InterviewDigital TransformationYouTube Interview Banner
Play Video about YouTube Interview Banner

Want to Take this Valuable Content With you? Download Your Copy of the eBook Here.

We know.  The answers to these twelve questions with a Digital Transformation expert are a lot to take in.  When we interviewed Kevin Yarnell of Cisco, we discussed many phases of the Digital Journey including how to get started, how to kickstart a culture shift, how to finance the transformation, and how to measure if the transformation was successful. 

We’ve converted the transcript into a downloadable eBook so you can review and reference at your own pace.  The eBook is instantly available, and a link of the eBook and the video of the interview will be sent to your inbox.

12 Questions Answered by a Digital Transformation Expert


The interview is conducted by Brandy Coulsey (B) of Next Dimension, interviewing Kevin Yarnell (K) of Cisco.  Looking for something specific? Click on any of the questions on the right to jump to that section of the interview transcript.

(B) My name is Brandy Coulsey and I’m the Marketing Manager at Next Dimension. We’re talking today about digital leadership and an organization’s readiness to get on the train for digital transformation; understanding where they sit in their appetite for change, and their ability to make the changes that they want, in order to move forward as an organization. We spent some time putting questions together; if we were able to talk to an Expert in Digital Transformation, what questions would we ask? And low and behold we have gotten ourselves in contact with Kevin Yarnell from Cisco! Kevin if you could just introduce yourself a little bit and let us know who it is we’re about to hear from as I ask these twelve tough questions.

(K) Hopefully they’re not too tough! I’m Kevin Yarnell, and I look after our hospitality, travel, tourism, and sports entertainment group here at Cisco on the Digital Transformation side. So, I get the opportunity to work with clients all over the Americas, talking through what is their digital strategy, and putting that in place. Starting from the beginning of ‘we have no idea where we’re going’ all the way through to some of our clients that have put a strategy in place and how they implemented it. They’re looking at us to help with some of the technology aspects of the digital transformation. I get the pleasure of doing that. I have all the fun clients! But I also represent an organization that looks after healthcare, retail, manufacturing, and financial services. We have five different categories that we work within, so I can speak on that as well.

(B) It’s really going to be interesting as these questions come out, if we can find some similarities even though the industries seems so far apart and so different, if their challenges kind of remain the same.

(K) That’s a great point, and I do think that there are going to be some carryover from industry to industry because, you know, as we’re seeing especially now in the pandemic is a perfect example of where a traditional healthcare client is now having to partner with a retail client to do vaccine distribution or things like that.  Hotels are now starting to open up their conference space to allow for super vaccine events where they can get three or four thousand people in. We would have never thought about that a year ago or 18 months ago, it would have just been business as usual. Well now some of the industries are starting to blend over and we’re now starting to look at ‘how does that transformation happen’ right? How do I have to adopt my business to understand that times are changing and I now need to look at new ways of getting in front of my customer? And I do think that that’s where digital transformation will come into play, and some of the use cases that we talk about will go from one industry to the next.

As an expert, what does digital transformation mean to you?

(B) And you know there’s so much out there already is as far as content about digital transformation and how to apply it to your business, but let’s start at the top. Really, what does digital transformation mean to you, Kevin?

(K) Ya that’s a great question. Thinking through that, I think I can go to the traditional answer of ‘taking what is a manual process and automating it’ and start looking at ways that we can use technology to help with some of that process, or I can give you a use case that speaks to me as a business traveler, and that use case is something very very simple: going to check in (at the hotel) and you’ve had a very long day of travel and delays, and you go to check into your hotel and maybe you’ve been there before. But you go through and they give you this little plastic key and they say “OK Mr. Yarnell, go up to floor number 12” and I lug my luggage all the way through, and I go through the elevator, and I try and stay safe and I go all the way up there and I walk through the long drawn-out hallway because inevitably, right, your room is at the very end of the hallway. I take this piece of plastic and I go to plug it in and doesn’t work! Now I’m very very frustrated. And again, that’s a very manual process right? I take this manual key, and insert into this manual lock, and in theory the door should open! What happens if it doesn’t? Now I have to go all the way back down, and all the way back through the process, and I have to wait in line, and I talk to the person and I say hey my key doesn’t work and they manually reprogram my key.

(B) My anxiety is building as you’re saying that – because I can recall so many times this happening!

