• Sajid Khetani

Takeaways from the D'IVE session on ‘Digital Transformation & Design Thinking’ | 25th May 2019

Sajid Khetani, Turian Labs


Constant pressure on businesses to innovate and grow in a dynamic & competitive environment has made digital transformation a top priority for businesses across industries. Organizations are devoting significant time, effort, and money to digitally transform. But, effort does not necessarily translate into benefit and we see many organizations continue to struggle on account of poor strategy & implementation. There is also disagreement in terms of defining what really is digital transformation - It is much more than implementing discrete technologies which has been the mandate of the software industry so far.


Digital transformation is the integration of digital technology into all areas of business, fundamentally changing how a business delivers value to its customers. As businesses move from paper to spreadsheets to smart applications, there is a need to reimagine how can businesses generate value for its customers on an ongoing basis. It is much more than just optimizing the existing service which was the time when we moved into the age of digitization (moving from paper to spreadsheets). The need is to understand if the technology is really capable to transform the business and how can the business make the most of its technology investments. It is about transforming the ‘transactions’ with the customers into ‘conversations’.


This is what a digital transformation in the finance function looks like.

  • The function may automate transaction processes

  • Streamline data collection and preparation and use advanced analytics to continuously identify opportunities to improve performance

  • Use chatbots and self-service tools to improve business users’ access to financial data

  • And shift headcount from operational to technology-based skill sets

The last D’IVE* session which took place on the 25th May revolved around the theme of digital transformation. The speaker for the day was Vijay Basrur, Digital Transformation champion at the Mahindra group. He shared his thoughts on the role of innovative & creative thinking in the digital transformation journey. The below points are the key takeaways.


Ecosystem engagement | Mahindra Group & Ola

Mahindra Group got into a strategic partnership with Ola which encompassed vehicle sales, insurance and resales support. The partnership also focused on financial inclusion by empowering the driver partners to purchase vehicles at a highly affordable price.


Due to rising popularity of cab aggregator companies viz., Uber & Ola, we are not far away from a future where people would stop buying cars. A disruption which was seen as eating into personal car acquisition space, can turn into a huge opportunity for companies like Mahindra, if the ambitions of companies like Ola are met.


Along with it, there is an immense amount of data which is available from the driver partners of Ola, which is focused on the driving pattern. This data is of immense value for a car producing company which helps them to better understand the needs of the driver and discover the areas of improvement from a driving experience perspective.


It’s more about people and less about technology

It is critical to recognize that we may deploy the best of technologies, but if the people are not in sync with the initiative, it may not work. This holds true even for the leadership (decision makers) - they are expected to lead from the front and empower their teams. Lastly, it is imperative that the old problems and processes are looked through newer lenses which are more in sync with the context.


Vijay spoke about an instance during a digital transformation project which Mahindra Agri was undergoing. The key stakeholders were introduced to ~250 startups operating in the agritech space. The mandate was to meet with these entities and get a better understanding of how the new age companies were solving problems in the agri space. There were no strings attached to this activity; it was more about immersing into the world of startups.


Agility is key

In the rapidly changing environment, agility is the key. How do you rapidly generate hypotheses and test them on the ground and quickly iterate on the direction? This is where Design Thinking as a methodology comes to the rescue. Rapid immersion, sense making & iteration based on feedback help come up with an evidence based outcome and generate immense value in the digital transformation journey.


Means to an end

Digital transformation journey is a means to an end and hence a solution led approach which clearly articulates the value which you are creating for the intended beneficiary. People are looking at solutions to their problems and they really don’t care much about the technology at play. Hence, a solution led approach is much better than a technology led.


Having said that, one can not deny that digital transformation requires a lot of risk appetite and risk capital. So involvement of the senior leadership, right from the front, is a must for any successful bridge between business & technology.


A mix of people from the core domain & non-core domain in the team is known to deliver results through a broader perspective on the challenges/solutions at hand. This is where an external Design Thinking consulting teams make a difference.


To conclude, digital transformation is a journey and not the destination.

* D'IVE is a recurring collaborative-learning-meet-up of cross-industry professionals eager to explore and expand their awareness of Design Thinking & innovation. D'IVE is designed to be an interactive format for exchanging ideas on a weekend, (currently) at Pune, India. It is an initiative by Turian Labs.