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Sherry Casey: “Business Agility”

Business Agility — The COVID-19 pandemic created an increased demand for government citizen-assistance programs. Business agility became a requirement. The number of citizens needing to be able to self-screen and apply for benefits quickly and drastically increased. Legacy system complexity impeded easy registration and authentication. The immediate increase in transaction volume placed pressure on legacy systems, user […]

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Business Agility — The COVID-19 pandemic created an increased demand for government citizen-assistance programs. Business agility became a requirement. The number of citizens needing to be able to self-screen and apply for benefits quickly and drastically increased. Legacy system complexity impeded easy registration and authentication. The immediate increase in transaction volume placed pressure on legacy systems, user interaction was slow and time consuming, and this risked undermining citizen confidence in government.


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 Sherry Casey.

Sherry Casey is head of applications transformation at Fujitsu Americas. She joined Fujitsu as head of Canada in 2017 before being appointed head of applications transformation for the Americas in 2019. With more than 25 years of experience in the ICT industry, she has held a variety of executive leadership positions with major global IT corporations and has led complex and diverse teams that have enabled customers to transform their organizations and guide their digital transformation throughout North America.


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?

I actually started my career as the internet was in its infancy, teaching lawyers how to search for legal cases and companies how to access news reports. I used to haul computers on trollies to do demonstrations in their offices by through modems using old-school telephones connecting into suction cups.

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?

I was a young working mother of two with a very demanding job. Both of my girls were competitive soccer players, and at the start of the season each player’s mother had to commit to taking on a social responsibility for the team. I chose the year-end party food provision because I figured nothing would give me more time to prepare than serving food at the year-end event. Sure enough, wasn’t that party the same day a very large deliverable was due to a customer. My team and I worked all weekend getting it done and we hadn’t slept more than a few hours in days. Thank goodness for mothers — in this instance my mother — who was standing at the year-end event’s parking lot entrance. I drove up and she passed trays of wonderfully prepared food through my car window, letting me look like I was Wonder Woman as I careened into the party, food trays in tow. The lesson: It really does take a village.

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?

Being a woman in a high-tech boardroom in the ’80s and ’90s was often a lonely place to be. A new and highly experienced male leader took over the company I was working for. At first, I was somewhat concerned about how I would be perceived by him. However, I soon learned that he was one of the most accomplished leaders I had ever had the pleasure to work for. He had an innate ability to see everyone in a boardroom and actively hear them. His ability to ensure all voices were amplified, versus just the loudest voices in the room, was pivotal in my career. I owe much of my career advancement to his excellent leadership skills, as well as the fact that, in his boardrooms, gender truly didn’t matter.

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?

I really connected with “Good to Great.” Since reading that book, I’ve always looked to get the best team around me I could and worry about what their “seat on the bus” was going to be after the fact. Getting the right people on the bus was the most important starting point. That strategy has never led me astray, as having a lot of strong talent is never an issue.

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?

Fujitsu was established in June 1935 in Kawasaki, Japan, switching systems and transmission equipment to support telephone service networks as a response to the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, which destroyed most of Japan’s public infrastructure. Since its foundation, Fujitsu has grown into a thriving global network.

Today, Fujitsu’s focus as a digital transformation organization is on supporting businesses to drive innovation. Through a consultative approach, we help answer key business challenges, such as how to enhance the customer experience or drive innovation as a data-driven enterprise.

Are you working on any new, exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people?

We are working with the City of Montreal to help evaluate and optimize services to citizens using artificial intelligence (AI). Specifically, we’re working with them on a predictive AI-based solution to dynamically manage traffic lights in the context of the city’s Traffic Response Plan. Globally, we’re leveraging our explainable AI technology to strengthen and enhance the detection of credit card fraud to help people protect their finances.

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 refers to companies responding to the dramatic changes in the business environment, using data and digital technology to transform their products, services and business models based on the needs of customers and society while also transforming their business processes and organization, as well as corporate culture and climate, and securing competitive pre-eminence.

Which companies can most benefit from a Digital Transformation?

Any organization interested in enhancing customer experience, focusing on innovation, transforming operations, enhancing their competitive advantage, or improving their business’s responsiveness and agility for the future can benefit from digital transformation.

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.

We recently successfully completed a full portfolio migration for a global automotive OEM in support of their digital transformation strategy. In order to position themselves as a leader in mobility as a service, we partnered with the OEM to migrate all of their applications from their existing data centers and transform the applications to the most current technology during the process. This enabled the OEM to deliver digital transformation initiatives more rapidly.

Has integrating Digital Transformation been a challenging process for some companies? What are the challenges? How do you help resolve them?

Digital transformation can be challenging for companies. Sometimes it’s a resistance to change or lack of a clear vision for the future that gets in the way of their digital transformation. In other cases, it’s that companies aren’t sure how best to gather and use all of the data and information they have on their customers to better understand their needs. Sometimes they’re stuck with a seemingly inflexible technology stack and equally inflexible development processes. In some cases, it’s simply that a company has a legacy mindset, making it challenging for them to see past it to the future. At Fujitsu, our aim is to support businesses to drive innovation. Through a consultative approach, we help answer some key business challenges, such as how to enhance the customer experience or drive innovation as a data-driven enterprise. We help define value-based outcomes and create a design-led solution framework that is focused on human-centric technology and innovation, and then we execute on that framework to achieve true transformation and help companies overcome those challenges.

