By Edwin Wieringa
Flipping through the financial pages of newspapers and my favorite news sites, I see a wide mismatch between supply and demand in a variety of industries. That’s unfortunate. In my opinion, it doesn’t take much for companies to deliver exactly what the market demands even in times of economic turbulence. The key lies in a flexibly organized core.
That mismatch is visible everywhere. In the case of logistics firms, which allocated their resources to the wrong business activities. Or the media company, which after years of double-digit growth rates is suddenly facing a 10 percent downturn. A leading social media platform is doing even worse. A machine maker for the tire industry, due in part to a lack of staff, is unable to meet demand.
That begs the question for me: how agile are organizations really? And how can you activate that agility? Wouldn’t it be great to be able to be flexible with available resources and people? By temporarily shifting them to business units or activities where they are most needed, if necessary?
To be more ‘adjustable’ as an organization, you need to be able to push a number of buttons to address uncertainty in terms of suppliers, available talent, economic conditions and impactful events. This would allow many companies, which are currently unable to meet demand, for example, to scale up more expeditiously.
They should focus on a flexibly organized ‘core’. This is in contrast to a rigid hierarchy or structure in which specific people and roles are judged on specific things. By thinking and acting more from the bigger picture, it becomes easier to allocate resources where they are most valuable.
In the digital domain, you can work with pools of specialists, who may or may not be available from their area of expertise for part of the time for matters of general interest. Think of a club of engineers, architects or product owners from the business, who you deploy where the pain is or for new opportunities. That would also fit in very well with the informal Dutch work culture.
For example, the company LeasePlan is organized in this way. If necessary, they can make interventions in terms of people and resources. The beauty is that reshaping the organization to such flexibility is not a revolutionary change. It can all be done in small, evolutionary steps toward balanced governance, where within a functional structure it is clear who is talking to what counterpart from another pool about what.
That way you can identify, address and solve a specific challenge without having to change the overall organizational structure. After all, most companies have that foundation well in place. Just a few buttons that allow you to adapt to outside change. Hopefully with upbeat financial news as the ultimate result.
Want to learn more about organizing data and technology? See our latest whitepaper, ‘Organizing Data & Technology’.
Scania’s history and culture are typical for the way the Swedish truck manufacturer operates: focused on harmony and support within a decentralized dynamic. Because after a decade of toil a global CRM-system had stalled at only a quarter of the rollout, external help was brought in. Jon Månson, Head of Sales Digitalization at Scania and Anderson MacGyver’s Cliff de Laat tell how they onboarded the organization.
More than a decade ago, Scania already saw the importance of a standardized CRM system. This would allow the truck manufacturer to offer its high-quality and complex products in the same way all over the world. Moreover, it was realized early on that the availability of the right data would enable Scania to make the move to new forms of digital services. The beckoning prospect was clear, but various countries and markets partly determine themselves how they set up their IT-systems.
The so-called Scania CRM application (SCRM for short), based on a global Microsoft Dynamics implementation, was an important strategic pillar and was in desparate need for a successful re-launch. Refloating the stranded process was therefore the primary task of Jon Månson, who took office as Head of Sales Digitalization in 2021.
Matter of trust
“The requirements and expectations for the functionality offered were much higher in the various countries than the central organization could deliver,” he reflects. “The fragmented setup combined with a support plagued by lack of capacity led to a lack of trust among local stakeholders. Prioritization of their requirements also took place in the boardroom, which had a huge delaying effect.”
Månson saw from the beginning that getting local decision makers on board and aligning their input with the global template and vice versa was crucial to a successful relaunch. “In doing so, local markets had to be able to choose their own configuration to some extent, but tight governance was put in place for that,” said Cliff de Laat, who was involved as product manager from Anderson MacGyver.
“It was a complex process,” the consultant continued. “But the potential benefit of far-reaching unification is great.” Meanwhile, the rollout is well underway, with 90 percent of the total sales volume running through the system early next year, which is in line with the original goal. “Challenge was that we had hard targets in a relatively soft culture.”
That Swedish signature has brought Scania much since its founding in 1891. It was one of the first manufacturers to launch modern products such as the turbocharger and an ethanol-powered bus. Driven by business and sustainability goals, the truck brand also had a world first with an all-electric truck in 2020.
In addition, Scania early on embraced the principle of customization based on modular, component-based product lines. “As early as 1980, this made it possible to customize each newly ordered truck to the customer’s requirements,” said Jon Månson.
