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Making the most of digital transformation

Podcasts and Audio | 02.05.2017

Our third episode is here, and this month we tackle the topic of digital transformation. We'll explore the options open to you and give some tips to how you can keep up with learner expectations and make the most of rapidly changing technology.  

Paul Westlake  0:00  

Welcome to Kineo stream of thought. I'm Paul Westlake solutions consultant at Kineo. And today we're speaking about digital transformation. Today I'm joined by 

James Cory-Wright  0:15  

James Cory-Wright head of learning design,

Mark Harrison  0:18  

 Mark Harrison, Senior Consultant,

Liz Smith  0:20  

liz Smith lead solutions designer.

Paul Westlake  0:24  

So digital transformation is something that we're hearing quite a lot about. And there's a few blogs that I've read recently that are covering this topic. So I guess we need to start at the beginning, what does actually mean?

Mark Harrison  0:34  

Well, I would say it's all about trying to look at everything that you're doing in l&d. And working out whether the online or digital versions of everything you do are feasible within the organisation.

Liz Smith  0:47  

I think at the moment, a lot of people are doing a big curation exercise in terms of all the learning assets that they hold, you know, that might be face to face training, it might be digital assets, it might be paper based learning, you know, just having a big review of everything they've got, and then looking at how they can create true digital experiences from that, that kind of fit with the modern world and the modern learner.

Paul Westlake  1:08  

So it's considerably more than taking existing face to face courses and turning then into elearning, for example, then,

Liz Smith  1:14  

yeah, it's a much bigger task than that, because it's about kind of assessing everything and then thinking about what's the most appropriate things, what will work really well, digitally, it doesn't mean necessarily that you're going to take everything you have in a paper format, and transfer that to a digital format. For the moment, you might pick one thing, and we think this is the most crucial thing to our organisation. This is something everyone needs to know we want to have a consistent experience across a global audience. So we're going to do that. And that's going to be our first the first part of our journey into a digital transformation. 

Paul Westlake  1:45  

So what is business's motivation to do that then?

Mark Harrison  1:49  

Well, I mean, I think, essentially, they realise there's an awful lot of stuff stored in the organisations that they're not sharing. And that's always been a problem. For ages, knowledge management has been something that no one's really nailed. We now have the technologies to be able to do all of this. So I think it's a drive on that part. I think there's a partly a sense of is this a cost effective way of sharing knowledge compared with actually creating courses from scratch and things like that? I do think there's a problem with the term digital transformation, though, because it is another buzzword yet again that the world's got to pick up and work with and I might disagree with Liz's interpretation of that. I think Liz is picking up on what the trends are. But strictly if you're going to take a step back, what does it mean, I would still go back to that in general definition that it's transforming everything you're doing into a digital format. But since every day, everyone does digital, it's an inevitable thing to do for a new generation of learners. But for everyone,

Paul Westlake  2:47  

is it inevitable because the learners are in some ways already made that transformation, as in everything they do is digital. That's what they expected. And you're playing devil's advocate here is that, are we now looking at the l&d teams playing catch up with their learners?

James Cory-Wright  3:01  

That's exactly what I was about to say. Yeah, I think Yeah, it is. It's a kind of it's quite revolutionary, really, the fact that it's being talked about at the moment in l&d circles. And in fact, as Mark quite correctly says it's already happened. It's happened in organisations in terms of assets and content and all the rest of it, because it's happened outside in terms of how people are happy and sort of ofay with technology and use all things digital. So really, it's basically saying l&d are behind the curve.

Mark Harrison  3:36  

And I think one of the fundamental problems is the blurring of the lines between learning and information. And the reality is, if it's suddenly information, does that mean other parts of the organisation says that's our area, then half the people have been in charge of Internet's for years would say, that's what we do. The SharePoint covers all that information. Why are you trying to go into that space, and the l&d teams will have to realise that people now learn an awful lot from just browsing and finding things formal training is a little less important for them. But who takes control? So we talk about digital transformation? Who's in charge of that in the organisation? Andy? Is it the IT teams? It's a really difficult political problem,

Paul Westlake  4:16  

And is that were part of this, and again, some of the articles I've been reading Recently, there seems to be a bit of a buzz around. It's as much of anything as his shock tactics, the death of the LMS. But from what you've just said, There, that's it's not the death of the LMS LMS sort of doing the job. It's always done. But are there other how people accessing this content? Who owns that?