(K) Absolutely! And you’re frustrated because you just want to get some rest, or you have a big presentation the next day, or whatever. Or, flip side is, you’re there on leisure travel and you’re lugging your two kids and you’re going through, and they just wanna go to the pool and they’re fired up and they’re excited and it just doesn’t work right. Or, we could talk about digital transformation; which means I could use my mobile key on this fun mobile device (holds up phone), and I could walk up, not have to deal with anybody, get off my plane, go in to check in, go straight to my room because they already gave me my room number. I go up and it doesn’t work right, but I get on a quick little chat bot with a contact center agent who says “Oh, I see there’s an error, my fault! Let me reprogram it for you. If you wouldn’t mind, just hit the refresh button.” Refresh – click! Now I’m ready to go. Door opens, go on inside, everybody’s good right? I took what was a traditional manual process, transformed it to a digital process, now instead of my anxiety levels, instead of my frustration level with my property up here, now I’m good – problem solved! Boom!  As travelers we all know, problems are going to occur. It’s not about the problem, its ‘how did you deal with it?’ and how quickly did it get resolved for me. And that’s exactly where I go to things like travel scores and TripAdvisor and other things, and then talk about positivity! I talk about here’s my problem but you fixed it; you now turned what could have been a very negative situation into a positive situation. Boom, done! Through the use of technology.  It was very easy to do. That’s a true digital transformation. That’s taking a manual process, and utilizing technology to make the end result a positive experience instead of a negative experience. That’s what it means to me. That’s Kevin’s life in a nutshell; that’s what digital transformation means to me.  Taking something very manual, and turning it into a positive experience through the use of technology.

Digital Transformations can be complex.  How can we simplify the process?

(B) And it’s so great that you applied something so practical as far as your explanation for digital transformation, and what it means to you. What you just described sounds really exciting to anybody who’s hoping to travel again one day.  I’m so glad we’re talking to a Digital Transformation Expert today.  But if we think through that process, going from manual to the euphoria of the hotel key that you describe, I start to think about the business processes and the types of mindset changes, and process changes that sound rather complex. It sounds like a big undertaking. How can companies look at making something like that as simple as possible? Simplifying that kind of a transformation?

(K) It starts with understanding ‘what silos within your organization can we start to break down’. And then we take them into very small chunks, or we take them into, you know, doable measurable tasks instead of the overall big business value. If you start by looking at it from end to end, it can be daunting. I used a very simple task, but there can be incredibly daunting tasks involved in each of those. How do you take it and break it into small little groups? Is your organization ready for those small little groups? And take on the small tasks first. First of all, in that environment we had to look at ‘what is the manual process’ and identify who owns it, and then we have to look at, you know, if we if we were to make a change, how would that impact their business on a daily basis? We start looking through those and that’s where, looking at an organization like Next Dimension to help you document ‘what are those processes’.  And looking at it from the perspective of, ‘how can we help automate just a small piece first’ and then what’s next? And then what’s after next? And we start looking through that process of what would that entail, and we start taking it into small durable little tasks instead of the big daunting end-to-end program. Yes we’ll get there, absolutely! And having that vision of where we want to go is important; but we also have to look at what are the doable tasks, and who do we need to get involved to make that happen, and then the most important piece is documenting that.  Documenting that individual task and understanding ‘what is the success criteria for that documented task’?

What stage in the transformation journey would you find most businesses today?

(B) For sure! And really when you talk about things like breaking it down to bite size pieces and then the next, and the next piece after that, in all your experience with all these different organizations that you’ve worked with across industries, where do you think most businesses are right now? What stage of their digital transformation journey are most companies sitting in right now?