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.

In my experience, companies can take it to the next level by focusing on five key areas: customer experience, data-driven enterprise, transformed operations, competitive advantage and business agility. There is also a powerful synergy and overlap across the domains that help identify and select digital transformation projects. For example, data will be a central component of most digital transformation projects and is also a core component of the data-driven enterprise domain.

The following are five examples using the business domain lenses to initiate a digital transformation, return value quickly, foster momentum and iteratively increase business outcomes:

Customer Experience

A global airline company developed the capability to sell a single product online: airline seats. Years ago, this was an innovative capability. Relying on past innovation, the airline found itself falling behind the competition and unable to achieve value opportunities, such as integrating with partner travel websites. With competitors advancing and the introduction of new sales channels, the airline was missing opportunities for new revenue streams. The single-channel customer relationship limited the customer experience.

Digitally transforming capabilities via digital omni-channel offers, orders and shopping cart APIs expanded the airline’s offering from a single product (airline seats) to a complete travel service (hotels, cars, entertainment, add-ons) for purchase on mobile devices, kiosks and integrated partner websites. Customers can now order a wider variety of services using their device of choice. This transformation increases revenue, reduces the cost of presenting the offer and digitally connects the customer to a one-stop shopping experience, thereby increasing customer loyalty.

Data-Driven Enterprise

A wind turbine manufacturer performed quality assurance on massive turbine blades using human “experience-based” visual problem identification, analysis and rectification. This manual resolution process was reactive, time-consuming and analog, and had a high risk of error.

By deconstructing the inspection process, deploying automated scanning equipment, and applying artificial intelligence technology to analyze the image data for anomalies and potential defects, the inspection time was reduced by 80% and accuracy increased. The manual inspection refocused on identified anomalies, and the data generated by the artificial intelligence was used to enhance production and increase the quality of the product.

Transformed Operations

A high school was struggling to effectively manage student attendance, course progress, grades and teacher assignments. Processes in place were very manual and labor-intensive, often resulting in delays receiving student progress reports and challenges maintaining an up-to-date teacher roster. The issue had started to impact reporting to the central department of education, threatening future funding levels.

By understanding the operational challenges facing the school and digitally transforming operations through automation, the school was able to provide students and parents with real-time progress reports, improve the scheduling of teaching assignments and reduce the amount of time staff spent on manual tasks. As a result, the school reduced costs by 25% and received additional funding for the new school year through improved reporting.

Competitive Advantage

A global automotive company sought methods to monetize data from connected vehicles by creating driver-behavior-based services for insurance companies. The massive data from connected vehicles is unorganized and disconnected. Converging markets introduced new competitors — such as emerging technology companies — as well as new opportunities for the rapidly growing revenue streams. Traditional approaches weren’t fast enough or flexible enough to capitalize on the new opportunities.

Applying stream data and artificial intelligence technologies, the massive connected vehicle data streams were organized as core components of an automotive digital twin strategy. Driver-behavior algorithms were developed that could be sold as a service to insurance companies. Dashboards and real-time mapping of the driver activity provide a digital trust via a visual explanation of the driver-behavior score.

Business Agility

The COVID-19 pandemic created an increased demand for government citizen-assistance programs. Business agility became a requirement. The number of citizens needing to be able to self-screen and apply for benefits quickly and drastically increased. Legacy system complexity impeded easy registration and authentication. The immediate increase in transaction volume placed pressure on legacy systems, user interaction was slow and time consuming, and this risked undermining citizen confidence in government.

To solve the challenge, the business capabilities were deconstructed and digital technology was applied to transform the citizen (customer) experience. A mobile user interface and robotic data capture solution quickly converted paper-based forms for processing. Scalable processing provided multiple user options, including online forms, camera-captured image or scanned applications sent via email/secure website, and paper applications mailed and automatically scanned and processed, and an asynchronous queue was processed during non-peak hours to balance the load on the existing legacy applications. The outcomes were accelerated form processing, cost reduction, quality and efficiency improvements. The transformation increased business agility within the government to respond to citizens in their time of need.

In your opinion, how can companies best create a “culture of innovation” in order to create new competitive advantages?

o Creating a culture of innovation requires visible sponsorship and inspiration from leaders and executives, employees who are committed to and empowered to experiment, a set of enablers to infuse innovation into all parts of the organization and into daily activity, and a clearly articulated innovation strategy with specific expectations and goals.

o At Fujitsu, for example, our Technology & Service Vision is guided by a culture of human-centric innovation and value-based outcomes.

o Human-centric innovation is an approach to creating business and social value by empowering people with digital technology. It’s about bringing together three key value drivers: creativity, intelligence and connectedness. Each value is derived from dimensions of people, information and infrastructure.

· Human empowerment: Empowering people with digital technology

· Creative intelligence: Using intelligence derived from analyzing data and employing algorithms

· Connected infrastructure: Connecting things and the infrastructure of business and society

o Fujitsu believes human-centric innovation is the key approach to achieving real business and social value from digital transformation. Digital technology, of course, is crucial to this. But unless we build it around people, we won’t achieve the true potential of this innovation.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“If not now, when? If not you, who?” Rather than expecting other people to do something or lead an initiative or drive a change, I’ve just always felt that action was something I was responsible for.

How can our readers further follow your work?

I guess I need to write a book!

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