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Damien Cummings on his 3 points for enabling digital transformation for Coca cola Australia.

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Podcast with Damien Part 2 


people, ai, data, digital transformation, digital, organization,company, business, e commerce, damien, fatigue, job, startup, customer,fantastic, figuring, technology, salespeople, sales, enable 


Damien, Liew Wei Da Andrew 

Show outline: 

Section 1: About the show 

Section 2: About the guest 

Section 3: Guest telling his story 

Section 4:Stakeholder management and change management are common hurdles for digitaltransformation. 

Section 5:Where’s AI in the process of digital transformation? 

Section 6: AI isstill in its early stages for companies undergoing digital transformation. 

Section 7: HR isa good starting ground to start AI moving during digital transformation. 

Section 8: AI is promising 

Section 9: Is itpossible to enable digital transformation for AI? 

Section 10:Salesforce: the CRM story part 1. 

Section 11:Salesforce: the CRM story part 2: culture and mindset are key drivers. 

Section 12: HayGoup CRM story 

Section 13:Figuring out the “what’s in it for me?” is key. 

Section 14: Coke story part 1 

Section 15: Coke story part2: the 3 things 

Section 16: Coke story part3: happy endings   


Stakeholder management and change management arecommon hurdles for digital transformation. AI is still in its early stages formost companies that are undergoing digital transformation. However, HR is a good starting ground to start AI going. Damien believed that AI is promising but he believes this promise can only be realized if stakeholder management andchange management issues are addressed. He shares the story of a company trying to adopt as part of their CRM strategy to make better decisions and faster decisions. In that story, he revealed that the company culture and mindset have to be changed in order for to be adopted. Andrew shared another story of how Hay Group (acquired by Korn Ferry) tried to adopt CRM in the early days. Damien pointed out that any company champions need to figure out the “what’s in it for me?” for their stakeholders and he shared anotherstory of how he uses his 3-point tactics to generate impact for Coca cola in Australia.    

Section 1: About the show 

Liew Wei Da Andrew 00:17 

Hi, everyone. Welcome to the AI of mankind show where I shareanything interesting about mankind. I'm your host for the season. My name isAndrew Liew. I've worked across four continents and 12 international cities.Also, I work in tech startups across a range of roles from selling products,making customer happies, figuring out fundraising, making finance, tick,building teams, and developing sticky products. Apart from building startups,I've also worked in Fortune 500 companies. As a chief data scientist ortechnologies, or people leader. You can call me Jack of all trades or master oflearning. I hope to make this podcast show a great learning experience for us.And each season there is a series of interesting things, where invite guests toshare their views about their life and interests. Now, let the show begin.   

Section 2: About the guest 

Liew Wei Da Andrew 01:2

Today's guest is Damien. Damien is one of Asia Pacific recognizeddigital transformation leaders. He is currently the chief lecturer digitalstrategy and leadership practice at the National University of SingaporeInstitute of systems science. Prior to that, he was the founder and CEO of HRtech, a software service company people wave before entrepreneurship. He wasthe Global Head of digital marketing at the Standard Chartered Bank, and theChief Marketing Officer at Philips Asia Pacific. Damien has also worked atmajor global brands, such as Samsung, Dell, Ogilvy Mater, Coca Cola, andMcKinsey and CO let's welcome our guest Damien.   

Section 3: Guest telling his story 

Liew Wei Da Andrew 02:24 


Damien 02:25 

Oh, thank you very much. You're very interactive. You've got somefruits and cactus behind you. Yeah, good. Yeah. Love it.   

Liew Wei Da Andrew 02:34 

So the choice to enable the audience to learn more about AI,digital transformation and the guests.   

Damien 02:41 

Okay, problem. Cool.   

Liew Wei Da Andrew 02:44 

Tell me about how do you get to where you are, from the day thatyou did your first startup?   

Damien 02:52 

That's a great question. My first startup was actually back in the1990s. So actually, my first job was in McKinsey, and then back in the 90s. Andit was want to fund these what most the other consultants were doing there,they left during the boom. Now, at the time, I was very poor. Iwas living with a flatmate. So my flatmate, my girlfriend got together, anddid, what we did is we can actually found a company that actually buildwebsites back in the day. Now that feels very commoditized now, but we actually, you know, between Yahoo's e commerce partner, we were building moved into kind of the early days of what would have been cloud software with emailmarketing and CRM tools. And we doing some really cool stuff that became a top 20 web development company back in those days in Australia. But of course, with, boom, ended com crash, and the company wound down and I end up losing everything. Of course, that was my first experience of startup. 