Liz Smith  4:38  

I think people yeah, the modern learner expects this digital experience that they that they've been having, outside of a learning environment and they consume digital content and different ways you know, they use it on their phone, they read articles, they watch videos, it's completely different way of not only accessing information but consuming information and also consuming Learning and it's about how we can make sure that what we're giving people isn't just something that they can find anywhere, you know, they can they can look up information anywhere. But how can the l&d team ensure that they're providing something which is a true learning experience?

Paul Westlake  5:16  

But I would argue I agree with what you're saying. But I would argue that in each of those cases, you just said about when people do say, a Google search, or people look for something on YouTube, or someone quickly looks for something on their phone. The motivation there is for them to do it, because they've identified that they need to find out a bit of information about something. In some ways, when we're talking about an l&d team that's putting together say, I don't know, a management curriculum. They're teaching people things that maybe those people haven't identified the need to know yet. So those things are slightly different.

Mark Harrison  5:47  

Yeah, I mean, I would say I've always thought of this identification between a voluntary learner and an involuntary learner. And the voluntary learner enjoys all of this digital transformation stuff, it's there in front of them at last, it does nothing getting in their way. But unfortunately, I think the numbers of involuntary learners dwarf the voluntary learners out there, and so we do all this effort, social media, everything to get people doing stuff. I bet, you no, stats here, but I bet you that 70/80% of the organisation will avoid doing all of that. And, dare I say it if we don't herd them into classrooms, there's a danger that the chunk of people are just going to get no learning and no training whatsoever, because of this digital transformation. So we've got to blend the traditional models, which are still have some value with all this nice stuff. But we have to acknowledge that the nice stuff is only really going to appeal maybe to 10 20% of the company.

Paul Westlake  6:39  

Yeah, I mean, there's that whole thing around them. And again, it's another buz phrase there seems to be a lot of those now in industries, isn't there, this whole, less courses, more resources, you know, that sort of thing. But again, those resources are people who know what they're looking for. So if I'm looking for something to perform as a performance support tool, and I know what I'm looking for that that would need a resource. But I think in some ways, we where we find that people don't necessarily know what it is they need to learn. That's when we do far more around experiences. And, you know, whether it be stories or narratives or short videos, and that sort of stuff to almost get those people to look at the learning that maybe they wouldn't have identified in the first place,

Liz Smith  7:18  

I think, yes, about that curation exercise. And the whole point of that is to kind of bring together everything into one consistent place, but then also to create different learning journeys. So a learning journey could be based on someone who knows what they want the kind of voluntary learner from Marks point of view, or that or based on someone who knows nothing about the subject, and maybe they don't want to learn it, they're kind of being pushed towards it by their organisation. And in those cases, those people need more guidance from us in terms of taking them through the program, setting out a structure for them, and also making it really engaging and in many ways, making it not feel like learning at all. 

Paul Westlake  7:54  

Yeah, yeah, 

James Cory-Wright  7:55  

I think there's also an issue around timeliness as well. Though, if people got more time, and they need training to get them skilled up, then you still have to do digital courses, then you might sort of come down. And if you've got a little less time, you might be into more micro learning. And in in for reinforcement, so it's all short bursts. And if you've got even less time, it's like just in time, then you're looking for resources, not courses, or even to just simply search and maybe network, you know, but but out of question, and try and get an answer to a problem.

Mark Harrison  8:31  

I just think the fundamental problem, having seen a lot of new dorns of lots of things, weve just got to be really careful that while we get our heads around a new idea, a new approach that suddenly we deal with is so simplistically that, that's all I want to focus on. Yeah, and I think I've just seen that in too many l&d teams here and there, where someone says, this is something I really get excited about. And that's all they do. And that's all they push, and all the good stuff that's still going on. They just neglect because they feel they need to follow that. I mean, for the worst of reasons. It could be just them. They want to look good. The other reasons, they're just excited about it. But they must forget all the other stuff that day to day stuff that just gets neglected and not integrate.

