are probably eager to get to the meat of the discussions. So, yeah, let’s get right down to it, Louwki. And the first thing I want to ask you today is, we’re talking about this balance between people, processes and systems – but what does it mean to have a good balance between these three entities, and what does such a balance look like in practice?
Louwki Coetsee: That’s such a great question, and as you say, let’s get into it, let’s go directly there. And I think, almost for me, I want to take one step briefly back – to get balance, we really need to understand as a business why are we doing this, where are we going, what’s the business objective. And really understanding that vision, the mission, what’s our short-term, long-term top goal, because, once we know the path we want to go, then we can really say, well, what does balance really look for us like? And really then start digging into that.
So, I think for me, is really then understanding just, like a SWOT analysis, what’s the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. And based on that, we look at then, how do we amplify all these different things? How do we increase our strengths? How do we reduce our threats?
So, I’d say for me, that’s sort of, let’s set the scene, and then we start looking at these three components to say, you know, we’ve got systems, what systems do we have? Do we get the best out of our technology that we have today? If you look at most systems out there, people only get 20% of what systems can really do. So, really understanding that system.
The next step is your process, so, really deeply understand your process. Because if you’re going to do transformation, if you’re transforming a bad process and you really start making that thing ramped up, you’re just going to get a bigger pile of problems on your table very quickly.
And then I would say people, the change management of people and understanding your people; are they going to be able to adapt to what we want to do? And how do we measure that and be supportive and take them through this journey? So, for me it’s really looking at those different lenses and making sure that we have good balance across all those different things.
Tim Butara: That was a very good intro, and especially the point about having to– you can’t begin this balancing act without knowing the goals of this balancing act initially, or setting a strategy for that. So, yeah, that makes a lot of sense.
The next thing that I want to talk about is, you know, we’ve just gone through 3 years of constant disruptions and uncertainty and subconscious stress, and I’m guessing that all of these market and societal changes also have quite an impact on businesses and their attempts to maintain this balance and adapt it to the time. So, what are your thoughts here? What have you seen? And also, is it more difficult to maintain this balance now compared to pre-Covid, or is the technological innovation pulling things in the other direction as well?
Louwki Coetsee: I think we’ve seen the biggest disruption in a century of just how quickly all of this had to happen. So, organizations had to adapt very very quickly, and potentially the planning and really understanding why they were doing it wasn’t totally baked, and it was just all engines go, we have to survive, and therefore we’re going to transform, or we’re going to do all these things.
But really taking a step back once you’re through that and reaccount and say, where are we going again? And what is the next thing on my horizon that’s coming? If we look at just what customers these days want, it’s been very different to pre-pandemic; so just looking at that whole societal perspective of what’s acceptable today, do we have to go back to the office, do we have to do a hybrid thing, and what do our clients expect from us, and taking all of those things to account, I think the pressure is so much more than pre-pandemic.
And there’s so many other factors, from security, because now all of a sudden, you’ve got your workforce out there, they’re working in a hybrid environment, you want to transform and collaborate because now people are in different places. So, there’s so many facets and layers. So, back to your question, I think, from a transformation perspective, the societal changes and where we are living today has brought a lot of pressure on businesses.
Tim Butara: We definitely have a lot of pressure, and a lot of more risks, a lot more complexity on one hand; but I’m also wondering if there is some mitigating factor in all the new capabilities that the past three years of digital transformation have brought us. Is there any notable thing to mention here?
Louwki Coetsee: There’s so many things that’s come about around just how do we collaborate better, how do we create better risk management around all of this change management. And we’ve seen the communities come together to get through these trying times. So, I think from a technology perspective there’s been leaps and bounds. And you can see from all the technology vendors how much effort the new things have come into the mediums of how we communicate and how we connect together.
And if you think back three years ago, it was unfathomable to think that people could actually work from home and it could actually work and you can still have a successful business and a thriving business. So, yes, I think technology has come a far way, but us as a race has adapted and changed together as well very quickly to really show the world this can be done. So, it’s been remarkable, and I think it’s just been amazing to see this happening in our lifetime, how quickly we’ve disrupted.
Tim Butara: Yeah, what a time to be alive, right? From all possible perspectives, I guess.
Louwki Coetsee: Yes, yes.
Tim Butara: And also, in a similar line, I’m wondering what changes do businesses and organizations need to make to get the most out of all this new technology, out of all this innovation?
Louwki Coetsee: So for me and for Netsurit, really, when we look at it, we see technology just as an aims to a means. Starting with the strategy, what is our strategy? What’s that digital strategy? So I would say that’s step one that organizations need to think real hard about. Where are we going? How do we transform? So that’s step one.
Step two is your culture, your culture of your business, and making sure that within your business, you can tie in a culture that’s going to embrace change, they’re going to embrace this digital transformation. And that might look very different for each business, but really work on your employees and the cultures and the values that they see in that.
And then once you have your culture set correctly, I think really looking at data and analytics and leveraging the information that the systems are giving you. Because you can only make the right choices based on real statistical data, so data and leveraging your analytics across your platforms, and figuring out how do I look at a higher level at all my data coming in and what does that tell us and how do we pivot based on the statistics and the data.
And then I think investment. Look at the data and invest in the right places. Think about some of the newer technologies coming out. How do we look at automation? How do we look at AI? Because I think that can fast track really all that data you’re getting in and really start bringing in better output for your business.
So, once you’ve got all of that, I think the next step is your focus on your customers; really ensuring that while you’re doing all this disruption and transformation, the customer journey is good and the customer is experiencing a really great service and enjoying what you’re doing. So, really, have a tight control on the customer experience.
