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Digital Transformation At Warp Speed

Tim Langley-Hawthorne Tim Langley-Hawthorne
Chief Information Officer, Hitachi Vantara

November 02, 2020

How Hitachi Vantara’s global IT team is enabling the “new normal” and delivering at speeds previously thought impossible.

Imagine for a moment that you hold one of the most prestigious records in all of sports – you just ran the mile in 3:43 flat, setting a new world record by 1/10th of a second. Now imagine you’ve barely finished your victory lap when your coach issues a challenge: “I think with a little more training, you can run the mile in under 40 seconds.” You’d be forgiven for thinking your coach had taken one to the head from an errant discus. No one can run 5x faster than their best time! (In the more than 60 years since Roger Bannister broke the four-minute barrier, the world’s best runners have whittled only 17 seconds off that landmark pace.)

Yet in the post-COVID business world, IT departments are being asked to make just these kinds of radical leaps in speed and productivity – all in the name of empowering a workforce that is now predominantly remote and fast tracking digital transformation initiatives that are critical to the survival of so many businesses. And though hard to believe, many are succeeding, completing projects that once took nine months or more in as little as three weeks.

I should know. Our own Hitachi Vantara global IT team, which supports 10,000 employees and helps more than 10,000 customers rapidly scale digital businesses, is now executing at a pace no one would have thought possible before the pandemic. And I’ve heard and witnessed similar stories from dozens of Hitachi Vantara customers and the CIO community these last several months.

How we been able to achieve such superhuman speeds, and what can others learn from them? The answers lie in effecting a combination of organizational, cultural and technological changes that can set you up to execute at far greater velocity.

Going all-in on remote work. Fundamentally, supporting a predominantly remote workforce is about duplicating the office environment in the home and enabling federated collaboration. Many companies have established standardized and comprehensive remote work packages – i.e., laptops; robust and secure accessibility to company data and applications; webcams and microphones; ergonomic desks, chairs and monitors; licenses for the best conferencing and collaboration software – and are providing more robust remote remediation and accelerated replacement tools when necessary.

At Hitachi Vantara, we can get a laptop to most employees in less than a day, leveraging the same global supply chain capabilities we use to get products to our customers. In addition, we’ve supplemented mainstream collaboration software with a specialized application that supports the more robust brainstorming and visual, “post-it-note-like” creative functionality that our globally dispersed IT and business teams need as they plan and execute projects.

The shift to remote work also necessitates revisiting corporate data protection practices. A recent study suggests a significant spike in the amount of confidential company information that’s being downloaded to vulnerable devices by newly remote workers. This exposes companies – particularly those in highly regulated industries – to unacceptable risk. Savvy IT organizations are securing their companies’ most sensitive information with enterprise grade file-sync-and-share solutions such as Hitachi Content Platform (HCP) Anywhere, which provides secure remote access to data with the highest levels of encryption and compliance.

In addition, managers and workers have had to adjust to a world in which “managing by walking around” and in-person team building are no longer options. Daily standups, quarterly business reviews and other meetings now must be conducted online – and with less bureaucracy and process. In my own organization, we increased our use of Microsoft Teams to compensate for less in-person interaction. Not only do we get a lot of work done in our digital channels, we have a lot of fun, too, most recently with teams around the world engaging in real-time cooking bake-offs and sharing the results with everyone.

We’ve also encouraged employees to use some of their former commute time for online training courses (many of which are free this year due to the pandemic) and certifications. After the Hitachi Vantara Global IT team started working from home because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and were encouraged to re-purpose their commute time for personal learning and development, the number of training certifications achieved were fifteen times higher than the previous six months. Twenty percent of the Hitachi Vantara Global IT organization received a certification in a new or emerging technology – e.g., AWS, Azure, Oracle Cloud Infrastructure, Salesforce, ServiceNow, Kubernetes, and many others – during this period. What’s more, new Teams channels have sprung up dedicated to employees cheering on their colleagues’ progress. It’s been quite gratifying to see so many use our digital channels to keep our culture alive, our spirits up and our technical skills current – so thank you to all.

In part two, I’ll explore some of the additional adjustments Hitachi Vantara and our customers are making to adjust to a today’s new normal.

Tim Langley-Hawthorne

Tim Langley-Hawthorne

Tim is responsible for global IT supporting Hitachi Vantara employees and portfolio of edge-to-core-to-cloud digital infrastructure and solutions. His background includes deep cross-functional experience in customer service, strategic sourcing and financial management.