Written by Nick Pike, VP UK and Ireland, OutSystems
There’s a sense in enterprises today that digital change is now inevitable. By the end of 2019, spending on digital transformation will reach £1.2 trillion worldwide—up 42% from 2017, according to a report from (IDC) late last year. But for many enterprises, it is not just the usual challenges such as organisational resistance to change and legacy business models that make the digital transformation journey difficult. Securing investment is a major factor. Also, the fear that digital transformation will burn up time and money can prevent businesses from committing to the process. However, it doesn’t have to be a costly exercise: organisations can set up teams to accelerate digital transformation without making significant investments in resources by following five key steps.
Step 1: Assemble an Adoption Team
Digital transformation affects a whole company. It’s not just an “IT thing.” It changes how business gets done. Therefore, a force is needed to push change across your organisation. This is how an adoption team can help. To build one, you need to fill the following key roles:
- Executive sponsor: Digital transformation requires support from the very top. An executive sponsor (or sponsors) who can articulate a compelling vision and find the necessary funding is essential.
- Adoption champion: Every movie has a resilient hero full of enthusiasm. In a digital transformation initiative, the adoption champion is that hero, driving the programme and building consensus, while valiantly handling a few issues on the way.
- Adoption expert: All teams and projects benefit from the guidance of someone who has been on the journey before and is full of valuable advice and direction. The adoption expert can help overcome any unwelcome surprises.
For these roles, you will need to look inside your organisation and work out who is most likely to take on the task. The one exception is the adoption expert, who is usually a consultant or representative from an outside company whose expertise is accelerating digital transformation.
Step 2: Build a Core Digital Transformation Development Team
Big projects are best undertaken in small stages, and digital transformation is no different. Start small, usually with a simple application or piece of software. Your adoption team can help decide what to try. Now you can build a core development team.
Who Should Be on the Core Team
Every organisation has its own unique structure; however, when it comes to delivering software, there are some common functions involved, and they can be broken down to form your core as follows:
- Business user: Make sure you build software or an app that the business wants by having at least one representative from the business working with your core team, sharing process information, and even testing, if needed.
- Product owner: Someone acting as a proxy between the development team and the business user helps keep the project on track.
- Tech lead: Tech leads address architectural and operational tasks. They design app-level architecture, control code quality, and map technical features to business requirements.
- Developers: If your project doesn’t require a mobile app with a front-end to delight consumers, you can complete your first app with a few all-purpose developers. If you’re using a low-code platform, you won’t need more than three.
Where to Find Your Core Team and What to Look For
You may find people for this team inside your organisation, depending on your size and makeup. For the business user, you need someone who truly understands the business processes you are transforming and is comfortable with technical communication. The product owner should have project management and excellent communication skills.
Step 3: Expand Your Core Team
After you build your first successful app, you’ll quickly want to expand to bigger and more exciting projects with amazing user experiences. So, it’s time to increase the size of your team.
Who Should Be on the Expanded Team
To ensure a user experience that is intuitive, comfortable, and brilliant, add these roles:
- Key users: Mobile apps require a customer focus. Key users provide that perspective throughout the design and development process.
- Tester: First impressions determine an app’s success. You need a dedicated and knowledgeable tester on your team for performance and cross-device testing.
- Front-end developer: If you want to build an app that users will adopt, you’ll need a dedicated front-end developer who gets into the minds of users, cares about their experiences, and pays attention to every detail.
- UX/UI designer: Understanding the customer journey and developing an optimised experience requires the specialised skills of a UX/UI designer.
Where to Find Your Expanded Team and What to Look For
Great key users are interested in making your app better by describing what they look for in a digital experience; they are willing to test things out. Testers need to be detail-oriented, sceptical, with at least three years of software QA, test planning, and test writing experience.
By the way, to close the loop, you’ll need your customer service team fired up to deliver excellent service as part of the rollout of a new customer solution. Get ready to cheer; you’re on the fast path to success with an app that users can’t wait to try. But there’s no stopping now.
Step 4: Turn Your Team into a Centre of Excellence
Success leads to many more apps. This is a critical point in the digital transformation journey. Demand can quickly spiral out of control until you are right back where you have started: staring down an overworked IT team with a heavy backlog load and an adoption team that’s lost interest. So how do you combat this?
A Centre of Excellence provides just the right level of governance and control, so you can safely scale your digital transformation projects across multiple teams, all set up just like your first ones. More teams involved in digital transformation means it’s vital to make sure you have got best practices for architecture and UI/UX in place for everyone.
Who Should Be on Your Centre of Excellence Team?
You’ll also benefit from adding a couple more roles as you build out your Centre of Excellence:
- Programme manager: Working closely with the business users, adoption team, and product owners, the programme manager leads in prioritising and sequencing new apps and features in your projects.
- Architect: In a Centre of Excellence, the architect develops standards for architecture, communicates them to project teams, and makes sure they are used. This provides the consistency that prevents technical debt and keeps things humming along.
Where to Find Your Centre of Excellence Team and What to Look For
Look for a programme manager who has experience running projects, along with technical depth and excellent communication skills. A continuous improvement mindset is critical.
