Peter Sondergaard at TNT Symposium: Part 4

Michaël Renotte I 11:23 am, 13th 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 4: Five post-pandemic digital focus areas

1. Build digital technology platforms 

"The main thing is that we need to think differently about how we develop products", Peter Sondergaard pointed out.

"Last week, I was visiting an organization called Scan-Hide that sales skin for many of the shoes that you have", he told the audience. "Scan-Hide has taken a completely different approach to product development. They wanted to position themselves as a shoe manufacturer, not a hide producer. They now have an app - developed jointly with a shoe manufacturer - that indicates the origin of the leather your shoe is made of. You can also see the level of CO2 emissions generated by the production of that shoe, as well as the usage of water and the production of pollutants caused by the manufacture of the product. And most importantly, because the app is built on a blockchain, you can even identify which cow the hide comes from. This is really interesting for a lot of organizations in the shoe industry: Scan-Hide is now being inundated with calls from Gucci, Louis Vuitton and others who want to be certain that they can prove to everyone that the hides they use come from the right manufacturers".

"This is thinking product-based, this is a an integration with the entire back-end, with the entire ecosystem".

2. Employee-created digital transformation

"In the early 1980s, I used to work for Scandinavian Airlines", said Peter Sondergaard. "The company's CEO was very innovative. He revolutionized the airline industry through an unrelenting focus on customer service quality. His program was focused on delegating responsibility away from management and allowing customer-facing staff to make decisions to resolve any issues on the spot. His name was Jan Karlsson and he wrote a book called Tear the Pyramids Down. And I have applied his principle to software development". 

"Perhaps It is time for us to tear down the development pyramid, he said. "The way we have approached software over the course of the last 50 years as a specialist skill that involves specialist people leads to high complexity and, in some instances, vastly delays projects. So what if we reverse this pyramid? What if we in fact enable innovation to happen in the hands of everybody in the organization?"

"Earlier I mentioned no-code/low-code as being the option. It isn't. There isn't necessarily one thing that will solve this. There is a plethora of things, things like no-code/low-code tools but also the evolution of artificial intelligence as a supportive aspect of the tasks that we do, the usage of robotic process automation, the usage of the fact that managers at the frontline of our organizations are the most digitally aware. Why don't we use that? Why don't we turn the pyramid around? It doesn't mean that there aren't large scale projects that need to be driven by the CEO. Perhaps we should have a coexistence of these two pyramids so as to solve the fundamental problem of change that we have, which is that we don't have enough people to actually execute a fast enough change to deal with the world's most important challenges", he suggested.

3. Build a plan for Data & AI being the business 

"And then we obviously need to deal with the fact that, when we look across organizations, there is no business model formulated in which artificial intelligence and the development of data are actually at the core of the strategy", he said. Because most companies still have a strategy. And then they have a digital strategy … decoupled from the first one. Tell me which organization is great at executing two different strategies when, as I said earlier, we can't even execute one", he challenged the audience. 

"As we move forward, it's about time that we realize that we can't move straight from what I call an episodic digital strategy to an integrated strategy. The point is that you can't just do that, you have to go through phases. And it is critical for everyone here to start to make that crystal clear to the executive management of their organizations", stated Peter Sondergaard. "Because otherwise, we will fail again. Or we will end up as we have done in the first phase of digitalization, which is that we will have large scale projects, some that succeed, some that fail. But we will not be in the digital business. Because we didn't change everything that we operate", he warned.

(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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