(K) I think it depends on who you talk to. If you talk to the leaders of those companies, they have a vision of where they want to go and most of them are in the stage of planning, preparing, and understanding.  This pandemic has really forced folks to look at their business differently and I think most organizations are now looking at ‘where do we want to go?’ but they don’t necessarily have a plan of how to get there, and that’s why I say it depends on who you talk to. The leadership in those organizations say they want to get ‘here’, the folks who are responsible for the day-to-day operation or actually implementing those tasks, they need to figure out a plan of ‘what does that impact look like to myself and my business?’ and let’s all be on the same page. Let’s get the buy-in from each of those groups to say ‘yeah I’m willing to sacrifice; I’m willing to take on that task with the understanding that the outcome is going to save me a significant amount of time’, right?  When we start talking about different tasks, like, in a manufacturing customer; looking at a consumer packaged good program in one of the ones that we worked with recently, is alcohol production. What they did is, they looked at it their bar business. Bars are shut down, so we can’t produce our product in keg form anymore. We’ve got to look at it from a consumer packaged goods perspective, so they had to change their lines. They had to look at it from a perspective of, ‘oh by the way, if we want to stay relevant, we have to change what we were selling in keg form at the bar into bottle form’.  What does that mean? How does that look? And then what digitally can we look at from a production standpoint, and how can we automate that process, and what does that look like, and who all has to be involved in it? And oh by the way, we can’t forget this keg format because when things do open, we’re going to have to start that line again as well. We have to put this in place. Even some of them, I mean they went from their local community, instead of selling alcohol in their in their bottle form, they were selling bottled water or they were preparing bottled water and giving it out. So they had to look at their business process and how did that change right? So I do think taking a look at your business, a very long answer to your question, which is ‘where are they in this process?’, I think a lot of our organizations are looking at their business right now trying to figure out where do they want to be short-term, and long-term, and I think that we have to get the buy-in from each of the individual departments to get us to that direction they’re trying to go.

(B) It’s like you can read my questions ahead of time because they’re leading right into my next one! I will step back though, and say what’s an interesting local caveat here (in Southwestern Ontario), is we do have a number of alcohol companies and producers here locally, and they actually switched to hand sanitizer! That’s what they started producing and it was very interesting; they would offer it for free to go and pick up and what-not at the start of the pandemic so you’re absolutely right – it’s happening! At large-scale and small-scale, for enterprise, mom-and-pop, and across the board!

(K) Stop and think about that. They would have never thought of producing hand sanitizer a year ago! But they looked at what’s good for the community, and they had to get that out there. And then what portion of their organization – what impact would it have to that portion of the organization? The person who is traditionally responsible for the recipe of whatever alcohol product they were selling is not an expert in making hand sanitizer! And all of a sudden they had to learn right? They had to figure out, what does it look like? We all have to do that! We have to do that across every industry. We have to look at, ‘what does our business look like?’ A retailer is now looking at it from a perspective of ‘hey, we used to go to market this way, but now we have to change our methodology and go in a different way, and what does that look like?’ And then we talk about buy-in. Who all within the organization has to buy-in to that, to start small, and then how do they accomplish it? And again that’s where Next Dimension can take a look at their business process and help them with that transition piece.

What is a culture shift and how do you execute one?

(B) Yeah! and a big piece that you’re talking about with buy-in and other phrasing, but it’s essentially the same; I’d like to hear your thoughts on tying them together! It’s very well documented that you need a culture shift for a successful digital transformation. It can’t just be from the top, it has to be driven as an entire mindset shift across the organization; so, since we’re asking a digital transformation expert, if you can maybe talk to me a little bit about a culture shift versus a buy-in, or connecting them, it would be really great to hear your thoughts.

(K) Ya! One client that we work with is a very large physical fitness gym, and one of the things that they were working on was that exact culture shift. How do they change from going from in-person classes and workout and training sessions, and selling memberships, to ‘hey we can’t have people in our gyms anymore’. So how do they shift that paradigm to doing what they do on a digital platform? And doing online workout sessions and building that structure; how do we look at that? And it was very much a business culture shift right?  They’re used to having in-class sessions of 30-40 people where they’re building a curriculum for that, to individual use cases were somebody might log in and still want that same interaction. How do they go about that transition? And it was a culture shift very much around taking a look at ‘where is our business going?’ Taking a look at ‘how do we stay relevant?’ and taking a look at, from a trainer perspective who is used to training a class of 30 people, to creating the same content but it’s delivered in a different format. How do they adjust?  Looking at it again, it goes back to doing it in small bite-sized pieces. Doing it in, ‘how do I take step number one and accomplish that?’, and ‘who all do I need to get involved?’ and go from there. And then step number two, and step number three. And again – documentation, documentation, documentation! I have a saying that I love: “documentation beats conversation”. And that statement simply is all about how do we document this? How do we create a process around what is next? And what comes after next?

How do you avoid falling back into “old” habits instead of transforming forward?

(B) If you’re talking about a mindset shift like that, what are some of the helpful tips and reminders for keeping the right type of mindset during that transformation; to not fall back into old habits?