To find your architect, target people who know your business and industry and have comprehensive experience with projects that combine hardware, software, application, customer service, and systems engineering. They should demonstrate knowledge of IT governance and operations and excellent interpersonal leadership skills. Don’t settle for anyone with less than exemplary communication skills.
With this leadership, you can set up multiple core and expanded teams whenever and wherever they’re needed. Your digital transformation projects can scale with sustainability.
Step 5: Get the Playbook
Despite how much easier digital transformation can be when you structure your teams and projects in the right way, it’s a lot of work. Fortunately, there’s a guide for that. The Digital Transformation Foundation Playbook is a super reference for anyone who is overwhelmed by massive backlogs, scarce resources, legacy systems, and uncertainty and needs to kick-start their digital journey.
Hopefully, the outlined steps will provide enterprises with a great insight into making the digital transformation journey a success. As businesses continue to adopt a digital approach, these successes can spawn further successful projects. This, in turn, will help deliver a consistent and positive brand experience through your entire customer journey, as well as increase sales, retention and growth of customer base.
IMF lifts global growth forecast for 2021, still sees ‘exceptional uncertainty’
By Andrea Shalal
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The International Monetary Fund on Tuesday raised its forecast for global economic growth in 2021 and said the coronavirus-triggered downturn in 2020 would be nearly a full percentage point less severe than expected.
It said multiple vaccine approvals and the launch of vaccinations in some countries in December had boosted hopes of an eventual end to the pandemic that has now infected nearly 100 million people and claimed the lives of over 2.1 million globally.
But it warned that the world economy continued to face “exceptional uncertainty” and new waves of COVID-19 infections and variants posed risks, and global activity would remain well below pre-COVID projections made one year ago.
Close to 90 million people are likely to fall below the extreme poverty threshold during 2020-2021, with the pandemic wiping out progress made in reducing poverty over the past two decades. Large numbers of people remained unemployed and underemployed in many countries, including the United States.
In its latest World Economic Outlook, the IMF forecast a 2020 global contraction of 3.5%, an improvement of 0.9 percentage points from the 4.4% slump predicted in October, reflecting stronger-than-expected momentum in the second half of 2020.
It predicted global growth of 5.5% in 2021, an increase of 0.3 percentage points from the October forecast, citing expectations of a vaccine-powered uptick later in the year and added policy support in the United States, Japan and a few other large economies.
It said the U.S. economy – the largest in the world – was expected to grow by 5.1% in 2021, an upward revision of 2 percentage points attributed to carryover from strong momentum in the second half of 2020 and the benefit accruing from $900 billion in additional fiscal support approved in December.
The forecast would likely rise further if the U.S. Congress passes a $1.9 trillion relief package proposed by newly inaugurated President Joe Biden, economists say.
China’s economy is expected to expand by 8.1% in 2021 and 5.6% in 2022, compared with its October forecasts of 8.2% and 5.8%, respectively, while India’s economy is seen growing 11.5% in 2021, up 2.7 percentage points from the October forecast after a stronger-than-expected recovering in 2020.
The Fund said countries should continue to support their economies until activity normalized to limit persistent damage from the deep recession of the past year.
Low-income countries would need continued support through grants, low-interest loans and debt relief, and some countries may require debt restructuring, the IMF said.
(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)
Leon Black step downs as Apollo CEO after review of Epstein ties
By Mike Spector and Chibuike Oguh
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Leon Black said on Monday he would step down as chief executive at Apollo Global Management Inc, following an independent review of his ties to the late financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
While Black, whose net worth is pegged by Forbes at $8.2 billion, will remain Apollo’s chairman, his decision to step down illustrates how doing business with Epstein weighed on the reputation of one of Wall Street’s most prominent investment firms. Black co-founded Apollo 31 years ago.
Apollo said it plans to change its corporate governance structure, doing away with shares with special voting rights that currently give Black and other co-founders effective control of the firm.
The independent review, conducted by law firm Dechert LLP, found Black was not involved in any way with Epstein’s criminal activities. Black paid Epstein $158 million for advice on tax and estate planning and related services between 2012 and 2017, according to the review.
Black, 69, said that although the review confirmed he did not engage in any wrongdoing, he “deeply” regretted his involvement with Epstein.
“I hope that the results of the review, and related enhancements … will reaffirm to you that Apollo is dedicated to the highest levels of transparency and governance,” Black wrote in a note to Apollo fund investors. He will step down as CEO no later than July 31.
Apollo co-founder Marc Rowan, 58, will take over as CEO.
Rowan has often kept a low-key profile compared with Apollo’s other co-founder, Joshua Harris, 56, and spearheaded many initiatives that turned Apollo into a credit investment giant, including the permanent capital base the firm enjoys through its ties to reinsurer Athene Holding Ltd.
The revelations of Black’s ties to Epstein took a toll on Apollo, which Black turned into one of the world’s largest private equity groups. Apollo executives had warned in October that some investors had paused their commitments to the buyout firm’s funds as they awaited the review’s findings.