Paul Westlake  9:15  

Yeah, I think that we see that quite a lot. And I think there's an awful lot of information. And it's a very fast moving industry as well. So in the latest thing comes up and then we've obviously been through buz phases like social was one we talked about on the previous podcast, we talk about gamification, we talk about it's the latest, greatest thing and everything your right Mark everything gets thrown into that point. Everything's got to be like this. But in some ways. I think, James, you mentioned about things being micro when that for me is a classic example where there's this whole thing about micro learning, and people say right, we definitely need that but don't actually understand what that means. So what they take that as meaning is, we've got an hour long course people don't want an hour long course what we're going to do now is we're going to do 10 six minute courses, and just break that same course into smaller pieces. It's the same content. If it wasn't fit for purpose, it's not fit for purpose. Now it's just shorter. That's not what we mean by micro is it.

James Cory-Wright  10:06  

Well, that micro No, that's moved on already. And now we've got nano learning. I mean,

Paul Westlake  10:11  

I was looking at  micro and macro last week, I was like what's going on here?

James Cory-Wright  10:14  

Yeah, it's getting out of hand. I think also, the other thing is, for me that there's a great digital transformation. But it does actually come down to, for example, we don't consume learning content is not currently really consumed on mobile phones, on smartphones, or that you can really say that you've digitally transformed, when, in fact, most content is still simply consumed, and designed for consumption on the desktop. I really don't, it's just sort of in a digital transformation suggests a contemporary and modern sort of thing. And the truth of matter is we're behind the curve, again, in terms of the devices that are being used to do learning.

Liz Smith  10:54  

And then it goes back to that point about how people consume learning as well. Because if they're doing it sat down at a desk, on a desktop computer, that's a very different experience to if you're doing something, you know, sitting, waiting to go into a meeting, and you look up some performance support information on your phone, just like the nature of the different environments, and the different circumstances that you're in, do change the way that you kind of consume that learning.

James Cory-Wright  11:19  

And I will come back to that phone are going to keep you know, I do think that's, that is what people do. People do use their phones, just you know, as a just in time thing. But increasingly, also, people will use their phones to read long form, text, and therefore, to potentially do training content on their phones, and phones are not part of the mix at the moment.

Mark Harrison  11:44  

I mean, I think if you go back to old school thinking, learning sometimes isn't easy. And to learn something that you maybe don't necessarily want to learn yourself, but your organisation wants you to learn, that will never succeed as a browsable thing on a on a phone while you're waiting at the bus stop. It will however, be something that you'll grab, if you're going to a meeting that often you need and how to do something or more importantly, you don't know how to use a piece of software, then that's the sort of thing that people might grab at the time. But I think structured learning experiences become much harder when they're delivered via nomadic devices like smartphones. I think that's maybe the position why the desktop has a little more place, if that's your main workstation.

James Cory-Wright  12:29  

And but I yeah, I don't really I don't fully agree in the in the sense that I think that we could be designing and you know, and that content, that sort of content you're talking about could be consumed on on phones, you say it can't be, but I think that's an old school view.

Mark Harrison  12:46  

That's fair enough. But I suppose what I'm talking about is the phones. And were talking about phones now. Yeah, and I don't know whether they're big or small. Frankly, I think the trend is getting smaller again, now I believe. But essentially, the smaller they get the more easy they get. They work for videos, they work for lots of passive experiences. They don't necessarily work for analysis, structured stuff, where there's detail where you need to absorb stuff. And I think that's harder to do in busy environments, which is where you get the smartphones being used primarily snatched moments, I don't believe you can learn for five minutes. Maybe that's old school thinking. But I've seen studies that take five minutes to get yourself geared up 10 minutes of rich thinking, five minutes is phasing out or 20 minutes already. That's not a quick snatched five minute moments. So nano learning and micro learning really hugely debatable. In my opinion, I don't knbow whether it's a good learning experience, you're just grabbing something on the fly.