(K) Great point! I think that goes back to the buy-in and being able to – instead of having a mandate of ‘we’re going to do this’, it’s all around ‘hey, if we did this, what would that impact in your piece of the business?’ And having that open dialogue and having that understanding from a leadership perspective.  Department heads collectively going the direction of being able to tell that story to their employees, and being able to say ‘hey this is the direction we’re thinking about going, how would that impact you?’ And collecting that data and really listening, and being able to hear what our employees are saying. Ultimately, yes, there has to be business drivers and we have to move. But we also want to collect that buy-in. We also want to get them to understand.  We look at a casino environment, and their world has completely changed, and what happened from a dealer who is dealing Blackjack; so now all of a sudden they have to wear face coverings and work in plexiglass and only host so many people. Well they had to buy-in to that and had to understand that if we wanted to be open, these are the rules we have to play by. Are we willing to play by those rules? The other option is, they’re NOT open, they’re shut down and they’re out of work. They would prefer to play by the rules and still be open to do these types of things. This is one very simple example in a hospitality-centric environment. We look at the airline industry; a lot of them have decided that they’re only going to be at 2/3 capacity and leave the middle seats open. That’s just something they had to understand and abide by. As we continue to open up we’re looking at different ways to keep everybody safe and go through that process as well.

What are some of the biggest roadblocks that mid-size businesses face along the journey

(B) If we’re able to come back out a bit to have an organizational view, what do you think some of the biggest roadblocks midsize private companies are facing when they’re trying to push through this digital transformation journey?

(K) I think the biggest one that we see often is the perception of not having budget. Perception of ‘we can’t do that! Who’s going to pay for it?’ or ‘we can’t go through that change because we’ve always done it this way!’ Being able to change that mindset and being able to talk to the overall ROI versus a single project caveat. Avoid saying ‘I don’t have budget to do that so I’m not even going to entertain that.’ You look at things like collecting employee data or looking at something as simple as social distancing; one of the requirements of that would potentially be a Wi-Fi network; doing a Wi-Fi refresh. If you say ‘we don’t have budget to do a complete rip and replace Wi-Fi network!’ you’re right.  But if we look at it from a very small structure of “what do I have to do here” piece, ideally at the end of the day, we will get to the return on investment that would pay for that wireless refresh. And again, it’s all about going through those small little steps. One of the roadblocks right now is the first perception of ‘I don’t have budget for that – we can’t do that, we don’t have budget for it’. We’re not asking for a bazillion dollars for it. What we’re talking about is the conversation. What would step one look like? And then step two, and step three, and when we get to the end of the road we can build out a true value statement that says ‘we can’t afford NOT to do this!’ Again, I go back to the alcohol production scenario where they had to completely revisit their lines.  Well they might not have had budget to retool a complete line but at the end of the day, they had to do that, and when we had to build that entire process out to keep them in business, they had to retool their lines. That was a cost up front.  But, that specifically around the automation and the IoT piece, we looked at, where else could they use that 3-5 years from now? What other production efficiencies could we look at, and how do we make them more efficient? I would say let’s have the conversation. Let’s continue to talk about utilizing Next Dimension. How do we pair that value statement that goes all the way through, so that at the end of the day, the return-on-investment is significantly higher than the initial cost.

What do you do with the strategy you started pre-pandemic? HINT: Don’t toss it!

(B) I’m so glad we’re recording this, because you gave us some great tips on what the first steps would be to overcoming some of the various roadblocks that we may be facing for our organization! Thank you for those notes. What about companies that were the early adopters; those who pre-pandemic were all about that digital transformation? They were all gung-ho about ‘Let’s do this! Let’s transform our business!’ But then of course they switch gears to just hanging on over the last 10-12 months. How would they know if their strategy is still relevant? What do we say to those people who worked so hard to build a strategy and maybe we were close to pulling the trigger, and then of course they had to literally switch gears without any option?

