Five Ways a Company Can Use Digital Transformation To Take It To The Next Level
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 Jochem Steman, VP of Colocation Europe, Serverfarm.
As VP of Colocation Europe, Steman is charged with leading the company’s colocation services across the most critical data center markets in Europe, including Amsterdam, where Serverfarm owns and operates facilities.
Steman brings over 23 years of IT industry experience to this executive role. His strong understanding of the technologies causing digital disruption and how to apply them has driven business growth across several mission-critical infrastructure organizations. Prior to joining Serverfarm, Steman was the CEO of Datacenter.com, a startup with facilities in Amsterdam, Singapore and Dallas, where he successfully built the company from the ground up. At Brocade, he was responsible for IP networking solutions for international cloud service providers and high-tech accounts.
(Authority Magazine) 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?
(Jochem Steman) While studying computer science, I completed an internship in the technical support department of a company specializing in communication and Unix solutions for hi-tech businesses and Internet Service Providers. This is where I had my first real contact with the IT sector. At that time, I noticed a communication mismatch between the company and technology — it’s like they both speak a different language. Since then, I have always been active in technical environments within the commercial field, from mainframes to complex network environments.
With my technical/commercial background, I set up and led several infrastructures and managed service divisions for various IT companies. All of these roles supported customers in the digitization of their business. In addition, this included starting my own IT infrastructure company.
Since I have always been active in the “IT side” of the company, a few years ago, I was asked by the investors of internet companies if I was open to becoming the CEO of a yet-to-be-established data center service provider. Unhampered by any prior knowledge of the physical side of the data center industry, I changed course from the IT world, where I was mainly active in infrastructure projects supporting digital transformation projects, and moved with my family to the south of Europe to embark on a new adventure in the physical side of the data center world.
The company had a very intensive but instructive period in which it grew to branches in Asia, Europe and North America. It was interesting to see and experience what the digital transformation of companies brings about in the data center industry. Due to the transformation of organizations and governments, the requirements for the data center industry are also becoming stricter.
After a few years of constant traveling and long days working as the CEO of this startup, which laid a healthy foundation for further growth, it was time for something new. Something fresh that I could build something beautiful out of with my sleeves rolled up.
Today, I am Serverfarm’s Vice President of Colocation Europe, responsible for the expansion and further development of this critical region. The decisive reason to join Serverfarm is its DMaaS (Data Center Management as a Service) service offering (InCommand). In my opinion, this is the missing piece between the physical and virtual IT world. Something I’ve seen a lot of companies struggle with in my past, especially when it comes to digital transformation.
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?
Honestly, I haven’t made any mistakes that I find too funny in my career. Several ‘mistakes’ were expensive lessons. When I make mistakes like that, my stomach collapses. The lesson I have learned is that even though things move very quickly in the data center sector, I try to slow down the process when making important decisions and must give myself the necessary time to go through everything carefully before finalizing my decision.
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?
My goal is to learn something new every day, and I have had the privilege of working with and getting to know many excellent people, specialists in their fields, from whom I have learned a lot.
In my career, I have been able to do wonderful things that often demand the utmost of myself and my family. The long days, traveling and moving to another country for work demand a lot from my wife and two children. The term ‘behind a strong man is an even stronger woman’ is certainly true.
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?
One of the books I recommend is, Start with Why by Simon Sinek. While the content is very business-focused, there is a huge application to my own life. It helps me question if I really know “why” I do what I do. This question guides me to set priorities and focus on the things that truly matter.
When it comes to podcasts, I currently enjoy listening to The Future of Data Centers. This podcast is produced by Serverfarm and takes listeners on a journey into the evolving world of data centers.
Are you working on any new, exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people?
I work with the Serverfarm team on many new projects for various enterprise clients, all with different needs across different regions. Further digitization of our global customers poses several challenges, such as country-issued regulations that prohibit certain information from leaving its nation. This means that our customers need to be able to store or process their data in specific locations. Serverfarm enables these organizations to solve complex regulations and compliance concerns with its growing footprint of modern data center facilities and InCommand, a machine learning-powered solution.
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 will look different for every business; it can be difficult to find a definition that applies to everyone. Basically, digital transformation is the integration of digital technology and/or internet technology across all facets of a company.
Digital transformation is changing the way an organization works: systems, processes, workflow, and culture are all part of this transformational process. It results in fundamental changes to the way a business operates, enabling organizations to meet and anticipate the needs of their stakeholders and deliver better services and value to customers. — In short, business transformation is enabled by technology.
For many businesses, the driver of digital transformation is cost-related (reducing hardware, software and operational costs). Turning a business into a digital business allows enterprises to work faster and in new ways to better compete in today’s evolving marketplace.
For example, cloud computing and mobile technology, supported by modern software and best practices, give employees access to business applications anytime, anywhere.
In addition, the introduction of automation accelerates processes and reduces human errors. Taking it one step further: with the introduction of tools such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), the organization will continue to transform by analyzing data sets to locate, solve problems and optimize the process. For example, we often see this in fraudulent behavior or identifying new opportunities.
Not to mention beyond the technical aspect, digital transformation is a cultural change that requires organizations to constantly challenge the status quo, experiment often, and be comfortable with failure. This means that transforming your business means moving away from long-standing business processes built before this transformation.
Importantly, like any project, the start of digital transformation must begin with a problem description, a clear opportunity or an ambitious goal. What’s the “Why” your organization needs to start digital transformation — it could be about improving customer experience and increasing productivity while lowering operational costs.