James Cory-Wright  13:43  

I totally agree with you in i'd totally get the five minutes getting up to speed and all the rest of it. But I'm saying that people that I think you know, will be more prepared, spend more time actually using they're using their phone, you know, that's what I'm saying that they'll be happy to spend more time doing more structured activities on their phone,

Liz Smith  14:01  

you talk about the example of someone might look at it for a task related activity, right. So they might look at their phone if there's something they want to do. But I think people will also do that on an information basis as well. So if I'm going into a meeting this afternoon, and I feel like I want to be clued up on, you know, the latest trends and things so that I can impress my manager, impress the rest of the team, I would be prepared to kind of read longer articles, you know, search through have more structured learning experiences in the in the time before that meeting, I think I think people will learn, I think people do learn like that. I think I personally would look at a phone for everything. I would rather look at my phone all day then look on a desktop computer.

Mark Harrison  14:38  

And I think I think what you're actually saying is where the trends are what people will do and I totally understand and agree with that. I mean, the reality is very few people of a younger generation than me. Will will look at computers they don't often even have computers now. So I think what you're talking is a truth. Absolutely. We have to cater for the people because Because that's where they will be doing it. I suppose I'm saying from a pure, purist point of view that's really hard to deliver the sort of learning that we used to deliver 10 15 years ago. Yeah. When it was good learning, yeah, 10 15 years ago. But

James Cory-Wright  15:12  

if you do that, I think that's the challenge to us, then you will achieve a kind of digital transformation.

Mark Harrison  15:20  

I believe digital transformation has such a wide area, isn't it? I mean, fundamentally, if you can connect knowledge and acquisition of information with genuine learning experiences, then you've achieved what digital transformation should be for l&d. But that is in the lap of the gods, whether an organisation can get their head around that.

Paul Westlake  15:42  

So I'm wondering, are we saying we've gone through blends now then there's not a place for classrooms anymore? And everything should be digital is? Surely that's not the case?

James Cory-Wright  15:51  

 Oh, no. When they say blends in, say, for example, one part blends the digital classroom if you like or that 

Mark Harrison  15:58  

or even just a classroom?

Paul Westlake  16:00  

Well, that was my point. Are we saying that anecdotal feedback from learners that I've spoken to recently that have been in a classroom. And one of my questions is exactly that was okay. What did you get out of this week. And without without exception, everybody said, It was great talking to the other managers, it was great getting feedback from people, it's great sharing best practice. So they're not saying they love classrooms, they love being together in the classroom, which is obviously where the social bit comes in. And I think it'd be a crying shame to say, right, okay, that's all going away. And when you're going to view everything on your phone. So surely we're not in a position. 

James Cory-Wright  16:32  

No far from it. But But for example, you might bring phones into the classroom, and that's happening in schools and education, why shouldn't that happen in the corporate environments as well?

Liz Smith  16:42  

Exactly. It's about that collaboration, I think, between the digital and that face to face element, I think people value that networking experience so much, and it isn't something that we would want to take away from organisations, we can look at how we can support it in terms of providing social learning other interactions, but yeah, exactly. As James said, the digital can be part of everything, it can be part of the classroom, it can be part of, you know, your pre learning that you do before you go to the classroom, you know, you you can, you know, carry out a questionnaire, and then the facilitator can better target the learning to the people that are in the room. You know, there's all sorts of ways that you can use digital to make an even better classroom experience.

Mark Harrison  17:20  

I think, if I was giving a tip to someone about all of this is I'd say, look at what happens in your organisation at the moment. How do people talk? How do they share stuff, if they do that all online that don't hurt them in the classroom. However, if they are an organisation that likes seeing each other and touching the flesh and everything, then essentially, you can't throw that away, because it has to be part and parcel of what you're doing. And the biggest mistakes I've seen over the years, is when a very traditional organisation suddenly makes a decision that they're going to change completely online. And in the 80s, people said, 70% of our learning will be online, one bank said. And within three years, they've managed to do that and alienated almost everyone, because fundamentally, all they did was convert everything to elearning, which no one and everyone missed meeting people. And However, it's about cost. It's about it's about a lots of issues if people are now widespread, working from home, etc. The days of marching people into a classroom, however nice that seems maybe just economically not viable.

Paul Westlake  18:21  

And just given their Mark do you think that's driven by that was the that they were driven by a business need rather than putting learners at the center of everything. They hadn't understood that the no one maybe even asked the learner what they wanted, it was all an assumption.