(K) Ya they’re trying to keep the lights on! Right? Which is a real struggle. I’d say keep the vision. Let’s continue to look at it, but let’s look at it from ‘what is our immediate needs?’ Right?  It might be we were trying to change our entire business; now I need to look at things like return to work. How do I make sure that my employees have a hybrid environment that they need to continue doing the job that we’re looking for? So we take the same excitement, the same motivation, the same enthusiasm that we had before and we just redirect it to an immediate need; our immediate problem. So how do we take a look at where we were going?  How do I change my business now in a way that’s going to give me the biggest return on investment? The same strategy you had in place, and the same enthusiasm, is not unwarranted, it just needs to be redirected. So we take a look at, what is our immediate need today? How do we take that same philosophy of ROI and put it towards something that is an immediate need today? It could be return to work; although I hesitate to use that term because I believe employees have been working this entire time. Maybe you change it to “return to office”. We pivot to giving our staff the tools that they need to be productive. It might be a hybrid work centre. It might be, instead of me working a 9-5 job, it might be ‘I now need to work two hours here take a break two hours later, but I might be working later’ and we just need to be adaptive and comfortable with that new shift in what the work day looks like. And that’s just one small example. There’s also examples in manufacturing and healthcare. In healthcare I know they are going through a completely different scenario right now; they’re experiencing clinician burnout. Folks are working so much that we need to give them breaks, and we need to figure it out. What are some of the ways that we can be productive and still give folks the tools that they need to be to be to be productive? If we’re looking at some scenarios where instead of seeing everybody face-to-face, is there an environment where we can do telehealth? Do we need to transition into that mindset instead of ‘yeah we have to see patients face-to-face in person?’ That’s just one of the pivot tools that have come out where we had to look at ‘yes, we absolutely understand that we need to see our patients in a different format’, and that was our key a year or two ago. Now it’s, ‘well do we accelerate telehealth?’ And do we invest in that technology first? I think there are those pivot points that we can focus on.

(B) For all of our early adopters and enthusiasts out there, dust off your digital strategy that you had all buttoned-up in 2018-2019! Just take a new look at the same document and see how it can still be applicable. We’ve asked the digital transformation expert and he says don’t be afraid to push forward.  Because like you said, we’re not returning to work – we’ve been doing it the whole time in some capacity!

(K) I think the people that were enthusiastic, the people on your team that were your business drivers of that digital transformation, will still be your business drivers. They will still help promote that new philosophy, just in a different lens.  And so as leaders we need to tap those same folks, and utilize their enthusiasm and their willingness to support and willingness to drive change within their teams. We need to tap them again and continue that strategy.

What are the best ways to budget for, and finance the digital transformation?

(B) Okay so we’ve talked about ‘don’t be afraid to look at a transformation’.  We’ve talked about ‘don’t be afraid to dust off your transformation’, we’ve talked about taking a look at the world around you; talked about what are some of those roadblocks and how to overcome them. We’ve mentioned budget and the culture change and all these things. Now, if we have a company that’s agreed and said ‘yes, we know we need to do this, and yes the value is there, and yes we need it for our business.’ But now we see that there’s some options; what are some of the best ways to budget and finance this type of transformation?  Do you look at a capital expense with on-prem technologies? Do you look at operating expenses with so many things ‘as-a-service’? Is it a hybrid? How do you decide which is right for you as an organization?

(K) You know I think it is going to come down to the organization and I think discussing those options with folks that have been through it and can provide you different scenarios. I don’t know that there’s a one-size-fits-all for everybody. I do think as we continue to push things to an OP-EX model or a SaaS model, I do think there’s value in them. I also think there’s value in the hybrid model and depending on what the organization is willing to adopt, and what the organization’s willing to consume now. But I do think creating a roadmap and putting a framework in place of ‘how do we get to where we want to go?’ is incredibly valuable. I do think there is absolutely cost savings in moving to a SaaS model, if it makes sense for your business. But I do think we have to look at that, and have an understanding of ‘what do we do today?’  Putting in a ‘what do we do to get started’ phase, and ‘what do we do next’, as we talked about, and then what’s after next? Where do we want to go longterm?  I think looking at those financial models across – and getting creative – I think, at Cisco, one of the things that we pride ourselves on is creative financing; and looking at ways to help our customers adopt a technology in a way that is consumable to them. Our traditional go-to-market might not be the best way to go for everybody. Looking at creative ways, working with an organization like Next Dimension and determining how we creatively put a strategy in place, is going to get us to achieve our business outcomes. Again, going back to ‘how do we create the ROI?’ That’s going to be the piece that is absolutely necessary.  And I know Next Dimension does have creative ways of looking at helping our customers get to where they want to go, with reducing the struggle of budget, or the struggle of financing. Let’s look at some creative ways to get us to where we want to go, and we can partner with you and help you on that long-term strategy. The other key there, is also putting a framework and putting a piece in place that says ‘here’s what we need to do today, here’s where we want to go, and here’s how we’re gonna get there.’ The sooner we can do that, the sooner we can get that documented, the sooner we can all be in play to say ‘let’s put a strategy in place of how we finance that’.

