Peter Sondergaard at TNT Symposium: Part 3

Michaël Renotte I 2:14 pm, 9th December

A sought-after keynote speaker and industry thought leader, Peter Sondergaard* gave a notable presentation at the TNT Symposium' first edition in front of an audience of 400 tech decision-makers. Throughout this week, we propose you to relive - or discover - the best moments of Peter Sondergaard's inspirational speech.

Post-Pandemic Digitalization: An Explosion in Change

Part 3: A surge in digital projects

"How does the world look as a result of technology?", asked Peter Sondergaard. "I believe that three things very simply describe the digital world we are building", he said. "I am convinced that these things will fundamentally change the way we think, operate and experience ourselves, the organizations we work for, the products and services that we engage with. This is what you must build into your strategy now".

"We have obviously been through change. We have been through what I have, for now about 18 months, called false digitalization or at least somewhat skewed digitalization", he affirmed. "Because if I had asked you in January of 2020 how much of this was part of your strategy, it would be clear today that either your strategy in 2020 was wrong - and I think there are elements of your strategy in 2020 that actually still are relevant - or it is obvious that we diverted. We had to react and we did three things that moved us towards what I described earlier". 

"We clearly looked at the digital workplace in a different way", he said. "It was a patchwork of solutions that - now we clearly realize - didn't necessarily take into consideration the fact that we as human beings have changed our perspective of what work is, when work happens, and how work is done. And we haven't solved, by what we've done the last 18 months, the problem of how we do actually work. The vast majority of you in this room know this".

"It is also very clear that we started a shift to look at automating processes. It was again a patchwork because we had to", he admitted. "I have a client that, in March of last year, suddenly lost 3000 Call Centre employees", Peter Sondergaard told the audience. "And you would perhaps, if you think a little bit about this, think that they just started working from home. But they didn't, because these call centre employees are based in Malaysia and they do not have a home with the necessary computing infrastructure to actually work from. So this organization suddenly did not have the resources to support them from one day to the other. That forced them to look at a very aggressive project that moved robotic process automation in as a replacement of those workers".

"It is also clear that we started to use artificial intelligence, at least as a POC to test whether or not there were decisions that we human beings didn't have to make ourselves any more", he said. "And we started a revolution that we haven't realized yet, which is why couldn't we give people the opportunity to develop so that every person in the organization becomes a developer through using low code or no code tools", he added.

"We also revolutionized the way we looked at digital commerce, the way we had to trade, engage, serve people in our organizations". 

"This wasn't your strategy in 2020", he stated. "It became your strategy".

"As you reformulate your plans, as you create a post-pandemic approach to digitalization, the question is what role does this play versus all the other elements that you put aside? I would suggest that there are at least five things that we should focus on over the course of the next couple of years", said Peter Sondergaard. 

"We should start to think seriously about digitalization as a way to create products, and therefore look at getting tools that allow us to do that. Some of you may say: 'Wait, this is what I've been doing for a very long time'. Not really. I met with a manufacturer of heating pumps last week. And interestingly enough, when I asked the top management 'Have you digitalized?', they said 'Yes, we have digital pumps now'. When I asked the people in the organization that manufacture the pumps, they answered 'No, we're a pump manufacturer that has a device attached to the pump that makes it digital'. This illustrates the necessity of switching from our process or project-oriented approach to building products, to truly being a digital product builder".

"We also need to look at the emerging revolution of low code, no code, he addedWe need to look at what this could imply for our organization if we want to build on data and AI as the foundations of what we do. Not as an add on, but as a foundation".

"We need to consider the fact that our business models are changing. How do we react when it comes to approaching new business models?", he asked.

"And last but not least, we have to stop thinking that there are people in the organization that execute digitalization and start assuming everybody does. If there is something this crisis has taught us, it is that we cannot digitalize what we do, and therefore not react to the change, if in fact we do not start now to engage everybody, and therefore think differently about organizational design, skills and leadership", he underlined.

(to be continued)

Michael Renotte

*Peter Sondergaard was executive vice president and member of Gartner’s operating committee for 15 years. He founded The Sondergaard Group and now runs his own Executive Advisory business. Additionally he is chairman of the board for, an artificial intelligence platform company, DI2X, a digital leadership development and research institute, and DecideAct, a cloud-based strategy execution management and governance platform.

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