Mark Harrison  18:35  

I think in those days, which was we're talking about 15 years ago, or so in those days, we even 20 years ago, in those days, it wasn't reacting to what people do on the ground. I think it was all about the economics and all about getting more learning out to people quickly. And that there are good ROI reasons why the digital transformation idea is important. Because if you can get stuff to people quicker than they dont have to wait for two months or three months for the course, they get up to speed quicker the organisation benefits from it, they feel better. However, if you lose the heart, the humanity of learning and development, by just doing it that route, though we have a problem. However, if we have a generation that basically only like doing things online, even if the people in the room, they would rather talk to each other online, then you have to pander to that. That's where they're coming from.

James Cory-Wright  19:25  

So I just wonder out of all this discussion why is there all this talk about digital transformation now? 

Mark Harrison  19:32  

Well its beyond me, I never know who invents these terminologies as they come along. I mean, essentially, I think because people are thinking about the holistic view now. They're trying to bring lots of lots of things together. And they don't dare use the word learning anymore, or training or things like that, because it's just too niche. It's It's too big now for them for old models of terminology to be applied.

Liz Smith  19:56  

And I think part of the reason it's become such a kind of buzz word or phrase, people Do you think it's because l&d are waking up to their learners they're realising that they're behind where their learners are. Their learners already moved on to that kind of using digital more in their lives inside and outside of work. And l&d are kind of saying, Oh, no, we're in a bit of trouble, we need to catch up. So quickly thinking about how they can kind of catch up to where the learner is. 

Paul Westlake  20:21  

But they're so far behind is that they're not going to gradually catch that up. They're not going to say, okay, for the next six months, we're going to do some we're going to catch up, they need to make a humongous leap. To Yeah, and I think it's fair to say, and it's only my opinion, right? I, as quickly as they're catching up the learners moving on to the next thing. Oh, yeah. So but they, I think you're right, they need to make a huge, humongous jump to get close to where the learners are. And I think they've realised that

Liz Smith  20:45  

or even looking ahead, like looking ahead to where the learner will be, and and, you know, missing out a stage in between, they don't need to go through every stage that the learner has been through, they can jump forward and say, what's coming next, what's going to be the next big thing. And already, we've seen that with some of our clients, we had a brainstorm with one of them recently, where they were saying, you know, what are the new things that you're looking at? We don't want you know, we know we're behind. And we don't want to go through the whole journey, we want you to be able to leapfrog us to the point in time where you are already,

Mark Harrison  21:13  

I think,  you're point exactly Paul for when, when you when you talk in terms of the change and being able to keep up? I think the fundamental problem is that change is really, really hard for those of us who are sitting inside learning development teams to keep abreast, basically, every six months, every four months, a completely new platform is now the cool way in which people converse, that group will come through. So you're basically gonna have to map out every two, three, maybe even years. Each people you go along will say they like doing it that way. But these guys like doing it this way. And the change is happening so quickly now that I think it's beyond many people to work out what the corporate equivalent could be.

Liz Smith  21:54  

Yeah, I agree with you Mark, that there is a huge task there. And and I think that's where we can help l&d teams and help them to do that looking ahead piece looking at what those trends are, you know, if they follow us, if they can kind of see what we're doing, see what we're looking at in terms of what's happening next, and jump on board with that, then we can give them that little push that helps them to reach that state of full digital transformation.

Mark Harrison  22:18  

I agree. I think you just basically will have to come to some compromise, ultimately, but it will work. And I agree with that.

James Cory-Wright  22:24  

Yeah, bring it on.

Paul Westlake  22:30  

Well, thanks again for your time today. If you want to continue this conversation or pick up with us, we're available on Twitter @Kineo or get in touch via our website at

Your speakers are

James has over 25 years' experience of instructional design and video scriptwriting. He previously headed up our team of learning designers and consultants, overseeing learning content design across all client projects.
Liz is a Lead Solutions Designer, working with our solutions consultants to create innovative designs for our proposal offerings. She has worked at Kineo for 11 years and has a background in creative writing.
One of Kineo's founders, and the Director responsible for our consultancy services, Mark also looks after our growing network of international offices. With 30 years of experience in the elearning design and development world, he often provides strategic and design consultancy and support to our customers across the globe.
Paul was previously a Solutions Consultant at Kineo.