Improve agility and competitiveness. It’s just as important to make sure that changes are tied into business outcomes and goals. How is this change going to improve the business? How do stakeholders or clients benefit as a result? There’s nothing worse than this being a vanity project that nobody outside an organization’s leadership team buys into!
As part of our series about “How To Use Digital Transformation To Take Your Company To The Next Level”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Danny Lopez, CEO, Glasswall Solutions.
Danny has enjoyed a successful international career to date in banking, marketing, diplomacy, and technology. Danny is the CEO of award-winning cyber security firm Glasswall, which delivers unique protection against sophisticated threats through its groundbreaking technology. Danny speaks regularly on platforms across the world on topics including geopolitics and the intersection of market disrupting technologies and government policy.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
In terms of my background, I like to sort it into three different chapters with the first part being in financial services. I spent the first 10 years of my career working with Barclays in a variety of international corporate banking roles. Even though I moved on from banking I remain close to the sector as a non-executive director of both Innovate Finance, the industry body representing the UK’s global FinTech community, and the Aquis Stock Exchange, a UK-based regulated stock exchange that champions entrepreneurship, investment and market performance. I am also an advisor for FinTech Collective in New York, a venture capital firm that invests in financial services technology companies.
The next chapter began when I moved into government. Following my time at Barclays, I transitioned into the role of managing director of marketing and communications at the Department for International Trade in the UK. During my time there, I was responsible for delivering a marketing strategy to promote the UK economy internationally. Following that role, I worked for the then Mayor of London Boris Johnson and created London & Partners, the UK capital’s international trade, investment and promotion agency, becoming its inaugural CEO.
Following this role I was appointed the UK’s Consul General to New York where I was responsible for the UK’s economic profile, foreign policy and national security priorities. It was during these five years that I started to gain a keen interest in technology which eventually led me to becoming COO at Blippar, a technology company specializing in augmented reality (AR) and AI.
All of those experiences are what led me to becoming CEO of Glasswall Solutions. My financial services and government background have allowed me to have a good understanding of the public and private sector internationally to be able to better service organizations worldwide.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
My career to date has been non-linear. I’ve enjoyed what some see as re-invention every few years but to me each move has made a lot of sense. Having said that, when I left banking for the public sector, people thought I was crazy. When I became a diplomat many wondered how I would undertake a job I had no background in. For me, it was not so much about taking the plunge as it was having the required confidence to take on a new challenge. I’ve always felt that having a healthy dose of humility was key. You can’t make these changes thinking you know everything. If you’re not humble, you won’t learn in the right way and people won’t respect you.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Over the years I’ve been fortunate to work for some wonderful bosses who have become close friends and mentors. However, there is one piece of advice that was given to me a few years ago by a former British Prime Minister which I took to heart. He said that whatever role I was in, within the first 12 months, I needed to figure out what I would like my legacy from that role to be and spend 20% of my time proactively dedicated to achieving it. There’s a danger, he said, that otherwise you could spend most of your time fire-fighting and reacting to what comes your way. I will let you guess which Prime Minister said this to me!
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
My greatest source of inspiration comes from listening to episodes of Desert Island Discs, a British radio show that has been running since 1942 and interviews famous people from all walks of life, from the arts to politics, entertainment and business. Listening to personal experiences from such fascinating people is priceless.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your company started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?
We have a very simple and powerful vision, which is to protect organizations from file-based threats. It’s really quite simple. We work hard to ensure that every file or attachment our clients receive is safe and free from malicious code. Bad actors are very good at what they do and nothing motivates us more than beating them at their own game and protecting those we serve.
Are you working on any new, exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people?
It used to be the case that organizations really only received files and attachments by email. The world has changed however and the move to the cloud has dramatically increased the number of channels through which files are received, such as cloud-based shared drives. Our vision is to ensure that our intelligence-grade software can be deployed in a multitude of use cases, regardless of how an organization receives a file. This way, the protection we can offer is amplified exponentially.
Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion about Digital Transformation. For the benefit of our readers, can you help explain what exactly Digital Transformation means? On a practical level what does it look like to engage in a Digital Transformation?
Digital transformation has become something of a catch-all term for organizations that take manual processes or legacy technologies and use modern digital solutions to significantly improve their effectiveness, efficiency and performance.