The Swedish company has long had a structured way of working: the Scania Way. Based on customer focus, respect, team spirit, responsibility and avoiding waste, Scania works to ensure safety, quality, low costs and optimal processes. “Through continuous improvement, we have a leading position in the field of sustainable transport.”
Complex set up
Scania employs some 57,000 people across seven regions. A rough tenfold of largely autonomous business units serve more than a hundred countries. Månson calls it a combination of “coordinated and uncoordinated independence,” which is quite challenging in a corporate culture that values consensus strongly.
Apart from this complex set-up, everywhere one has to deal with the aforementioned modularity, where the components used are themselves constantly subject to change and improvement. All this puts the necessary pressure on decentralized sales and marketing departments, many of which have to deal with a multitude of product configurations and prices using their own systems.
A central SCRM, based on a single version and corresponding data model, would enable sales representatives better than ever to sell sustainable transportation solutions based on customer requirements and supported by data-driven insights. Anderson MacGyver was contacted for the rollout in 2021.
No clear picture
“The local stakeholders at that time did not have a clear picture of the added value of the new system,” says De Laat. “SCRM was mainly seen as a way to save costs, which was not even an objective on paper. Partly because of this, the internal fan base was lacking.”
In addition, ideation and solutioning, as stated, took place primarily bottom-up. “As a result, the product owner was overloaded with requirements. The mandate to be able to determine priorities in consultation was lacking.” Larger local markets were also powerful enough to be able to override global guidelines, which made global standardization and rollout difficult. While there was indeed a great need to integrate, local teams often failed to meet the requirements to do so.
A quick and successful re-launch of the CRM-program was based on four pillars, according to the Anderson MacGyver consultant: clear vision, structured demand management, local configuration capabilities and unified data products.
According to De Laat, it started with a clear product vision, with all stakeholders committing to the intended setup. “In addition, we introduced Agile Product Ownership in combination with structured demand management, based on three pillars: aggregation of needs within the various markets, prioritization on added value of requested functionality, and a standardized rollout in all markets.”
For the necessary support, it was important to facilitate the necessary freedom for specific local needs. This was done in part based on a “configuration federated approach” for the most mature markets with their own development teams. “This theoretical possibility for market-specific configuration contributed greatly to the necessary support and the possibility of acceleration. Although ultimately no one chose this.”
A “functional federated approach” was available for all markets, where certain features could easily be turned on or off, keeping local needs and tastes in mind. De Laat: “This allowed them to create their own system locally based on central capabilities and best-practices provided.”
Uniform data products
SCRM offers uniform data products to all data users. In addition to the standard data collection from Microsoft Dynamics, generic near-real-time streaming data products are available via APIs, and more specific data can be exchanged to and from the central data layer on demand.
Before Anderson MacGyver and Månson could get to work with all this, they faced an unexpected obstacle: there were calls from local stakeholders to replace the already partially deployed Microsoft system for that of competitor Salesforce.
De Laat: “After analysis, it was clear that little or nothing would be gained from a different solution in a functional sense. And since a quarter already worked with the intended SCRM, an alternative solution would have taken us even longer. By actively selling the added value of the chosen solution we realized the necessary support.”
Scania’s Jon Månson looks back on the journey with Anderson MacGyver with satisfaction: “There are still challenges, of course, but the speed with which we are now making strides is making a big impression within our organization. It shows that you can achieve this kind of change without top-down control in close cooperation with the various markets. And that you can overcome the usual friction between central and decentralized, and mutual departments.”
Three things were fundamental here: make stakeholders themselves responsible for their decisions, consistency in terms of chosen direction, and involving the right people. Månson: “On the last point, we benefited greatly from the help from Anderson MacGyver. Cliff and his team have made real breakthroughs.”
The management style based on harmony and support also contributed to the success. “I constantly asked myself what I could do for the stakeholders,” said Scania’s Head of Sales Digitalization.
Courage and backing
“We took everyone with an opinion seriously,” adds Cliff de Laat. “With internal politics, things were reduced to the essentials. Naturally, we were willing to discuss and confront them. The courage and backing shown by Jon helped enormously in this regard.”