And that was about four years of doing that was the equivalent of at least doing an MBA or a master's degree. It was, you know, great kind of actually, doing this in my 20s was, was amazing. Let's learn, despite the fact that it didn't work. But my most recent startup was my most recent job. So I, after that, first business kind of fell over, I had to go get a real job. 

And I built a career over 20 years as a digital person. So the digital guide looked after E commerce or sales or marketing. So you know, I hit the top of the C suite, I became a chief marketing officer and head of digital in different companies. And my last corporate job was the Global Head of digital at Standard Chartered Bank. 

And it was a great job and fantastic people there and a big ambition. But, you know, in big companies like that, there's not a lot of stability. And what happened is that I ended up getting laid off. So I went through a refresher processing. It made me very angry, not because it wasn't because I did a bad job. 

And it wasn't because the team were performing. We actually were hitting stellar runs everywhere. But the reality is, that seems very political. So the reasons they kind of chose to actually display on this team and you know, choose to actually get rid of some people versus others, really frustrated me. I've always been more of a data driven guy. So you know, I took my little bit of retrenchment money and I formed my last business for people with two aspects of that. One, how do I make work fair? You know, I've just been to a very unfair retrenchment and I hated it. And to, you know, could you use data to make better decisions as a manager, and the people in some of the counter people. 

So you know, I did that until COVID. So that was great raised a million dollars for two products to market, we have hundreds of SMEs using our product, then later, but three years in, we realized we had a bigger ambition, we signed 11 million USD term sheet to go big at the end of 2019. But then COVID hit. So COVID killer core business of HR technology, because that was hiring, and no one's buying our software. But also the people we trusted actually put that money to business end up, you know, not delivering, so that was catastrophic. So actually, it's pretty fresh for me. So that kind of business just went down at the beginning of 2021. And that led into a bit of a change in reflection about where I am. And   

Liew Wei Da Andrew 05:54 

that was how eventually, you cut yourself to be the chief officer,Principal Lecturer at the NUS Institute of system and science.   

Damien 06:02 

Yeah, I'm currently at the National University of Singapore in theInstitute of systems science. So I'm chief of Digital Strategy and leadershipthere. What that means is, you know, applied my 20 plus years of knowledge,actually, now I'm actually giving it back. So I teach programs like the masters of technology and digital leadership, doing obviously, business development,looking at actually grown capability for NUS. And also, it's fun actually goingto be getting back into corporate group. So we do executive education, around things like cybersecurity, AI, digital transformation, digital strategy, and so on. So a lot of fun. It's early days, but certainly very different change of pace in the corporate jobs in the startups I've worked at before.      

Section 4: Stakeholdermanagement and change management are common hurdles for digital transformation. 

Liew Wei Da Andrew 06:41 

Yeah, it sounds very fun. I mean, like, your whole story is likeadventure, right? Where you started out running a startup, and then you endedup doing C suite, doing digital transformation. And I went in going back to thestartup again. And then now coming back to giving back to the society. As aneducator, the CEO, the C suite management decided, okay, this is a great way.But we know this big company, a small company, some people just pay lipservice, like, oh, yeah, on for, you know, transformation. But when you ask them, like, oh, when are you putting into the data? Or when are you starting to use this new software? They're like, I don't know, I'm still busy at themoment. What do you have to say about that?   

Damien 07:20 

when you want actually, it doesn't matter what technology are inplace and what projects you're trying to deliver. The reality is thatstakeholder management and change management is usually where it goes wrong. Imean, you've probably seen this data as well, that 84% of digital transformation projects fail. So only 16% succeed. And it's not because they're not great technology, or using the right data, it's because the change management is thereal issue. So in, you can actually kind of drill down on this a little bit further. So all your new hires, all your junior executives are passionate, they want to make change, and they want to get things done. On the on the other extreme, you've got the experienced C level, they want to make more money, theywant to do new things that they want to drive change. So you've got both of those two groups that actually are working really well together. The problem is the frozen middle. Every organization, whether you're 10 people or whether you have 10,000 people has mid level managers that have been there, they're always used to the way things have done. And you have this idea of the frozen middle, everyone in your organization has the power to say no, every single person. Andthey might not explicitly say that. But it could be that they are going to be over against your project. They don't say yes, they basically just avoid you or they kind of get back to you in time, or they're generally not necessarily sabotaging you, but certainly are unsupportive or unwilling to actually make those changes. And actually, the secret to any project management, butspecifically in digital transformation is how do you find the losers in that transformation and make them the winner? How do you kind of unfreeze the frozen middle? And how do you make sure you actually build change management into the core process from day one?   

