A Guide Through Digital
Interview with Elliot Antorbus-Holder, Vice President, Global Head of Digital Channels and Analytics at GSK.
Can you give us the difference between a product and a project-centric approach?
For me, it’s how the value is delivered. If you imagine a project up-front is doing a lot of business case planning, definition, going through various government stage-gates, a product would be running with a pot of cash that’s all focussed on delivery and outcome. At TUI, if we’re delivering for a mobile app, we’ll be prioritising those based on the value that’s delivered at the end of it. We will be very quickly delivering something to market so within a couple of sprints, a couple of weeks and measuring the outcome at the end of it, if that proves successful then we will roll that out across markets to get the value and scale.
When should a business be looking at digital transformation
There are few symptomatic drivers which should prompt the business to start looking at different approaches and potentially moving to a product-centric customer approach.
- Delivering value quickly
Are you in a situation where your customers are demanding new features or products but you’re not able to deliver them quickly effort as a company?
- Competitive landscape
Are your competitors moving a lot quicker than you are?
Are you wanting to drive growth, new revenue, scale the business much quicker than you may be necessarily able to do now?
A product-centric approach really allows you to test the water, quickly deliver that value in stages and very quickly determine if it does work to then scale it if it doesn’t work – then shelve it and stop and move on to something else.
What are the key things that need to be in place to make a digital transformation successful?
Firstly, buy-in from the C-suite. From top-down everybody needs to be on board with the approach, value and the impact it will have on the business. This is not something that can be done in a silo with just your digital team, IT or product teams. It needs to be company-wide as it changes the fundamental ways of working for every team from IT to HR, operations, finance, governance – you name it there will be an impact on most departments.
For example, within TUI we’ve only recently started to move to a product-centric approach. I’ve done this by walking-the-walk and delivering a product-centric approach from day one that’s highlighted a whole number of areas where we needed to change. From a governance perspective, the governance and stage rating process that we had just wasn’t set up to deliver in this iterative way.
What’s your process for implementing transformation and getting people on board?
When I first joined TUI, rather than focusing on the methodology and taking a very consultative approach, I focused on a very delivery-focused approach. I took an idea that I thought was very well-aligned to our KPI’s which, for us, is delivering increased revenue then quickly built a prototype based around a digital wallet. This allowed customers to save their payment details (like on Amazon) and just click and pay.
This was something I thought would be very quick to deliver and would hugely drive revenue, we took it to the board as an idea with a concept outlining the opportunity we saw was there. We focused on the business outcomes in terms of the value we thought it could deliver. We let them play with it so they can see and feel it. They could go through the whole journey that a customer would do.
I said to give me a few weeks and a small budget then we will test it and get it live in a market and if we find it successful we’ll take the same approach and scale that all across TUI. Within a number of weeks, we had it live in a market. We demonstrated the value and had it in front of customers and that’s now a much larger program of work being delivered in the same way across the whole of TUI.
What are the most familiar challenges that you’ve come across?
I mentioned was around the importance of getting C-suite buy-in but another challenge is process. Most businesses just aren’t set up to work in this way and I’ve noticed that as I’ve gone through TUI.
I highlighted as I went through the first project deliveries about where are these gaps, holes and issues of their process were and that’s something we’re slowly changing. We’re modifying the ways in which you work across finance, governance, operations so we’re able to actually work in this new way and that’s really important because we’ve got bring the whole business along with us. Everybody ultimately in TUI needed to change.
- Empowerment of people
The product-centric approach is focused on people taking ownership of particular streams of work and the product owners become mini CEOs. They are able to drive the vision, roadmap, prioritization and delivery for their own stream of work. That is a great privilege and with that comes a lot of accountability. They need to be completely transparent with everything that they’re delivering and able to demonstrate the value that each of those deliveries they’ve got is delivering against the original KPIs. We’ve spent a lot of time empowering and upskilling our product teams to get them in a place where they are comfortable with that level of accountability and responsibility and they’re almost figureheads within the business for this new way of working. The business can work out and see the value that this new approach and way of working is delivering.
What’s the best advice that you can give?
Personally, I’m really motivated by getting stuff done and in my experience C-suites and boards have got so much going on, they simply just want to see value delivered.
In a lot of cases, these new methodologies like agile and a product-centric approach and everything that goes with them can seem quite scary when you’re a C-suite level. It’s all new and the whole world’s moving very quickly – there’s competitors biting your ankles, innovative technologies coming in. If you can demonstrate as an individual that you’re able to take these ways of working and just get on and demonstrate that value it’s delivered to the C-suite, you’ll find very quickly that you’ll get buy-in.
The biggest piece of advice I could give is don’t underestimate the cultural impact of a large change-program. It’s not just about process and governance and how you get things done – you’ve got to take the whole business with you. It’s a much larger piece of work than you will ever anticipate.
If people don’t want to change and they can’t see the value then you won’t drive change. The important thing is get people on your side, demonstrate the value that the change is going to deliver and then show it in simple steps.
I started in the digital industry almost by complete accident. At university, I decided it was easier to build and monetise mobile apps and website and made a fairly-good business out of it which landed my first job at HSBC where I was working for 9 years running the acquisition team for the e-commerce team and eventually the UK retail bank. Previously at TUI, I focussed on two key areas 1. Delivering new digital products and services to the market 2. Driving their digital transformation.