Lucy Dimes is CEO EMEA of FTSE 250 UBM plc, a role she was identified for by UBM’s innovative use of Nurole’s marketplace for board level talent. With over 25 years’ global experience in Technology, Media and Telecommunications, she has driven growth and competitive advantage through digitalisation, technology-led innovation and sales effectiveness. She has held leading positions at Fujitsu where she was CEO UK & Ireland, Equiniti Group as Chief Operating Officer, BT and at Alcatel-Lucent as the CEO UK & Ireland. In 2013, Lucy was awarded the CBI First Woman in Science & Technology and Everywoman in Technology Corporate Leader of the Year.
What is digital transformation?
Digital transformation can mean different things to different people in different industries, but usually involves significant transformative change, proactively driven in your organisation, aimed at strategically shifting an off-line (manual, people centred) process to a digital interface. The result is usually a lower cost, faster and hopefully better experience for your employees or your customers, and can also be positioned to disrupt a long standing business model - in which case we call this digital disruption, as it has a really palpable, visible market impact too.
What is your experience of effecting digital transformation?
Technology and Telecoms companies, where I have spent a lot of my career, are natural first movers in adopting technology internally and then finding opportunities to sell externally. Internally, ERP (internal process and workflow) are still popular areas for digital transformation, such as deploying CRM systems – so anything that enables people to get things done without filling in endless forms, having to put things in the post or simply bypassing steps to free up people’s time for higher value add work. There are still a surprising number of opportunities in this area.
Customer impacting digital deployments are of course more visible and tend to be more innovative and – increasingly – enable a more personalised interaction with customers when combined with a good data analytics capability. At UBM, for example, we have launched apps for all our events, replaced printed directories with online digital versions, and use a ‘match-maker’ capability to help our customers schedule important meetings at events. I’m particularly focused here at UBM on our customer facing digital eco-system, as we call it, and ensuring we create an end-to-end experience for our customers beyond just exhibiting at or attending the event.
Why should digital transformation be a strategic priority for boards?
Because it could either be a significant threat or opportunity, or both. If you don’t adapt and adopt, somebody else will. If you’re proactive, it can be a source of differentiation versus your competitors. Even if neither is forthcoming in the short-term, boards are interested in keeping abreast of market trends, and there are very few companies these days where digital and technology aren’t strategic topics, and therefore relevant at board level.
At UBM EMEA we’ve taken the proactive opportunity-driven approach, and driven both internal and externally impacting digital deployments. Internally, we have rolled out standardised finance, sales and marketing systems globally. Externally, we have taken a very customer-centric approach, focusing on how we ensure our customers experience superlative service from us.
How should organisations thinking about digital transformation prepare?
The first and most important step is to be really clear about the objectives - are you trying to capitalise on an opportunity, or address a problem? Are you seeking to improve the customer experience or reduce the cost to serve your customer? …or all of these! We’ve been really clear at UBM in what we are trying to achieve and are properly tracking the costs and benefits of what we’re doing.
The second step is to (honestly) assess your capability – digital deployments need people who have done it before! The alternative is to build a really good relationship with an external partner, but you still need some people internally who know how to set up and run a good digital transformation programme.
The third, I would say, particularly for customer deployments, is to take an ‘agile’ approach, as opposed to ‘waterfall’ - a traditional IT programme approach which tends to be associated with more time and more cost. Agile means being pragmatic and quick, getting something off the ground, and incrementally developing it, and also having one team, with both IT and business people working hand-in-hand, so that you get something reasonably good in place quickly, and relatively cheaply, which allows you to build out from.
What is the board’s role in a successful digital transformation?
The board must ensure there is a clear tie-in between the digital agenda and the overall organisation’s strategy. Backing a few important steps forward is better than running a hundred incremental programs.
Another critical role is to ensure the IT department is working hand-in-hand with the business and they are integrated into the value proposition of the business. The CIO and IT people need to be at the table and seen very much as part of the executive team. Gone are the days of isolated IT teams who are summoned on occasion to fix the CEO’s computer when it crashes!
