CXO Deep Dive | Matt Ballantine
Updated: Mar 19
How do you pick the right partners to accelerate digital transformation?
As a publicly-funded organisation, we are subject to the public sector procurement rules and regulations. With the emergence of purchasing frameworks that allow an organisation to focus more on the outcomes of the process rather than the procurement process itself, I think we are starting to use these in ways that is driving better partner acquisition. We work to understand what our particular needs are, and then do early rounds of selection blind to remove preconceptions of the potential partners, and then also without price. Ultimately this can mean that a procurement exercise could lead you to conclude that what you need you actually can't afford - but that's a better outcome than selecting a partner on the basis of prices that will inevitably increase.
What are the top challenges in your business transformation process?
Keeping the focus on delivering services that better meet our customers' needs, rather than thinking that successful transformation is about finding the right product which will then work magic to make everything better.
Do you expect certain uses of technology to decline after the pandemic?
I think meeting rooms will be a lot less popular in the future than they were in the days before COVID. The technology in meeting rooms was mostly a bit rubbish before the pandemic and will be seen as very unsatisfactory going forward.
What are the biggest changes you expect in how industries will operate in the future?
In the medium term, the single biggest impact on how businesses operating in the coming decades (and certainly the rest of my working life) will be decarbonisation of the economy. In my own sector, housing, carbon consumption is massively driven by the heating of homes, and we have legacy stock in the UK that will be very challenging to retrofit with lower-energy, low carbon heating. To hit targets of net Zero in 2050 will take a massive effort.
What will be the next evolution of advanced tech that we can expect in the coming years?
Machine Learning / Artificial Intelligence
Clean energy tech
What do you think are the biggest challenges organisations face in the adoption of disruptive technologies?
Many of the technologies that are truly disruptive actually take many years to be adopted. Short-termism and projects that are run in months or a few years can't account for the shepherding of change that is necessary for organisations to adopt new technologies in ways that deliver value. Email, for example, was a hugely disruptive technology, has been almost uniformly adopted over a number of decades, but is probably rarely thought of as a success.
For those who haven't fully embraced the digital world, is it fundamental to future success?
I think the term digital is becoming increasingly redundant and unhelpful. It's just the world now.
When redesigning a business model, what is the best way to filter out the various inputs from different departments?
Start with the needs of the user of the service and keep that front and centre throughout. If something isn't meeting the needs of the user, why is it there?
What is the best way to incorporate agile ways of working to accelerate transformation?
Stop talking about them as "Agile" and instead talk about iterative or linear approaches to working, and then understand when the different approaches are appropriate. Thinking that everything is agile is a fool's game.
What do you think are the biggest challenges organisations face in the adoption of AI?
It's regarded as a known solution to a known problem when it is still emergent.
Lack of use cases.
Traditional mindset of top management.
Lack of knowledge/expertise to use AI.
With the rise of AI, should you add in-house capabilities or outsource to specialists?
Put your focus on understanding how technologies are and could be used in your organisation, not on the technologies themselves. Unless you are at huge scale, you'll be competing with people with deeper pockets and better career paths. The unique selling point for any in-house team should be contextual knowledge. That's rarely deep understanding of any particularly technology.