Liew Wei Da Andrew 08:51 

Yeah, I think that's, that's an absolutely brilliant answer topeople noticing that there's a lot of people who pay lip service or who sort ofsay that they embrace change, but the behavior tells it all.    

Section 5:Where’s AI in the process of digital transformation? 

Liew Wei Da Andrew 09:05 

You know. Now having to say that, let's say, you know. Companiesmanage to get everything on technology, everybody embracing the technology interms of generating workflow and workflow generating data. And now so today,you know, AI is the new buzzword. Everybody talks about AI, every company,whether big or small. Ai seems to be part of the agenda. So where do you see AIor artificial intelligence in the process of digital transformation?   

Section 6: AI is stillin its early stages for companies undergoing digital transformation. 

Damien 09:32 

Yeah, it's an interesting one, I think AI is still fairly early inthe whole process of adoption. And what we're seeing is we're trying to figureout where the use cases are. I think there's a couple things you can keep inmind with this. AI is generally not useful for most things that you know, youcan't apply AI to, you know, almost most things in your organization yetbecause it requires a large dataset. AI is also machine learning but also comes off the idea that you've gotlarge datasets and large historical data to play around with. So yes, you mighthave a large organization of, say, 1000s of employees. But if you've only got one month to record, I mean, they can't do much for that. It can even be simple things about saying, "hey, I can you tell me, you know, Damien's email address?" You know, that's pretty easy to do. It's almost a chatbot. But actually true use of AI actually is going to be from months or years worth of data, understanding what the trends? is there seasonality of things going up and down? What's the relationship between A and B?   

Section 7: HR isa good starting ground to start AI moving during digital transformation. 

Damien 10:30  

I see AI is particularlyrelevant for the world of HR, I think that's really, really powerful. Butthere's a lot of promises, but not a lot of deliver yet. So you know, can weuse AI for recruitment? Can we use AI for performance management? The answer istheoretically, yes. But the answer in practice is no. So I think we are in thevery early days at the moment, huge potential to kind of revolutionize everything. But that's going to come at a cost. And it generally is about how do you cut costs out of an organization, it should be able to make faster decisions, better decisions with less people. But at the moment, none of those kind of promises have rung true yet.    

Section 8: AI is promising 

Damien 11:07 

But I'm a big believer in AI, and I think it is going to change theworld. Let's just see what it looks like in a couple of years time.   

Liew Wei Da Andrew 11:13 

Yes, you mentioned it, like AI needs data, you know, be likestructured, unstructured, big or small. And every time when people need moredata, it comes from the workflow.    

Section 9: Is itpossible to enable digital transformation for AI? 

Liew Wei Da Andrew 11:23 

And when organization just move or digital transform into a newcloud or digital apps, enable them to work more nimble, collect more data. Andthen how do they move from, let's say I have simple apps now to move into a fewmore apps to enable more data to enable better analytics or AI? How did thattransition look like? Would they feel fatigue like: "Oh, my God, we justfinished one phase. Now we're going to another phase!" You know. I seethis as a continuous phase of data transformation.   

Damien 11:56 

Yeah, you are 100%, right.    

Section 10:Salesforce: the CRM story part 1. 

