How should the CIO nurture corporate culture?

Consumers can now order everything from food to mattresses by clicking or sliding the screen. A workplace without WiFi is simply unimaginable.

This is exactly what Lookman Fazal encountered when he became the Chief Information Officer of NJ Transit in New Jersey in early 2019. NJ Transit is responsible for New Jersey ’s $ 4 billion public transportation system. The company ’s employees have been using wired connections to work on desktop computers connected to the Internet, which seriously hinders employees from working outside the office. Fazal said: “From a technical point of view, we are 40 years behind, and the IT department has prevented collaboration and mobility.”

Fazal is not the only CIO who has encountered such obstacles. Although every digital reform will encounter technical obstacles, changing corporate culture is more challenging by comparison. After surveying 2,135 global executives, market research firm McKinsey found that 33% of respondents believe that cultural and behavioral challenges are the main obstacles in digital transformation, followed by insufficient understanding of digital trends (25%) Lack of talent (24%).

Analysts Dan Bieler and Ash Mukerjee of Forrester Research, a market research organization, pointed out in a research report: “Culture sets the tone for corporate structure, technology type, management technology and process. If culture and technology change are consistent, then culture You can promote business transformation. ”

The difficult road of corporate culture change
Fazal has been committed to promoting the development of NJ Transit’s corporate culture, but the development of this culture has been hindered by bureaucracy. To this end, Fazal used the method of technology startups and hired a new leadership team, including chief innovation officers who are looking for emerging technologies in the transportation field. Together they worked to shorten the technology procurement process from a few months to 30 days, equipped the office with WiFi, and deployed cloud productivity and collaboration tools.

The new team also quickly took action to improve customer service. The updated NJ Transit mobile app allows passengers to purchase bus tickets, view bus and train schedules, status, and other information. Fazal also enhanced its loyalty program, allowing transit passengers to earn mileage points, which can be redeemed at ExxonMobil gas stations, 7-11 convenience stores, Don Dole chain stores and Netflix. In addition, NJ Transit also installed lockers at train stations and bus stations to facilitate passengers to place luggage packages, and added Uber and Lyft signs to facilitate passengers. Fazal estimates that these initiatives have moved NJ Transit’s service level forward by seven years.

Because Fazal’s attitude towards reform was tough, it caused some resistance from some employees. Fazal said: “Some people leave voluntarily because they can’t keep up with the speed of change. Others I have to quit because they hinder innovation and technological transformation.”

Promote a data-driven corporate culture
Satya Rao, a partner at McKinsey, said that technological transformation always depends on cultural changes in the company. For example, a company tried to change the status quo of its sales force. For this reason, Rao and his team met with the company’s business unit to understand their requirements and challenges. In the months that followed, Rao ’s team built analytical tools and dashboards to help salespeople discover new potential customers and make better decisions on the spot.

One of the key steps Rao takes in the new business process is to link performance incentives with the use of the tool. After a few months, only 40% of the sales team used the software, so Rao installed a performance management application to motivate employees to use it. To enhance accountability, Rao also invited all executive vice presidents and senior vice presidents to supervise. After these measures, the company ’s employees have fully realized that the use of the tool will be a factor in evaluating its performance.

Over an 18-month period, the tool helped the sales department increase revenue and reduce costs, while also receiving on-site feedback that could help improve performance.

Building a solid foundation for corporate culture
In many cases, compared with the overall company reform, the reform of corporate culture has the advantages of strong scalability and fast speed.

This is how Abhi Dhar’s experience is. Dhar joined the credit reporting company TransUnion after running an e-commerce startup for a year. Subsequently, Dhar took over the company’s IT department. At the time, the company’s IT department had embarked on the path of agility and DevSecOps, and could build software that would provide better credit reporting services to 75,000 corporate customers. He adjusted the department, but did not take too drastic measures. Dhar said: “I am very fortunate to be able to join an excellent company with a long culture.”

The company has also taken some measures to improve the employee experience to better attract and retain employees, including all aspects of improvement from the human resources system to end-user computing, designated full-time responsible person to supervise. Dhar said: “We want the most intelligent people to work here and stay here, so we must also pay attention to the work experience that can be provided to them.”

On the customer-facing side, Dhar focuses on improving operational technology so that TransUnion can respond to credit inquiries within a second response time, which may require a delicate balance between edge computing and analysis functions to help parse 65PB of data . At the same time, Dhar also explored machine learning that can be used for core credit services, but he also admitted that this is a difficult task because it is a challenge to prove that using machine learning can be effectively used for decision-making.

Dhar said: “For me, the point is to make sure I do n’t destroy anything. It ’s about how we accelerate technological transformation to create more value.”

Some tips for building a corporate culture
Rao and Dhar shared their experiences and lessons in building corporate culture.

Hire key leaders. Appropriate talent is crucial, and reform must be promoted from top to bottom. At NJ Transit, Fazal hired five top leaders, and each hired five other key figures. Everyone is passionate about transformation. Fazal said the company’s performance and services have grown tremendously in the past year.

Benchmark for success. In order to accelerate the cultural transformation of TransUnion, Dhar conducted benchmark tests on the following questions: “What is the prospect after 24 months?” “How can we continue to improve?” “Which measures are the highest level of measures that can see progress?”

Don’t deceive change management. Rao said that many companies only regard change management as a communication activity, but true change implementers will conduct overall management of the change, extend the scope of communication to performance management, and ensure compliance through monitoring and indicators. Rao said: “We have been monitoring the impact of the project on them.”

Business support is essential. Rao said that the most difficult thing for the CIO is to ensure that the business is recognized. The best way is to invite the CEO to join the entire reform to ensure that all parties can get investment. On the company side, Rao meets with the CEO and the leadership team every month to conduct gap analysis and check progress. Rao pointed out: “Cultural change is important, but many companies fail because they did not involve business in the process of change.”

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