And of course the board should visibly support and sponsor the programme, perhaps ask the team to present to the board, or for example be on the user trial of its customer facing app, or logging on to a test web site – getting personally engaged is a must!
Who should lead the digital transformation process?
There is a new trend for Chief Digital Officers, but ultimately the CEO should be leading the charge. Digital should be a key priority for them in order for any sort of digital transformation to be successful; you can’t just rely on the Chief Technology Officer or Chief Digital Officer and it should be a part of everybody’s job description and on everyone’s agenda.
That said, shared responsibility never works, so as well as it being clear that it is sponsored at the highest possible level, there also needs to be clear accountability and authority given to one senior executive to drive through the implementation.
What are the reasons you see companies failing with digital transformation?
The most common reasons for failing with digital transformation I would say are:
- Lack of capability or experience or both: not having the people with the experience and capability. There are still some industries where digital transformation is still relatively new and so industry specific digital experience is scarce, and there is much less overall organisational experience and capability, this was the case when I worked in a financial services organisation, for example. If there hasn’t been a lot of talent churning in your organisation, then your company may not recognise or spot developments in the digital world and therefore fall behind, regardless of how talented your employees may be. Fresh talent is key; it doesn’t have to be ‘young people or millennials’, there are plenty of very proficient digital natives in their 40’s and 50’s, but varied experience is essential in the digital world.
- Lack of focus: ‘what can we do to improve the top-line or bottom-line?’ should be the first question, and not ‘what can we do that’s digital?’ or ‘what can we put online?’. It may seem ridiculous or obvious but some companies do that as they want to appear modern and in keeping with what their peers are doing.
- Failure to strategically integrate IT: not having a clear and cohesive relationship between the business and the IT/tech people doing the digital development - businesses need to create a key framework in order for the transformation to be successful.
- Ostrich behaviour: failing to keep an eye on market and competitor developments in the wider market, and therefore missing opportunities.
YOUR NUROLE EXPERIENCE
How did you hear about Nurole?
I was told about Nurole by my chairman at Equiniti. He said he had come across it and suggested we should look into it for recruitment.
What made you sign up?
It was a new business model, and I like to support disruptive and new business models, and I think it’s a great disruptive model whether you’re a candidate or a recruiter. It also gave me a very positive impression of UBM – I saw them as being open-minded and progressive, by using and supporting a new approach.
How have you found the experience as a member?
I found the experience a very positive one. It is a simple idea - all the best disruptive business ideas are. I like the approach whereby recommendations drive much of it - it creates a focused community.
What advice would you have for other members applying through the platform?
As an organisation, I would further encourage it for executive positions - that's where I see it being most disruptive. As a candidate, use it sparingly - have a strategy and be selective in what you apply for in order to get the best use of the platform.
How would you explain what Nurole does in one sentence to someone who doesn’t know it?
An online executive search portal.
ABOUT YOU - 10 QUESTION QUICK FIRE
3 words the person who has worked most with you would use to characterise you?
Strategic, focussed, engaging.
Touching the Void, Joe Simpson.
Asia De Cuba.
Safari in Addo Elephant Park near Port Elizabeth.
‘If you think you can, or think you can’t, you're probably right.’ - Henry Ford.
Skiing (should say family and children too!).
Professional achievement of which you are most proud?
Winning a $450m global outsourcing deal. Gaining a 1st in my degree and doing an MBA at London Business School after a shaky academic start in life!
Role model / mentor?
Several. I couldn’t pick out one. All who have helped me considerably in my career and have achieved great things in theirs.
SatNav...and google maps – that says something about my navigation skills doesn’t it!!
When does your alarm go off and how many hours of sleep do you have on average?
It’s normally set for 5.30am and I get up at 5.40. I’m a night owl and an early bird, although probably not naturally – I normally get 5-6 hours’ sleep, but have just bought a flat in London, so plan to get a bit more balance and sleep in my life in the future!
Best idea for a £10,000 investment?
Some sort of online health monitoring app linked to an automatic prescription – I suffer from an underactive thyroid and it seems to me that this health condition is ripe for some data collection and AI!
If you are looking for senior executive and non-executive director roles, Nurole's innovative recruitment platform can help.