By Robbert Petterson
In my life as a consultant I’ve met a lot of organizations where IT was organized in the basement. These IT-basement companies saw this department as a cost center and did not want to invest too much in technology. This bothered me because I believe that if you organize tech and data in the right way you can create a lot of value for your business, your customers, your partners and other stakeholders in your ecosystem. But how to do this? At Anderson MacGyver, we believe that every strategic decision on your technology and organization starts with understanding the business. At our customers, we create the Operating Model Canvas in our own INOX tooling that visualizes their entire business with IT investments and applications. This powerful tooling allows us to start strategic discussions on board level to make smart decisions and really make impact.
One of the questions we often get is: how do other organizations make their investment decisions? A valid question which in my opinion validates to be researched. Driven by my own personal curiosity, I therefore designed the Digital Business Monitor – a survey I sent out to over 600 digital leaders across Europe. The aim was to get a better understanding of the strategic decisions these leaders are making in the context of their business.
Knowing that the business in every company is organized differently, I needed to come up with domains that are more or less recognized in every organization. Therefore, I chose to present five business activity domains that represent specific business activities that organizations do. Then I asked the digital leaders to distribute their digital investments across these business activity domains and the results were not what I expected. My assumptions were that digital leaders would invest most of their digital capital in development of products and services and in digital interactions with their customers. This would be the areas that make companies distinctive from their competitors.
However, the results show that most was invested in the Business Operations domain. Although these findings could partly be explained by the need of investments in replacing their core legacy systems, most digital leaders viewed this domain as most distinctive. Apparently it is not always the front-end technologies and digital innovative products that have organizations stand out. A smooth and automated operational backbone may be just as important to achieve competitive advantage.
A corporate culture based on harmony and decentralized freedom has several advantages: there is often a focus on the longer term, there is sustainable treatment of people and the environment, decisions tend to be widely supported, and they provide the right breeding ground for innovation. Yet even such a culture sometimes cannot escape the need to steer firmly towards higher goals, as was evident during Anderson MacGyver’s recent CIO Masterclass. With a starring role for Swedish truck manufacturer Scania.
The meeting at the headquarters in IJsselstein sometimes breathed the atmosphere of a cultural exchange: the sometimes somewhat undiplomatic Dutch drive versus the Swedish modesty and inclination toward harmony and support. Guest speaker Jon Månson of Scania is also averse to bravado and stage presence, he told us at the start of his presentation. Despite his enviable position as Head of Sales Digitalization at the highly successful company for over 130 years.
The connecting touch of chairman of the day Lovisa Lundblad, who works at Anderson MacGyver’s Swedish office in Stockholm, as well as the introductory word from Nordics director Patrik Hermansson added to the Scandinavian-inspired ambiance. “We have been active in the Nordics with Anderson MacGyver for four years,” Hermansson stated. “The startup phase is behind us and we are working hard to grow. Interactive meetings such as these CIO Masterclasses contribute significantly to this.”
Leading clients like Scania are illustrative of the steps the increasingly international consulting company is making. The presentations by Jon Månson and management consultant Cliff de Laat, involved with Scania from Anderson MacGyver, fuel thoughts that the Swedish and Dutch temperaments are a perfect match.
Founded in 1891, Scania was one of the first manufacturers to introduce modern products such as the turbocharger and an ethanol-powered bus during its long years of existence. Driven by business and sustainability goals, the truck brand was also the first to launch an all-electric truck in 2020. It also embraced early on the principle of customization based on modular, component-based product lines.
“This made it possible back in 1980 to be able to customize each newly ordered truck to the customer’s requirements,” says Jon Månson. “Our so-called Scania Way is a way of working in which customer focus, respect, team spirit, responsibility, and avoiding waste are guiding principles.”
Scania employs about 57,000 people, spread across seven regions and roughly ten times as many largely autonomous business units, serving more than a hundred countries. Månson called it a combination of “coordinated and uncoordinated independence” in IJsselstein. This structure combined with the complex product range puts the necessary pressure on decentralized sales and marketing departments, many of which have to deal with a multitude of product configurations and prices using their own systems.
Månson has been Head of Sales Digitalization since 2021. His initial task was to smooth the rollout of the central CRM program, known as Scania CRM (SCRM), which was stranded at only a quarter of its potential. “With a standardized system, we could offer products the same way everywhere,” he said. Moreover, the availability of the right data would make it easier for the company to move into new forms of digital services. But a successful re-launch required more than just the right intentions and a looming perspective.