Digging deeper, however, reveals it means different things in different organizations. Take the shift to home working since early last year, for example. Back in April 2020, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said that his company had “seen two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months.” This was on the back of a huge growth in the use of Microsoft Teams — a tried and trusted tech solution.
For most organizations, this type of digital transformation is relatively simple and requires little more than access to the service, a browser and internet connection. In many other circumstances, digital transformation is much more complex and may involve significant investment, bespoke software development and a major change in how individuals, departments or entire businesses operate.
It might also mean that organizations embrace powerful emerging technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to build more effective processes, uncover new areas of insight or create value from their datasets. Digital transformation can also lead to a much greater role for automation, whereby inefficient manual processes are replaced by tech-led solutions.
Which companies can most benefit from a Digital Transformation?
In theory, any organization has the potential to benefit from digital transformation. But, this isn’t an ‘off the shelf’ investment — opportunities and challenges will be unique to every situation. Leaders, for example, should focus on ensuring that digital transformation will deliver tangible benefits and value. This is not a strategy to simply hand over to the IT team, it’s a process that requires the input and support of every relevant stakeholder.
Done well, and as its name suggests, it can have a truly transformative effect and organizations can optimise their capabilities to deliver greater efficiency, improve customer service and become more competitive, innovative and profitable.
We’d love to hear about your experiences helping others with Digital Transformation. In your experience, how has Digital Transformation helped improve operations, processes and customer experiences? We’d love to hear some stories if possible.
I’ve always felt that the key to the success of any digital transformation is culture. Without it, however good the actual digital plan is, it is doomed to fail. From my experience, the right culture starts at the top and makes it clear to the rest of the organization that it is ok to take risks and that the best way to develop new solutions is by looking outside, engaging with clients, suppliers and partners. Collaboration is key and the only way for learning to be shared. The fascinating part for me is that the greatest change is really for the leadership team as a new set of behaviours will be required and they’ll have to let go of quite a few things they have been doing a certain way for years. If they embrace this, any new digital strategy is off to a flying start. If they don’t…it’s Houston, we have a problem.
Has integrating Digital Transformation been a challenging process for some companies? What are the challenges? How do you help resolve them?
From my perspective, it’s very interesting — and important — to carefully consider the cybersecurity implications of digital transformation. As organizations become more reliant on technology across every conceivable function and process, they increase their exposure to security vulnerabilities, the potential risk of data breaches and the impact of cybercrime in general.
This presents an ongoing set of challenges. New sources of risk, attacks and attackers will come in all different shapes and sizes in the years ahead. That’s why the right mindset and approach is needed now that gives companies a greater chance to combat attacks today and allows them to have the agility, resourcefulness and approach needed to up their own game as attacks get more sophisticated tomorrow.
Ok. Thank you. Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are “Five Ways a Company Can Use Digital Transformation To Take It To The Next Level”? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Improve efficiency. To do this I think it’s key to take an honest look inwards and establish where an organization is at and where it’s leadership wants it to go. Transformation is a big word and can be scary, so it’s really important to try and set out an origin and a destination. I’ve seen this done well in both small businesses and large government departments, but I’ve also seen a lot of money wasted, mainly because not enough time was spent setting out what the starting point was.
- Improve agility and competitiveness. It’s just as important to make sure that changes are tied into business outcomes and goals. How is this change going to improve the business? How do stakeholders or clients benefit as a result? There’s nothing worse than this being a vanity project that nobody outside an organization’s leadership team buys into!
- Embrace innovative technologies such as AI, ML and automation. This means taking a few risks. Sure, not every new technology is going to benefit an organization but give a few a go! There will always be learnings and when they do work, I’ve always found it is very powerful to have an internal champion.
- Take mundane repetitive tasks away from human talent and allow them to focus on more strategic goals. This is so important but it’s just as important to automate tasks as it is to re-deploy talent to do something of greater value. This can be scary as I’ve seen people being averse to change as a result. Staff need to believe digital transformation is being done for the right reasons and that investing in technology also means investing in people, if anything, even more so!
- Improve the employee experience to boost job satisfaction, employee retention and recruitment. I mentioned earlier how important culture is and talent is at the heart of any successful digital transformation strategy. Buy in at all levels is key, as is involvement. And it should be seen as a positive change, one that will make the organization a better environment to work in and one that will attract top talent to join. In so many ways digital transformation is about people, not just technology!
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Luck is what you have left over after you give 100 percent.” Langston Coleman
How can our readers further follow your work?
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!