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The meaning of digital transformation, with Nadia Hansen

Digital Transformation

December 28, 2021
min read
An image of Nadia Hansen, Digital Transformation Executive at Salesforce.

Nadia Hansen, Digital Transformation Executive at Salesforce, on creating transformation that sticks.

This AMA was edited for brevity.

Nadia Hansen is a Digital Transformation Executive at Salesforce, and the former CIO of Clark County, Nevada.

In the public sector, how are digital transformation discussions or projects usually received?

A lot has to do with your senior leadership. Clark County is run by a board of seven commissioners. They were supportive of technology-centric modernization, which was helpful in accelerating change. But when we are reimagining services, it is not a technology conversation. It's about people and processes. Technology is just an enabler to help with that. The one question we ask our business partners to help align our strategic focus is: What does the desired outcome look like? 

"[I]f people don't feel a sense of pride about the impact [...] it doesn't stick."

COVID has been a terrible human tragedy, but the silver lining for us was the acceleration of transformation initiatives. For example, we drove digitization of forms and use of electronic signatures. Clark County has a Sustainability and Climate Action plan, and one of the goals was to reduce the amount of paper used and the amount of time that processes take. To give you some context, Clark County has 10K employees—38 departments, serving 2.4 million residents. 

We took a few paper trail processes and completely digitized them. The turnaround times were incredible; they went down from weeks to hours. That's the kind of transformation we're talking about: people can touch it, feel it, and experience it to see the benefits. We can talk about transformation all day, but if people don't feel a sense of pride about the impact and how much more efficient we're becoming, then it doesn't stick.

How are digital transformation projects in your organization usually received? Comment on this post in the Pulse community.

What are the most impactful digital transformation initiatives that you've worked on?

When I worked for Clark County, I had just moved to Las Vegas and it was growing so much faster with people coming from California and elsewhere, because of the work from anywhere movement. One of the first portals people hit is our website, so we focused on giving it a more human-centric design. We worked with IDEO—a consulting firm that focuses on design thinking—and began co-creating a solution for our website; when you're looking for information as a resident, a visitor, or an employee, what does that need to look like? That was exciting because we were working with our community, hand-in-hand, to develop what the outcome would look like.

Have you worked on a digital transformation initiative that had a major impact? Comment on this post in the Pulse community.

What advice would you give a technology executive embarking on digital transformation in the public sector?

People usually focus on budget and resources, but my number one barrier and opportunity is mindset and culture. It's about trying to get the right people in the room, and explaining what’s in it for them from a user's perspective. It always needs to be addressed in that manner. 

“[M]ake people feel like they are part of the solution. We're not doing this to them; we're doing it with them.”

If you want any kind of transformation to stick, it can't be a technology conversation. It's all about people. It's about getting people on board by explaining why we're going to be doing this. Whether you're in the private or public sector, that's the number one thing that I would advise: make people feel like they are part of the solution. We're not doing this to them; we're doing it with them.

What would you recommend to IT leaders working to digitally transform the public sector? Comment on this post in the Pulse community.

When proposing a digital transformation initiative, how do you approach handling resistance, especially from tenured employees?

A governmental organization has people who are very seasoned; they've been there for a very long time and have a lot of knowledge. At the same time, it's hard to make that shift when you've been in the same organization for 20 years and you're used to a certain culture/mindset, whether it's processes or people. It's a matter of proactively managing that anxiety and being transparent about it. Talk about what the future looks like, and share your vision of the coming years. I always talk about the next two years rather than five, because I feel like that's more actionable and realistic to execute. Talking about that openly all the time helps people feel like they know where we're going, and they can get excited about being part of that movement.

How do you cope with employee resistance to digital transformation initiatives? Comment on this post in the Pulse community.

When executing digital transformation initiatives, what percentage of your time is spent specifically in meetings?

I spent about 50% of the time just meeting with people—employees, staff, and the leadership team—and making sure that everybody understands where we're headed. What are some of the things that you think could be barriers to our progress? It's important to have that connection one-on-one; building that trust is so important when doing any kind of initiative. Focus on building that culture and then everything else comes after, because the strategy is there. But if you don't have any people who support it, then what's the point?

“Focus on building that [trust] and then everything else comes after”

Humanizing our processes was a big focus of mine when I worked for Clark County, NV. It was about coming back to the community we serve, and treating people well by making sure they feel safe in an environment as large as we are. That's really important for innovation and progress to happen. 

How much time do you spend in meetings when executing digital transformation initiatives? Comment on this post in the Pulse community.

Have you ever used a stakeholder matrix when planning a digital transformation?

After I establish what I need to do to achieve my goals, I do spend time creating a stakeholder map of people I need to be close to. It's so important to know who influences who. Then you can make sure that the influencing person is the one you’re talking to. Perception is king, and it’s what people say about you or your teams when you’re not in the room. I am meticulous about time management and I spend a lot of time on building that rapport with the board, senior management, staff, and peers, because leadership is always about building trust & relationships. 

“Perception is king, and it’s what people say about you or your teams when you’re not in the room.”

Do you identify key influencers as part of your digital transformation planning? Comment on this post in the Pulse community.

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