For this purpose, contact was made with Anderson MacGyver. Under the leadership of Cliff de Laat, who held the role of Product Owner of the system to be rolled out within Scania, the intended objective was nearly achieved thanks to a structured approach. Nearly 90 percent of sales volume now runs through SCRM. “Important was a clear argument for why a central CRM was needed: to enable sales representatives to sell sustainable transport solutions based on customer requirements and supported by data-driven insights,” De Laat told us.
Structured demand management helps to identify needs in different markets, and then determine any priorities. Ultimately, this resulted in a single solution for the central availability of uniform data, with clear added value for global markets. “Moreover, the theoretical possibility of market-specific configuration contributed greatly to the necessary support and the possibility of acceleration.”
Jon Månson: “Our trajectory shows that you can still achieve major changes without top-down control in close cooperation with the various markets. The usual friction between central, decentralized and various departments involved can be overcome by making stakeholders themselves responsible for their decisions, consistency in terms of the chosen direction and involving the right people. For example, we benefited greatly from the help provided by Anderson MacGyver. Cliff and his team have made real breakthroughs.”
“The process shows that you can achieve major changes without top-down direction“Jon Månson – Director Sales Digitalisation at Scania
After an extensive question-and-answer session with the participants, Lovisa Lundblad posed the closing question: what do the speakers consider the greatest success of their joint journey? Månson: “I don’t like to brag, but moving forward: that sales representatives tell me they are very satisfied with the system.” De Laat: “That through SCRM we have become an enabler instead of a bottleneck. We now talk to users about digital sales, marketing automation, and so on. Exactly the position you want to be in as a product owner.”
Why don’t they get it?
Frustration filled the room like toxic black smoke during a recent conversation with a data governance specialist at one of our clients. “Why am I not getting the attention that is needed to get our data governance up to scratch? Everyone seems to believe in the value potential of data but no-one is willing to tackle the fundamental issues we clearly have. I know exactly what needs to be done and have expressed this an unmeasurable number of times. Why don’t they get it?”
Had we just met the modern day Don Quixote? Maybe, but from our experience this Don Quixote does not stand alone. We regularly encounter situations where magic is expected from data and the data team without sufficiently acknowledging the need to improve the foundation.
In the following blog series we would like to share with you the typical approaches that Anderson MacGyver deploys to overcome such challenges and to get business and data people to better understand each other and jointly create value.
Key elements of Data to Value journeys
At the highest abstraction level, successful initiatives to get more value from data consist of the following three elements
- Business relevant data vision, goals & strategy that are understood by all
- Organizing Data Value Delivery
- Organizing Data Foundation
Two practices for achieving impactful change
Besides ensuring that all stakeholders have a clear and common understanding of a business relevant data vision, goals and strategy, the two keys to delivering a sustainable and impactful change with data are
- Build tangible bridges between business value and data capabilities
- Balance your value delivery and foundational efforts
Note: Data Value Delivery encompasses all activities and associated capabilities that deliver data products that are used by the business and either constitute or directly contribute to, business value. Data Foundation covers all activities and associated capabilities that enable Data value delivery, but do not directly contribute to nor constitute business value. Organization of both sets of activities and capabilities is captured in a data operating model that defines way of working, processes, organization structure, people resources, governance, systems & technology and sourcing approach.
We will focus on the theme of building bridges in part 2 of this blog.
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By Cliff de Laat
One of the key principles for Middle managers in Agile environments is choosing to focus on trust over control. In my personal experience I have seen Middle managers offering a lot of space and trust in which people are really empowered to be their best self at work. The complete opposite, I have also seen Middle managers trying to control every situation. Not allowing any room for failure or growing of the talents of the team.
Our Middle managers are caught between a rock and a hard place. Targets from their bosses and the teams struggling to deliver on their challenges. It is not easy but nobody ever said it was easy. It requires some bravery but I believe this is one of the key-principles to get the right results. This principle acknowledges the need to empower teams, foster collaboration, and encourage autonomy, while also providing the necessary guidance and oversight to ensure alignment with organizational goals and objectives.
1. Trust as the Foundation: Trust is the cornerstone of Agile environments. Middle managers should trust their teams to make informed decisions, take ownership of their work, and deliver value. By enforcing an environment of trust, Middle managers enable teams to self-organize and become more innovative, motivated, and productive. Trust empowers individuals and promotes a culture of accountability, where team members are encouraged to take risks and learn from their experiences.