Damien 11:57 

I'll go by a couple of years ago, it's a 1 large company that Iworked at, and they introduced Salesforce for the sales teams. And I think onpaper, you can always benefit from Salesforce. If you have hundreds of 1000s of sales people, and you're engaging customers, you can't have that data insomebody's head or an Excel spreadsheet. You just can't, I mean, the number ofpeople that salesperson is going to meet where they are in the opportunitypipeline, it just makes a lot of sense to actually put a CRM system in place to understand: Who you've met? Where they are? What their contact details are? How many meetings did you had? You know. On average, I think you've got a b2b context; need to have 9 meetings with a prospect before they actually get close to making a decision. You need to follow up over the course of you know, sometimes six to nine months to actually get a sale. But in some of the large companies I've worked at, when you introduce things like Salesforce, beyond the initial burst of enthusiasm, getting there putting in your contact details, getting the same password. What we realized, it's actually six months in, is actually, 80% of sales, people just want logging in, we had to kind of get with and actually get them actually, on a weekly sales meeting actually, name and shame people who simply not logging into the system. And it became problematic because these other issues came up. Initially, we thought it was okay, well,people just fatigue or don't want to do it, I guess there was an element of that.              

Section 11:Salesforce: the CRM story part 2: culture and mindset are key drivers.  

Damien 13:23 

But then the second thing came up, which is cultural, which issalespeople didn't want to share, they had this perception that if the data wasin there, people would steal their clients. And if they put the data in there,they could be fired much more easily, because they've given over all their intellectual property to the company. And all this stuff actually just cameout, because in unusual ways, we wouldn't have thought about it on face value thinking,you know, why wouldn't we put a Salesforce CRM in place? But on this other issue came up? And actually it stresses people? And honestly, oh, it's my company going to fire me? You mean? Are they going to take away my IP? Are they going to steal my clients? Can they actually see that I'm not maybe as good a performer as I thought I was? All this stuff is actually the unwanted emotional byproduct of putting a system in like this. So not only is it about the, the digital fatigue of actually a new system, a new process and more training and also the emotional fatigue of actually, my life becoming more transparent. Mylife becoming like putting in there, digitizing the ones and zeros and people can make decisions, just based on what they can see out of, you know, a simple metric, such as the number of clients and visiting. So it's been very interesting about the cultural aspects, as well as the fatigue as well.   

Section 12: HayGoup CRM story 

Liew Wei Da Andrew 14:32 

Yeah, I mean, like, when you talk about that, I just remember thedays when I joined ermm... Hay group, which is acquired by Korn ferry as aconsultant. And one of the things that I was doing was we provide this thingcalled the paynet : some pay data. And before we serve our clients, we need togo: Oh back then there was no CRM, and then I have to go to the finance andfinance will give me a file and they will flip flip flip it. Oh, there's thiscustomer pay for the subscription for this year. And only then, I will go back and then call back the customer? Oh, yes, I just checked the records, you did pay for it. Okay, here's the passwords, here's the data. And that was when I was like, hey, like, why do I need to spend like 30% of my daily time figuring out the paper to come back to the customer when my key performance indicator is revenue, (like any lawyers, the more billables I have, the more revenue the company makes), and therefore I can get more bonus? So I thought along that line, and then I decided to build a business case.. And to my surprise, that ittook me a while to, to build champions to build positive story. And so talking about positive story and narrative like: 

"Is that one of the only tools that you know, people can actually rally people to change the culture?""Or you think that culture is sort of like this?: "That's it!" you know, is a structural situation, and it's hard to change?   

Section 13:Figuring out the “what’s in it for me?” is key. 

Damien 14:42 

Our culture changes all the time. So I think actually looking atyour story, you pretty quickly realize the what's in it for me. So you realize,"okay, I don't really want to dig thru, you know, all this paperwork and all these files. Actually, if I can save all this admin work, (which obviously you have to do on a recurring basis), then, you know, suddenly it dawned onyou: this is useful. For most people where change management generally goes wrong and why these projects always fail is that people just simply fail to look at what's in it for me. They do.   