What are the first signs that the digital transformation needs to be adjusted?

(B) Document, document, document! And he said it again! Let me ask you: for companies that are all set and ready to go, they are ready to pull the trigger, and they are ready to go from strategy development to actual execution. They are ready to transform. They are making their first few steps. What are some of the signs that the company may need to go back and iterate and adjust? If I’m the business going through the transformation, and I start to make the changes, what are some of those telltale signs that maybe we need to go back and take a second look? Maybe this may not be the best first step forward?

(K) I mean we talk a lot about the term “fail fast” right?! Let’s figure out ‘what is our success criteria?’ How are we going to measure success? Our clients know their business way better than Cisco does. We simply have the ability to help with a strategy in play, but we have to figure out what their success criteria is, and how do we identify those quickly.  Are we hitting those metrics? If we are, great! Let’s accelerate those. Let’s move fast! If we’re not, let’s fail fast. Let’s look at what caused it and how do we adjust? And how do we figure out where that is? Is it People, Process, or Technology that is causing that failure? If that is the case, how do we adjust one of those three things? Then let’s look at that, and let’s continue down that path. I do believe in: fail fast, accelerate quickly, move if you’re ready to go, and if you have the team buy-in. What are we waiting for? Let’s get rolling on this today. Let’s get going because you’re going to see the results that much faster.

Which departments inside a business handle transformation the best?  Which departments typically pose the biggest challenge?

(B) Of course now if I’m going through this transformation and I’m ready to roll, which departments, in your experience, have been able to transition the smoothest? Are there some departments that have done a better job than others, or is it some personnel types, or is it some industry types? Where do you see some of the smoothest transitions? And then of course you know the next question is going to be what have been some of the clunky-est? Can you give me any insight on these?

(K) Ya! And without calling people out directly, I think organizations that have a Digital Strategy Officer or somebody that is that is responsible for the success, obviously means they’re bought in and they’re ready to go. In looking at certain things, I do think that there are traditional organizations that are stuck in their ways, or they’ve ‘done it this way’ forever and I think that we just need to identify that. Some organizations I don’t think would be fair for me to say “Oh, IT is traditionally the slowest adopter” because I do think there are some organizations we’ve seen where IT is pushing the forefront, and they’re going this direction. Same with Marketing or Operations. I do think the key to all of this is to have open dialogue, and involve the department heads.  The last thing anybody wants is “Hey by the way, we’re going this direction we bought this technology and it’s yours to support it.” And dump it in somebody’s lap. Nobody likes that feeling. Getting involved in the buying process, getting involved in the evolution process up front, again like we talked about before, getting that buy-in is going to promote your success, and is going to allow you to get where you’re going that much faster. Then they can understand how it’s going to impact their department up front. I think that’s going to be mission critical. I think the folks that are traditionally, to your point, the “clunky-est” are the ones that aren’t involved in the up front process, and are told on the back end “this is where we’re going and you’re going to buy-in. You’re going to get on board or you’re going to get out.” I think that never works. I think that having the up front conversation, explaining the return on investment and getting their buy-in as to how it’s going to impact them is absolutely mission critical up front.

How can businesses continue to optimize? What should their shifted priorities be?  

(B) Now what about companies that are those few, those proud, those groups that have made it all the way through their transformation and they’re shifting now to digital optimization. They’ve gone through the transformation, now they’re seeing that there’s many ways to further fine-tune this bad boy.  How can they continue to optimize and what should their shifted priorities be?

(K) I think those are the fun ones! When they get to that point and they’re all excited, then we look at how do we rinse & repeat? How do we take what they’ve done and celebrate their success, and how do we rinse and repeat their success in other departments? The second piece to that is, how do we take what we’ve done, and look at it as a new revenue stream? How do I take it and say ‘ok as an organization I can now take what we’ve accomplished and sell that piece or that technology stack, or that methodology; that new process and look at, how do I sell that to my industry? How do I sell that to others?’ And we look at taking that piece, that’s when it gets really exciting because then we can take it and say; a) we’re celebrating your success, b) look at what we’ve accomplished and we think we have something here that other people within our industry, within our community, can now look at that can replicate that.