And then for me, the next big one, and we’ve seen it with just all this transformation, is security. I really think you need to understand, if I’m opening up and I’m collaborating and I’m in all these different places now and I’ve got AI doing all of these things, am I secure and is my risk mitigation at the level that I need that to be? So I think that, on a high level broad stroke, those are some of the things you need to take in consideration and think about.
Tim Butara: What about the biggest challenges or maybe potential risks here? Let’s talk about those for a little bit. So, specifically, challenges and risks that organizations and businesses face when they’re undergoing or when they’re planning a full-scale digital transformation, as well as how they can resolve them and tackle them.
Louwki Coetsee: Yeah that makes a lot of sense. And there’s so much risk when we go through transformation, because transformation is really change and as we know not all people take change the same way and they go through different phases and at different speeds. So I think really managing that change is really key.
And that’s why, when I sort of set the culture piece, you need to embed that we’re going through this journey within your culture and make sure that your team is aligned with you. So, I think that change in the communication that you do with your team, but then also wider with your clients, showing them “this is where we’re going”.
So from that perspective I think that is really one of the keys. Another key, I would say, is just looking at integration. And a lot of companies have a lot of tools, and as you already alluded, most companies only use 20% of those tools. So, most organizations, just your digital strategy and looking at that digital strategy and saying, can we reduce tools? Can we optimize those tools? Can we get the best of what we’ve already invested?
We’ve got a Ferrari almost as our tool, but a lot of people don’t know how to drive that Ferrari, they don’t have the license, they don’t maybe have the right tires, so, again, just looking at that and optimizing what you’ve got from your systems, again, I think would be great.
Tim Butara: That Ferrari analogy was really good. Because I was thinking earlier that you can have really successful digital transformation and you can think that it’s going really well, and you can be really proud of yourself and you can already celebrate your successes and toast at a company party. But then you realize that it’s not really resonating with your customers and that the CX is diminishing.
And this is something like that, right? You have a Ferrari, but people don’t know how to drive it, so how can they even know that a Ferrari is something that they should be excited about if it’s causing them friction and trouble and issues? And I guess what you need to do is you need to help them to learn how to drive a Ferrari, so that when you give them the Ferrari they already know how to drive it.
Louwki Coetsee: And I think as technology people, because digital transformation, a big portion of that is technology, and a lot of times people outsource or get specialists around the technology because they don’t understand it. And unfortunately in the technology world a lot of people get very obsessed with this new shiny toy and it’s a new thing and it’s great. But they miss the other pieces around it, and when you miss it, you don’t get the full solution and really getting the real return on investment.
So, for us, it’s very important to always look at, we’ve got something called return on innovation and really we guarantee when we work with you that we’re going to give you a return on innovation. So, for us, it’s really looking at the idealistic perspective and not just the technology piece.
Tim Butara: Yeah, this was exactly what I was thinking right now, that even though we haven’t specifically talked about balancing people, processes and systems for the last few questions, it still underscores everything, right. We spoke about change management and how important that is, and that’s obviously something that has to consider all of these three key components, as well as integration – even though, on the surface, it sounds like something that would only touch systems and maybe processes, but, if you don’t bring the people, then what are you integrating and why are you even integrating and who are you integrating for, right?
And this all brings me perfectly into the final question that I have for you today, Louwki, which is about leadership and how they can help drive this and be the stewards of this. And especially I’m wondering about which leadership traits are most important for carrying out a successful, balanced, effective transformation initiative.
Louwki Coetsee: So I think one of the key ones is vision. They need to be visionaries. Really, if we’re talking about transformation, it’s about change, and you really need to have that vision to understand, this is where we want to go, this is the change we want to get to. So, just really clearly understanding and being able to be adaptive, so really being open to change and that friction that change brings and bringing that along the journey and making sometimes quick and tough decisions, and going forward and not stagnating.
I think, then, collaboration, really collaborating with your team and your clients and really be collaborative through this process. And then innovation, you need to really be innovative. If we want to do transformation, let’s not just do small, but really think big, what’s that thing we really want to get to? And then innovate around that, and not accepting the status quote. What got you here today won’t get you there tomorrow. So really be innovative.
And then customer focus; at the end of the day, why are you doing it? It’s really to increase profits, and where do profits come from? It comes from your clients. So during this process, always keep your customer top of mind and in the middle point of what you’re doing. And then I think risk awareness, just being really clever around what is this risk and can this business take the risk that comes with change and be aware of that risk and be risk aware.
Tim Butara: Well, I think we’ve covered all the most important bits that we set out to cover. Do you have any final tips for businesses who maybe are struggling with this balance or who want to streamline this approach to their digital strategy?
Louwki Coetsee: The tips from me is really understand your end goal and don’t be scared to innovate. And if you’re not sure how to go about this, I think, get a peer group, get a consultant, reach out, don’t be scared to learn a little bit more around what does transformation, what does digital transformation – and I kept on saying transformation, because for me, it’s not just about digital transformation.
If you really want to be successful, we talk about innovation. It’s like, how do we innovate? Yes, technology is a piece of that, but, really, digital transformation is more around innovation, it’s your people, it’s your process and your systems that will give you the momentum to innovate and disrupt your space, whatever you might be doing.
Tim Butara: Louwki, this was an absolutely fantastic conversation, I really enjoyed it, I think we really got into it. Just before we wrap it up, if listeners would like to get to know you better, learn more about you, reach out to you, where can they do that?
Louwki Coetsee: They can do it from our website, it’s netsurit.com, or we’re on LinkedIn, they can find us on LinkedIn, or they can find me on LinkedIn. I would love to engage and have a conversation, feel free to reach out to me.
Tim Butara: Awesome. We’ll include everything in the show notes and, Louwki, thanks again.
Louwki Coetsee: Thank you very much. Enjoy the day.
Tim Butara: Well, to our listeners, that's all for this episode. Have a great day, everyone, and stay safe.
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