2. Empowerment through Autonomy: Middle managers should empower teams by granting them autonomy. This means allowing teams to have control over their work processes, task allocation, and decision-making. Empowered teams are more likely to take ownership of their work, collaborate effectively, and find creative solutions to problems. Middle managers should provide support and resources while avoiding unnecessary micromanagement. This enables teams to adapt quickly to changing requirements and improves their overall performance.
3. Balance with Necessary Control: While trust and autonomy are essential, Middle managers also need to maintain a certain level of control to ensure alignment with organizational goals. They should establish well-defined boundaries and guidelines, ensuring that teams operate within the agreed-upon frameworks. This includes periodic check-ins, progress reviews, and monitoring of key metrics to ensure that projects are on track. However, control should be exercised in a way that doesn’t stifle creativity or hinder the agility of teams.
We look at our principles in the same manner as the Agile manifesto. Although we value the items on the right (Control) we value the items on the left more (Trust).
By Cliff de Laat
I have been involved in many organizations that have made the transition to an Agile way-of-working. In the role of either manager, program/project manager, product owner, or team member. In my personal experience, there was one key factor, one make-or-break role making the Agile way-of-working a dream or a living nightmare. This is the middle manager, team leader, department manager, etc.
They either support or hinder success. Their role involves executing tasks at a tactical level, managing teams, and developing talent. As a consultant, I have heard colleagues at other firms criticize these managers as redundant or a waste of resources. My personal opinion differs significantly. In Agile contexts, middle managers play a crucial role in facilitating effective communication, fostering collaboration, and ensuring that Agile principles and practices are upheld. The following reasons explain the value of middle management:
- Bridging the Gap: Middle managers translate organizational goals into actionable plans for Agile teams, aligning strategic objectives with Agile initiatives.
- Facilitating Communication: They serve as communication channels between senior leadership, Agile teams, and stakeholders, ensuring alignment and resolving conflicts.
- Supporting Team Autonomy: Middle managers provide resources, guidance, and mentorship to empower self-organizing teams, removing obstacles and fostering innovation.
- Promoting Agile Mindset: They advocate for Agile principles, educate stakeholders, and champion successful Agile implementations to foster an adaptive culture.
- Aligning Performance Management: Middle managers align individual and team goals with organizational objectives, providing coaching and feedback to foster growth.
The middle manager is critical to the success of an agile department. I have witnessed successful managers identifying when to intervene and when to enable their teams to resolve problems. In my recent experience, I have seen some managers act as the spokesperson for the team, thereby relieving the team of accountability for their actions. As I believe that many organizations and middle managers struggle with making the right decisions, I felt the need to contribute to the community.
Over the next few weeks, I will be sharing a few principles on my LinkedIn that can serve as a kind of Middle Manager Manifesto (MMM, no pun intended 😁). I invite you to share your thoughts and experiences. Let’s support our middle managers to make our companies successful with them as our hero leaders! 💪
By Anton Bubberman
In addition to my work as a management consultant, I recently started as Guild lead Data at Anderson MacGyver. Data is a subject I could talk about for hours, but in this blog, I like to combine it with another passion. I love making music. Sometimes I do it alone, but preferably with others. From acoustically accompanying a singer-songwriter to playing bass or guitar in a big band. And everything in between.
You won’t get far in a band without structure and agreements. You have to understand what you have to do, what the division of roles is, who your audience is, and what to bring to a performance. There is a nice parallel to be drawn with organizations that want to get more value from their data. It is always an interplay and it is necessary to be clear about the goals, the division of roles, and what you need, technical or otherwise, to achieve them. Everyone on the same page? Fine! But it takes more than that to make it swing.
The same language
As a musician, you can know everything about the way sounds are created physiologically and what is pleasing to the ear or not. Yet we do not usually speak in vibration frequencies, overtones, and other scientifically explainable concepts. Musicians do have their own idiom: pitch, chord progressions, rhythm, and feel are the means of communication to achieve a result together. Listeners do not need to know this jargon. They are perfectly capable of naming whether the music touches them or gives them a feeling of dancing. I dare say the listener will notice if the band is mismatched in any of the aforementioned aspects.
Data management gurus can often spend hours talking about academic concepts around data. On the shop floor, it is especially important that we understand the complexity, but create a common and especially practical language that everyone involved understands. How do we define data quality, what integration agreements do we make with each other and what is the “golden record”? This allows us to act together and deliver value to users. Above all, users of dashboards and reports want their report to work. Like listeners of music, they often know nothing about the agreed-upon language, but flawlessly sense when something is wrong in that area.
