‘Ask yourself, why do you want to digitally transform your business?’ – Interview with Bernard Lazar – Law Firm COO

Bernard Lazar is the ex-Director of Client Services at ASB Law, having presided over numerous Digital Transformation projects since joining the organisation in 2014. In his interview with The Transformation Network, Bernard outlines the fundamental concepts to consider before embarking on a journey for yourself and establishes the importance of clarity when implementing Digital Transformation projects.


Question 1 – What would you say are the biggest myths surrounding digital transformation?

“I think the biggest myths surrounding digital transformation are; there’s an expectation that digital transformation will fix everything in an organisation from an application and infrastructure perspective, it’ll transform the way people work it’ll transform the way the applications work, it’ll transform the processes internally in the organisation. I think the reality is that it’s not the case. I think digital transformation has enormous benefits but in order to engage with digital transformation, you have to engage the right processes, you have to have the right preparation and understanding the existing organisation, methods, processes and technology before you start on that journey. So I think the biggest myth is really that it’s going to fix everything but that’s not always the case.”


Question 2 – What advice would you give to a business considering investing in digital transformation?

“I would say that start, in the very beginning, with understanding what it is that you’re trying to do, come up with the strategy, ask yourself why do you want to digitally transform your business? What is it you’re trying to achieve? Once you have an understanding of what the strategy is that you’re trying to achieve, then make sure you have a detailed analysis of your existing processes, methods, technology, applications. Work out what applications can be transported digitally, which ones may not be. Understand what the cost is going to be to do digital transformation, what the return is likely to be. Understand the whole organisational element of people change as well, understanding how your customers will be impacted by what you’re proposing, your internal organisation. I think once you’ve looked at the whole picture then you’ll have a pretty good idea of what elements of the organisation should be transformed or not as the case may be because in some cases digital transformation is not necessarily the right option.”


Question 3 – What in your opinion are the most challenging aspects of implementing a digital transformation project?

“I think the most challenging, I mean there’s lots of challenging elements of any D.T project and a lot of them are fixable and resolvable around technology. However, I think probably the biggest challenge and the area that’s probably overlooked the most is people, the people element. So how is the digital transformation going to impact the people in the organisation? How is it there to impact? How they engage externally with customers, how the customers see you. I think really, the people element is the most important part and often the most difficult part to get right in the digital transformation.”


Question 4 – Why is it essential to choose the right digital transformation expert for your project and what tips can you offer for selecting the right partner?

“I think it’s important to choose the right digital partner for the reasons that we’ve already raised around making sure that you get you know the right strategy in the beginning, you get the right planning, the right understanding of what you’re achieving, how will you achieve it. So choosing the right plan that’s absolutely critical. In terms of choosing the best partner, I think it would depend on the type of digital transformation you’re trying to achieve. But I think the basic principles around finding a organisation that has a broad breadth of expertise and not just in a specific technology area that you’re looking at, that has a broad breadth and understanding of people, of organisational change as well as technology and application transformation. So I think finding an organisation that can can help you engage very early on is probably what I would recommend, to start early with them.”


Question 5 – Can you give any examples of project which have been unsuccessful and explain the key reason why?

“I can think of quite a few digital transformations that have been unsuccessful and usually the issue is around the people side, you know. So I can think of a very large public sector applying for an enormous digital transformation, what they hadn’t done in the beginning is actually start from the bottom in understanding their processes, their existing applications and their existing operational environments and so they had just very quickly embarked on to the digital transformation element meaning they were going to just take all of their legacy apps and put them in the cloud. So they hadn’t considered and built the strategy in the beginning, they hadn’t built a plan that would really evaluate all these things, they hadn’t engaged partners very early and they hadn’t involved some of these partners in an assessment of their environment to take their advice. From this point, what the transformation really only achieved was a transformation of 30% of the applications into the cloud but the rest of the applications, legacy applications, remained behind. So organisationally, they were very labour intensive processes, hadn’t been changed and organisationally people hadn’t really adapted to the change, so ultimately, really a complete failure from a digital transformation perspective.”


Question 6 – In your opinion, what’s the most crucial phase of a digital transformation project and why?

“I would say the whole process is obviously critical but probably for me the most important piece would be the beginning really. So if you get the beginning element wrong, if you get the strategy wrong, if you haven’t done enough analysis of the applications, the processes, the people, the organisational functionality, customer impact. If you haven’t done that analysis in the very beginning, then the plan you build to transform your apps will ultimately be doomed and you may or may not know that, you may know that fairly early on or you may not know that until you get to the end. So I would say you know the most important elements is the beginning getting that right – making sure you know why you’re transforming, you know what the outcomes are, you’ve built your your benefits map, you’re tracking throughout the process your progress against that to get to the outcome that you expect.”