Which companies can most benefit from a Digital Transformation?
In my opinion, there is only one possible answer: every company!
A well-implemented digital transformation will improve business operations and ultimately gain a competitive advantage, regardless of the size of the market and how competitive the niche is.
The fact is that if companies are to grow with the rapid pace of today’s digital change, they must work to increase efficiency with technology as an enabler wherever possible.
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.
There are many examples, and there is certainly no shortage of opportunities for digital transformation in the market. The market is full of success stories showing that companies have moved from the traditional analog to the new digital. The positive effect of the COVID period is that many more companies have started working digitally or providing digital services, from designing products to holding virtual meetings with suppliers, virtual building tours, and assessing the functionality of products and services before offering them to customers. The digital way of working has changed the way different organizations do business in different sectors.
For example, some companies use augmented reality applications to introduce products and show customers exactly what they are buying. This application allows users to switch between different colors so that the customers are more convinced of what they are buying without visiting the store. We regularly gave virtual tours of our data centers because travel was simply not allowed. This has led us to use this digital option more often to provide our customers an expedited first impression even though travel is permitted again.
Banks and financial institutions have started using online video chat services for a better digital experience to improve communication and increase online engagement resulting in higher satisfaction, retention and new customer growth.
Has integrating Digital Transformation been a challenging process for some companies? What are the challenges? How do you help resolve them?
It is, of course, a challenge. The biggest challenge is getting started. Implementing change is often a difficult subject in enterprise organizations. It is important to define clear goals and ensure that the entire organization supports the digital transformation. Also, it is important to continue to communicate and train so your employees remain connected.
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.
Digital Transformation is not a one-off initiative; it strategically positions your company for the future. Creating a foundation for digital transformation out of business priorities and defined business value.
1.Define your digital transformation roadmap. In essence, Digital Transformation is much more than a project; it is a profound change across a corporate culture and its work practices. During this journey, it is essential to establish a clear roadmap to avoid getting lost along the way. Define your primary objectives. A good starting point is answering these critical yet basic questions: Why are we doing this? Where can we quickly bring the maximum results from digitalization?
2. Prepare for a culture change. Remember, it isn’t technology that is at the heart of Digital Transformation; it’s humans. It’s natural to be skeptical and resistant to change, so be prepared for push-back from your team. Find people on your team who are likely to promote and champion the digital transformation to their peers. Keep them involved as they will be able to start communicating about the upcoming changes and allow you to get initial feedback from the organization about the approaching changes. As digital transformation initiatives unfold, they will impact the work of your employees every day. It is important to identify projects that improve the efficiency, effectiveness and productivity of employees. This cultural preparation is a critical part of the digital transformation process.
3. Start small but strategic. Digital Transformation is called transformation for a reason: it will take time and you’re not changing everything overnight. Start with a small but strategic project first. Start implementing the initiatives that are “quick wins” and can be up and running without delay. Show measurable results within six to nine months. Keep in mind that the first digital transformation initiative is most critical to proving value and ensuring the long-term success of your strategy. Take the proper steps and time to identify an impactful way to jump-start your Digital Transformation efforts.
4. Stay in control of the technical aspects. It’s no secret that the successful implementation of a new digital solution requires a qualified and efficient IT department. Look to strengthen your core competencies by seeking partners who complement your strengths and understand you and your business. Finding the right partners will accelerate results and drive initiatives forward. For example, with data center services, ask how many enterprises now have in-depth knowledge of this technology? Provide stable and secure connectivity (access to others and to customers) to be able to offer your services and products online.
Don’t ignore the importance of the testing phases. It’s better to be a little late and present a complete finished solution to the end users rather than letting them erase the slate with tools that have too many technical issues.
5. Gather feedback, refine your strategy and scale. Digital Transformation is a journey, and it is important to implement waypoints to evaluate the outcomes and adjust and improve them as necessary. Based on the feedback, new objectives may come along, so make sure your technologies are flexible and agile enough to respond — the goal is never to become locked in your “new system.” In short, it is all about agility. Once your organization sees results from the initial Digital Transformation projects, it is time to scale up, integrate more, and make sure your digital strategy is up to date. The digital strategy is your roadmap of where change is most effective in your organization.
In your opinion, how can companies best create a “culture of innovation” in order to create new competitive advantages?
You need employees who work and think independently, and as a leader of an organization, you need to enable them to do so. Innovation within your organization is important for entrepreneurial success. It is important that there is strong leadership in place to nurture innovation and build a culture that celebrates success.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“If it was easy, everyone would do it.” I use this quote quite often when there are situations in which our organization or I are convinced that something is possible. An external party indicates that it is impossible. Today, a lot of people are used to getting things done easily and quickly and getting that instant gratification instead of putting it off, putting a lot of time and energy into it for greater rewards in the future.
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!
As Serverfarm’s VP of Colocation Europe, Steman brings over 23 years of IT industry experience to the Serverfarm team. His strong understanding of the technologies causing digital disruption and how to apply them has driven business growth across several mission-critical infrastructure organizations. Prior to joining Serverfarm, Steman was the CEO of Datacenter.com, a startup with facilities in Amsterdam, Singapore and Dallas, where he successfully built the company from the ground up. At Brocade, he was responsible for IP networking solutions for international cloud service providers and high-tech accounts.
Read the Serverfarm White Paper: Ending Data Center Infrastructure Design Debt
The latest whitepaper from Serverfarm, discusses how enterprises can benefit by extending the life of aging existing data centers.