Foundation for improvisation
The analogy goes even further. When a foundation is in place and rhythm is built together, it becomes a lot easier to improvise. Is a song coming across well with the audience? Then it can be extended spontaneously, with an extra solo. Or the music is stopped for a moment, so the audience can clap and sing along loudly. Does it appear during the performance that more energy is needed or just a moment of rest? Then we play something else. This requires a good foundation and trust.
Extending this to data: based on a good foundation, you can switch very quickly when necessary. For example, a marketing department is already successfully using algorithms to target potential customers personally through online campaigns. The right data is available, the quality is under control, it is clear what is legally allowed, the right technical instruments (tools) are available and the team knows how to use them. This also leaves room for improvisation. If new trends or opportunities are spotted, it is possible to combine the available data in a different way, slightly extend the algorithm, and thereby easily set up new campaigns.
Let’s see if we can develop a common language for your organization: with a rhythm and feel that fits your possibilities, wishes, and context. With the right frames for jamming – strict enough to really get things swinging.
Traveling from A to B has similarities to the digital journey many companies go through. By moving we look at the world from a different perspective: our business, stakeholders, and our customers, stated chairwoman Crystal Reijnen during the kickoff of Anderson MacGyver’s most recent CIO Masterclass. “This is how you discover new ways of creating value, other markets, and possible new market positions.”
Contrary to what the word “journey” might suggest in terms of etymology, according to the eloquent Management Consultant from Anderson MacGyver, this is by no means done in a day. During the CIO Masterclass in IJsselstein, her colleague David Jongste and Ivo Steffens of NS shared their digital knowledge and travel experiences in front of a room full of technology and business leaders.
David Jongste, like Reijnen, Management Consultant and as Managing Director responsible for Anderson MacGyver’s activities in the Benelux, zoomed in on four perspectives related to mastering digital journeys: ‘define your digital ambitions, defeat digital demons, master your mindset’ and finally ‘taste the transformation’.
Jongste: “As IT Manager at HagaZiekenhuis, at an early stage in my career, I discovered the distinctive power of technology and data in optimizing processes. At the same time, I learned how difficult implementation can be within a complex dynamic of stakeholders. Much later, at Anderson MacGyver, I became intrigued by value for the business in a context that at the time was still largely cost-driven.”
Of the four perspectives, defining your digital ambitions revolves around clarity concerning your goals as an organization and how digital and data can contribute to making a difference. David Jongste cites as an example the ambition of a large logistics service provider, which wanted to focus primarily on the recipient of packages instead of the sender.
“This change of focus was intended to maintain and strengthen its leading position as the preferred delivery company. In addition, they wanted to make the processes more efficient, effective, and synergistic. This required various digital capabilities. A digital twin of each individual package proved crucial to achieving that.”
Defeating the digital demons mainly involves cleaning up yesterday’s mess, both in terms of legacy IT, organizational flaws, and cultural issues. “Maintaining the old can take a lot of energy and it takes the focus away from things that are actually much more important in the context of the future.”
Mastering the mindset involves a broad-based perspective on business, technology, and data. “Take as an example a large fresh produce auction, which has a huge amount of data on customers, products, prices, and margins. The technology to leverage that was available, but you don’t get very far without a common language and mindset for business and IT.”
Ultimately, it’s about tasting the transformation itself, entering the digital arena, and making it all truly possible. “A manufacturing company in automotive was dealing with a slow rollout of a central CRM system. The ambition was clear, but the execution required firm leadership. After all, the road to success is always full of bumps. It’s all about a coalition of well-wishers executing the plan and seeing it through.”
Digital leaders, according to the Managing Director Benelux, need to understand how they can influence the four aspects of the digital journey mentioned above. “Then it’s about keeping the focus on your goals, making bold choices when necessary and creating a common perspective.” To ultimately get the taste of success.
Mobile train journey
In addition to the operation and exploitation of traditional assets, NS is working hard on far-reaching digitalization. The ambition is to become the best digital mobility company in the Netherlands. Ivo Steffens has been with the railroads since 2018 and joined in March 2020 as Director of Commerce and Lead ComIT – an organization of 900 people and 100 teams in which commerce and IT are united.
