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Master your digital destiny

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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 demons  
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.”  

Lessons learned  
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.” 

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David Jongste
Director Benelux | Management Consultant 6 1467 3009