Section 14: Coke story part 1   

Damien 16:20 

Many years ago, I used to work for Coca cola in Australia. So, and1 of my tasks there was introduced e-commerce into the organization. So it wasb2b commerce. So it used to be that a truck driver came out and went to a hotelcafe and said, "How many cases of coke do you want?" Then that'supdated into a contact center. And there was hundreds of people in the contactcenter that actually call up customers every week or fortnight to the samehotels and cafes and said, "How many cases of coke do you want?" But the problem is that if you're a cafe owner, for example, or you know, a small business, are you getting a call maybe 1:30 pm in the afternoon, during peakperiods, you know, the waitress answers and she doesn't have the data. Or some other employees got to go down into the cellar to have look empty cases they want. It's really problematic. So I was brought in to actually look at E-commerce and actually introduce their self service system. I promise you the story is going somewhere. So what happened is that I built this platform calledCoke connect. But actually, I had no money to build it. I was actually asked to actually reduce the costs and about 50% Get rid of hundreds of employees to actually fund this. So you can imagine that would have been in a terrible situation to be in. So what I did is actually kind of move yourself in away from the wonderful office in the harbor that I had, and I moved over to the kind of contact center which is in the middle of nowhere. And I sat down with him for a couple of months without a solution in mind. But just understanding what the contact center roles were all about? Actually, could there be a 5th year?    

Section 15: Coke story part 2: the 3 things   

Damien 17:44 

So I realized 3 things. 

Number 1, nobody wants to work in a callcenter. They hate it. But in coke, actually, the kind of the fantastic jobs arethe sales jobs, because they got the red car. They got paid well. And thesecret of success of coke is actually a fantastic distribution. So sales people are superstars. Number 2: people love digital. I mean, they didn't love this project, because it was actually threatening their jobs. But now they want tobe the E-commerce experts, they want to be digital and they want to be upskilled, particularly if that's free. And the 3rd aspect is that: because maybe call centers is not where people see themselves, staying long to be alive, there was a pretty high turnover. So it's about 25%. So pull all these things together. And I actually figured out what's in it for them. So number 1, sat down with the sales director and said, "Okay, how many sales people do you need to hire every year?" So he gave us the number. So instead, I say ok fantastic. Would you consider taking them from the contact center rather than trying to steal Pepsi or somebody else? It's like, you know. After a while he but grudgingly said,"yes." So I say :Okay, fantastic. So that we can then do is actually have a, a promotion program actually going from a contact center employee after the best of the best to do that. And you can graduate to become a sales leader.

Number 2, we actually took the best and most interesting people and said, "Okay, we are going to run you thru a digital program. We're going to make you a digital and E-commerce specialist. Who wants to do that?" And lots of hands went up. So actually got a whole bunch of people and actually made them ecommerce and digital specialists, which you know, it looks fantastic on their CVs. And 3rd thing is we sitting down with each other kind of goes each stage and discuss the problem. How often you lose people? Could we put a plan in place not to replace those roles as they progressively resign in every role of the organization. But with those three things, we could turn around at the end of that process    

Section 16: Coke story part 3: happy endings   

Damien 19:30 

and say, no one will lose their job. But not only that, but we canactually guarantee promotions to the salesperson or upskill and reskill to be adigital leader. And this project will benefit everybody. So it turns, you know,hundreds of people who hated the project with a passion into the people whoactually become wild advocates for the project. So it was about a couple ofthings. Figuring out who the losers were and trying to make them the winners.You know. Being empathetic about it. Not just simply refusing to actually kinda cut costs, because you have to. There's always a better option. You don't have to be a brutal person to just simply slash and burn your organization. There is always a better way. And actually,we gotta fundamentally understanding that: there is actually elements of change management, elements of digital transformation. That it's just a fantastic case study of actually being human, and engaging people from the start gives you wildly different outcomes you might expect. And because those people were so passionate about the project andthe benefits to them, because actually, you know, flipped it on its head 180. what then happened is that they smashed the KPIs within six months. I think the number is 30,750 businesses sign up to the platform. The contact center workers are pulling up everyday trying to get more and more customers on there. Because the more people that more businesses to go on there, the more chances they had to become a sales leader or an E business person or E commerce etc. So youknow, it's basically turn it from a vicious cycle into a virtuous one. And just it was a fantastic case study of how to do digital transformation well.   

Liew Wei Da Andrew 21:00 

wow! I mean, that's an amazing story! And then along the way thatyou mentioned, it's more about turning the losers to winners, getting themexcited, solving the what's in it for me, and then finding alternative ways.And so along this line, I was thinking along the line that yeah, this could beone of the best narrative to enable, you know, companies to adopt AI.    

Liew Wei Da Andrew 21:22 

Hi, guys. Thanks for listening to this podcast. If this is thefirst time you are tuning in, remember to subscribe to this show. If you havesubscribed to this show, and love this episode, please share it with your friends, family and acquaintances. See you later. And see you soon.