“Looking at my hotel school education and career at Transavia and Air France-KLM, the overlap of commerce, technology, and the customer is the common thread,” Steffens said. “Moreover, I am of the generation that always sees technology as progress. And who now sees that it is not just carefree.”
When he made the 2018 switch from the aviation sector, he was triggered by the NS ambition: to transport all people easily, comfortably, and affordably to home, work, friends, family, and so on – and then to do what you care about. “In doing so, NS has an essential role in keeping the Netherlands accessible for everyone. While we certainly have challenges, we are doing quite well in several aspects.”
But the market share has to increase and that requires more than being the best train company. Ivo Steffens: “We have to be more attractive to people who want flexible forms of transportation, or who now mainly use the car. The solution is to offer more options for door-to-door transportation: bicycle, e-bike, or shared car.”
That is not easy in an industry that has taken shape in the Netherlands since the first train in 1839, and within an organization with an 85-year tradition of rail transportation with traditionally a strong focus on owning physical assets. “In contrast, a digital mobility company has to rely primarily on partnerships. Moreover, You are entering a new market, with other players.”
“A digital mobility company must rely also on partnerships“Ivo Steffens – Director of Commerce and Lead ComIT at Nederlandse Spoorwegen
“To be truly digital, we need to deliver the best possible experience to the traveler,” continued the Director of Commerce. “Benchmarks are, in addition to other major international rail companies, digital-enabled mobility providers such as Coolblue, Google Maps and Uber. So, we operate in a totally different dynamic.”
NS has a lot of legacy IT, but it does have a roadmap to completely overhaul the landscape in the next five years. Ivo Steffens: “We are going for a total overhaul. At the same time, we have to accelerate, because other providers are not waiting.”
To become a digital mobility provider, NS combines several principles: arrange everything within one app, information and service from door to door, easy planning, booking and payment, and a wide range of other modalities. To this end, the products and services of various partners and providers are being brought together.
While to this end the IT landscape is being modernized, the digital mobility product is increasingly being marketed. The proposition is offered to business customers as a service to be integrated within their existing processes and policies, including as an alternative to the lease car.
Ivo Steffens learned three important things during his current digital journey: “First, leadership is needed with a focus on people rather than technology.” In addition, it’s all about the combatants in the arena – the people who do it and not others who judge them. Finally, it’s about making choices and keeping things simple. “The important thing is to keep the most important the most important.”
By Edwin Wieringa
Thanks to agile, the once fervently hoped-for (but until recently only marginally realized) alignment of business and IT within many organizations finally seems to be taking real shape. The challenge now is securing technology competencies internally as a sparring partner for the many process-driven roles and functions.
Nowadays, you stumble across scrum masters, agile coaches, release engineers and product owners supervising development projects and other processes everywhere. In itself, a good thing. But because hard technology competencies are often hired, major decisions are made primarily by people with limited technical competencies and background. Companies thus spill over in process knowledge and process focus, while their distinctive value is mostly created by external people. There is an imbalance between internal and external – process-oriented versus technology-oriented.
Staying in control
People who deal with the ‘hire and fire’ are at a relatively large distance from the product side, making it difficult as an organization to stay in charge of the technology roadmap. After all, you need to have a good understanding of what needs to happen in terms of content in order to make fruitful use of all the makeable and available capabilities. For example, embracing large platforms for cloud-native development.
The product owner needs a sparring partner on the tech side: an internal force with a technical background. Together, they need to align IT with what is happening and needed within a specific domain. This can range from a generic solution for operational stability or efficiency, to very specific business solutions.
The multimodal analysis and organizational form are the linking pin here. After all, understanding the context and nature of the business activities leads to an appropriate organizational design and IT that supports that in all respects. On the business side, you can then make a deliberate move to matters of value: customer-centric, agile services, continuity assurance, innovation-oriented, or otherwise.
That requires attention at the right level within the organization. Decision makers within management and the board must realize a growth path for in-house people with a tech background. This makes tech more strongly represented in the organization; not just executive, but also at the coordinating and strategic level.
Are you wondering about how to better balance process and technology focus within your organization? In the upcoming white paper ‘Organizing Data & Technology’ there is plenty of attention to the various phases of development and organizational archetypes, from which you as a board or management can make the move forward.
The core purpose of Anderson MacGyver is to harness the unrealized business value for our clients by leveraging the powerful potential of technology & data. We provide strategic advice and guidance to board members and senior management to shape and drive their digital journey.