Apollo shares are down 1% since the New York Times reported on Oct. 12 that Black paid at least $50 million to Epstein for advice and services, when most of his clients had deserted him.
Over the same period, shares of peers Blackstone Group Inc, KKR & Co Inc and Carlyle Group Inc are up 19%, 10% and 23%, respectively.
“We think a large number of (Apollo fund investors) took a ‘pause’, and we believe the outcome (of the review) and changes today will cause most of them to return to allocating to future Apollo funds,” Credit Suisse analysts wrote in a research note.
Apollo shares jumped 4% to $47.65 in after-hours trading on Monday.
“We continue to follow these events closely and will evaluate how Apollo addresses its issues,” the California State Teachers’ Retirement System, one of the largest U.S. public pension funds and an Apollo investor, said in a statement.
Epstein was found dead at age 66 in August 2019 in a Manhattan jail, while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges for allegedly abusing dozens of underage girls in Manhattan and Florida from 2002 to 2005. New York City’s chief medical examiner ruled that the cause of death was suicide by hanging.
Black previously said he had paid millions of dollars to Epstein, but the exact size of his payments was revealed for the first time on Monday. Beyond the $158 million in payments, Black made two loans to Epstein totaling $30.5 million in early 2017.
Dechert said in its report that Black’s social ties with Epstein, who built his fortune by endearing himself to powerful figures in high society, went back to the mid-1990s.
Epstein won Black’s trust by resolving an estate tax issue for him in 2012 potentially worth at least $500 million, the report said. He ended up advising Black on various aspects of his personal financial affairs, from his family office and airplane to his yacht and artwork.
Black believed that Epstein provided advice over the years that conferred between $1 billion and $2 billion in value to him, according to the Dechert report. Black said in his note to investors that he had paid Epstein a fee equivalent to 5% of the value he generated on an after-tax basis, and not tied to hourly rates.
Black and Epstein’s relationship deteriorated after Epstein failed to repay $20 million of the loans and Black refused to pay tens of millions of dollars in fees that Epstein demanded, according to the Dechert report.
They severed ties in October 2018, according to the report. Black knew Epstein had been convicted in Florida a decade earlier for soliciting prostitution from a minor, the Dechert report said, but there was no evidence suggesting Black had knowledge of the other alleged crimes before they were publicly reported in late 2018, culminating in Epstein’s July 2019 arrest.
On Monday, Black pledged $200 million toward “initiatives that seek to achieve gender equality and protect and empower women,” as well as helping survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking.
Apollo said it would pursue a “one share, one vote” corporate governance structure that would do away with shares with special voting rights. It said the move could qualify it for listing on the S&P Global indices.
Apollo also said it would seek to give its board more authority to oversee its business, eroding the power of its executive committee led by Black.
The board will be expanded to include four new independent directors, including Avid Partners founder Pamela Joyner and physician and scientist Siddhartha Mukherjee, Apollo said. Apollo co-Presidents Scott Kleinman and James Zelter will join the board and take on increased responsibility running day-to-day operations.
Apollo had about $433 billion in assets under management as of the end of September.
(Reporting by Mike Spector and Chibuike Oguh; Additional reporting by Lawrence Delevigne and Jessica DiNapoli in New York; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall, Leslie Adler and Kim Coghill)
EU sees no cliff-edge ending for COVID fiscal stimulus
BRUSSELS (Reuters) – European governments will not need to abruptly end fiscal support for their economies after the pandemic, top officials said on Monday, noting that any withdrawal of stimulus would be carried out gradually and only once the economy has recovered.
Euro zone public debt rose sharply during 2020 and is likely to exceed 100% of GDP this year as governments borrow to help individuals and businesses survive lockdowns.
The higher debt raises concern about how to deal with it down the road and when to start cutting it again, since the EU last year suspended its rules limiting budget deficits and debt, known as the Stability and Growth Pact (SGP).
EU finance ministers are to discuss when to reintroduce any borrowing limits in the second quarter of this year.
“I believe it important that finance ministers debate and reach a common understanding on the appropriate fiscal stance by the summer. This can then serve as guidance for the preparation of their draft budgetary plans for 2022,” the chairman of the euro zone’s group of finance ministers, Paschal Donohoe, said on Monday.
“To avoid any misunderstanding, let me stress that this is not about an imminent withdrawal of fiscal stimulus,” he told the economic committee of the European Parliament.
“We all agree that our immediate priority is to shield our citizens, in particular younger cohorts and those most exposed to the crisis. There must be no cliff-edges,” he said.
Joao Leao, the finance minister of Portugal which holds the rotating presidency of the EU and therefore sets the agenda for EU finance ministers’ work until June, was equally cautious.
“We should not withdraw stimulus too early. We need to make sure the suspension clause for the SGP remains in force at least until we return to pre-crisis economic figures,” he told the committee. “We need to make sure jobs are maintained as well as the production capacity of companies.”
He said first cash from the EU’s 750 billion euro post-COVID economic recovery programme should reach the economy in the first half of the year.
“Real funding should be getting to the economy before the summer or in early part of the summer,” he said.
(Reporting by Jan Strupczewski; Editing by Giles Elgood)
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