(B) So much easier to buy into a proven methodology isn’t it?

(K) Right. When we have something that already works, when we have the win, it’s going to sell that much easier. It’s going to help eliminate some of the speed bumps and cautionary tales along the road. We’ve already been through it.

How do you measure if your digital transformation was successful?

(B) Exactly. I can’t believe our time is flying so fast, but I do have one last question for you and that is: how do you actually measure if your digital transformation was successful? What are some of the key performance indicators, aside from the fact that the last project is ticked off the list; its done.  What are some of those KPIs we can see that we’ve achieved something here?

(K) I like to look at it a couple different ways. One, obviously sales results or any of those financial targets. That’s easy to see; are the targets out there, and did we hit them. The second one is employee satisfaction, and employee involvement. And looking at it and say, how excited are people to tell this story?  How excited are people to tell what they’ve been through? If they’re positive and they’re willing to say absolutely this was: ‘we started here with plastic room keys, we’ve now got into the digital key and the ability for our guests to have that satisfaction number and that satisfaction scores are skyrocketing’, how willing are they to share that journey with their peers or with other folks? Especially new hires. If we’re expanding our team and we’re looking at that – how willing are they to say ‘yes, we went through this but here’s why, and here were the great results at the end’. And are they willing to positively tell that story? As we continue to go through, I talked a lot about buy-in, buy-in is a continuous organic process; it’s not a one and done. It’s a continuous organic process to say, ‘are you willing to go through it again?’ and if they are, or what other suggestions do you have, this worked so well, what other suggestions do you have, where could we go next? I always talk about a framework – what did we have to do today, what do we have to do tomorrow, and then what do we do next? Well that starts over. Because once you get to that third piece, it starts over, and then we continue to look at what’s next. And that’s when organizations are evolving and continuing to grow. That’s what organizations are getting better at is thinking differently and changing where we’re going; not only as an organization but as an industry. And that’s when it becomes really fun. And that’s when this digital transformation is repeatable and that’s when you create a brand around digital transformation.

(B) It’s a good thing I asked an expert because I would have never guessed employee satisfaction to be number two! I was waiting for price-per-part, I’m waiting for productivity, I’m waiting for something in graphs and charts! But no, you’ve explained it very well and that’s why it’s so important, and once you articulated it, how could it be anything else?  Its all around experience, and I think that translates to every single industry.

(K) But if we can’t get our employees to buy-in, the rest of that is secondary in the sense that, you know I always look at it from a guest satisfaction perspective being in the hospitality industry. If I can’t get my employees or my staff members or my team members to buy-in, I don’t care what room rate we’re charging; I don’t care what free breakfast we’re giving away. It’s a commodity at that point.  If my experience checking into the hotel isn’t getting a bright smile from my employee, then why am I there? It’s all around experience, and I think that translates to every single industry. Whether it be healthcare or retail or manufacturing, if the employees aren’t buying-in to what we’re doing, why are we doing it?

(B) Kevin this is great thank you so much for giving us the time today and for answering all of our questions, so well thought out and it gave us a lot to think about as well! It likely speared some more questions so it wouldn’t surprise me if you and I maybe met up again and have another conversation around some of these follow-up questions that I’m sure will be coming our way.

(K) My pleasure! And bring it on! I love having this dialogue and continuing to have this conversation.

(B) Awesome thank you so much Kevin I appreciate it. Thank you for being with us.

Want to keep this interview on hand for reference? Download the eBook Now.

Ready to take the next steps on your Digital Journey? Now that we’ve asked all the questions of our Digital Transformation Expert, it’s time to take what we’ve learned and apply it to the business.  Use our Digital Leadership Toolbox to help you along your journey.

Want to Take this Valuable Content With you? Download Your Copy of the eBook Here.

We know.  The answers to these twelve questions with a Digital Transformation expert are a lot to take in.  When we interviewed Kevin Yarnell of Cisco, we discussed many phases of the Digital Journey including how to get started, how to kickstart a culture shift, how to finance the transformation, and how to measure if the transformation was successful. 

We’ve converted the transcript into a downloadable eBook so you can review and reference at your own pace.  The eBook is instantly available, and a link of the eBook and the video of the interview will be sent to your inbox.

interview ebook cover page