Interview with Digital Transformation expert: Valentina Samayoa

Valentina Samayoa

We interviewed a group of experts and emerging specialists across a variety of fields including digital transformation, change management, IT and HR, to explore their journey to the top. 

In this article, we break down the importance of digital transformation and its impact on today’s businesses from the perspective of digital transformation expert Valentina Samayoa, Global Sustainability and Digital Transformation Manager at Because Energy Matters. 

Valentina shares her journey, skills, examples, challenges, insights and more into the topic of digital transformation after over 20 years in the world of finance. Discover Valentina’s transformation experience and tips to guide your own strategy. 

Key takeaways:

🍋 Assess your organization’s readiness for digital transformation by conducting digital maturity assessments. Monitor time-to-market for new products or features, calculate return on investment (ROI), and assess the adaptability and agility of your organization.

🍋 To reduce training and support costs, cultivate a culture of continuous learning with e-learning platforms and online training modules. Maintain a comprehensive knowledge base that incorporates gamification and micro-learning techniques.

*The following answers have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

  1. How do you define digital transformation, and why is it important for businesses today?

Digital transformation is an innovation process that organizations embark on to adapt to a complex and evolving environment. It’s crucial to understand that this transformation cannot be achieved without including cultural change. By embracing digital transformation, businesses can ensure their relevance, competitiveness, and sustainability in today’s rapidly changing digital landscape. It empowers organizations to harness the potential of technology to drive growth, enhance operational efficiency, and deliver exceptional customer experiences. By integrating digital technologies and encouraging a culture of innovation, businesses can effectively navigate the challenges of the digital era and seize new opportunities for success.

  1. Could you share your journey to becoming an expert in your current position?

After more than 20 years of leading financial areas for multinational companies as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), I found myself at a crossroads in the face of the rapidly changing business landscape driven by digital transformation. Recognizing the profound influence of technology on the future of finance and business, I made a decision to deepen my understanding of digital transformation through education. My experience while taking the Professional Certificate in Sustainability and Digital Transformation at MIT was nothing short of transformative, and its impact continues to resonate with me. Immersed in a vibrant environment of cutting-edge research, esteemed industry leaders, and a rigorous curriculum, I delved into the realms of emerging technologies, digital strategy, and organizational change. This exposure equipped me with invaluable knowledge and insights. Drawing upon my extensive financial expertise and newfound understanding of digital transformation, I assumed a pivotal role in guiding my organization through the intricacies of digital adoption. Recognizing the immense potential, I identified opportunities to automate mundane financial tasks, harnessed advanced analytics to unlock valuable insights, and optimized our financial operations using state-of-the-art cloud-based platforms and technologies. Today, I am filled with profound gratitude for the privilege of integrating my passions for sustainability, technology, and people’s experiences. I have come to realize that these aspects are profoundly interconnected, with each one enriching the other.

  1. In your opinion, what are the key skills and qualities that a successful digital transformation officer should possess?

In my opinion, a successful Digital Transformation Officer should possess a diverse set of skills and qualities to drive effective digital transformation initiatives. These include technical expertise, strategic vision, change management skills, business acumen, data-driven decision-making abilities, collaboration and influencing capabilities, agility and adaptability, innovation and entrepreneurship mindset, risk management proficiency, and a commitment to continuous learning. These skills enable them to align technology with business objectives, manage cultural and organizational change, make data-informed decisions, foster collaboration and innovation, and effectively manage risks. Additionally, successful digital transformation leaders must also prioritize the human element, being effective listeners, challenging assumptions, and modeling the desired behaviors. They should demonstrate qualities such as creativity, agility, risk-taking, and vulnerability in the face of change. It’s important to recognize that true innovation is not achieved solely through technology adoption or successful digital transformation, but by focusing on the continuous delivery of value to drive meaningful and impactful change.

  1. Can you provide examples of successful digital transformation initiatives that you have led or been a part of? What were the key factors contributing to their successes?

I recently had the opportunity to lead a restructuring process within the financial department, specifically focusing on a team of 45 members. Our goal was not only to introduce new digital tools, but also to revamp the communication processes and methods of interaction with the rest of the organization. The restructuring was driven by the need to improve the overall efficiency and effectiveness of our financial operations. We recognized that by incorporating advanced digital tools, we could automate tasks, streamline workflows, and enhance our data management capabilities. However, we also understood that effective communication was crucial for success. 

As part of my role, I have just participated in a transformation initiative within educational institutions in Peru, with two universities and a higher education institute catering to over 175,000 students. We successfully adapted to changing student behaviors by leveraging digital channels. By partnering with experts, we identified student challenges and developed innovative phygital (physical plus digital) engagement initiatives that seamlessly blend physical and digital experiences, going beyond traditional classroom interactions. Through the creation of a user-friendly app and website, we established stronger connections, reduced dropout rates, and improved student satisfaction. This student-centric approach empowered the students with resources and opportunities, leading to a transformative educational experience in the digital age. 

I firmly believe that good communication and proximity to people are paramount in achieving a successful digital transformation. Effective communication plays a vital role in engaging stakeholders, managing expectations, and ensuring a clear understanding of the transformation goals and progress. It promotes a sense of transparency and trust, allowing for open dialogue and collaboration. This includes having strong leadership to drive change and establish a clear vision, implementing effective change management strategies to ensure smooth adoption and integration of digital technologies, embracing innovation and leveraging appropriate digital tools, fostering collaboration and cross-functional teamwork, and prioritizing continuous learning and upskilling.

  1. What are some challenges or roadblocks you have faced in your career regarding digital transformation, and how did you overcome them?

One significant challenge in digital transformation is resistance to change. People may be hesitant to adopt new technologies or ways of working due to fear, lack of awareness, or concerns about job security. Another common roadblock is legacy systems and outdated infrastructure. Integrating new digital tools and technologies with existing systems can be complex and may require significant investments in upgrading or replacing outdated infrastructure. Cybersecurity and data privacy concerns are also significant challenges in the digital transformation journey. As organizations adopt new digital technologies, they must prioritize robust security measures and comply with regulations to protect sensitive data. Finally, a lack of digital skills and talent within the organization can hinder digital transformation efforts. Organizations need to invest in upskilling and reskilling programs to equip employees with the necessary digital competencies. Overcoming these challenges involves clear communication to address resistance to change, providing training and support, and involving employees to gain their buy-in.

Upgrading or replacing outdated infrastructure, integrating new technologies, and partnering with experts helps overcome roadblocks related to legacy systems. Prioritizing cybersecurity measures, complying with regulations, and conducting regular audits address data privacy concerns. Working together with organizations that suggest investment into upskilling, reskilling programs, and promoting a culture of continuous learning helps overcome the lack of digital skills and talent.

  1. Has digital transformation played a significant role in the success of your company?

I can confidently state that digital transformation has been instrumental in the remarkable success and rapid growth of my company. Our strategic partnerships with multinational technology companies have provided us with access to their vast resources, expertise, and global networks. Collaborating with these industry giants has allowed us to scale our operations rapidly and penetrate new markets. By combining our sustainability-focused expertise with their technological capabilities, we have created a unique value proposition that resonates with customers worldwide. Furthermore, our company’s commitment to sustainability aligns with the growing global focus on environmental stewardship and corporate social responsibility. The increasing demand for sustainable solutions has provided us with a favorable market landscape for our products and services. By leveraging digital technologies to communicate our sustainability story and showcase our impact, we have effectively differentiated ourselves from competitors and attracted environmentally conscious customers and investors.

  1. How do you measure the success of digital transformation?

As a digital transformation expert, measuring the success of digital transformation requires evaluating multiple factors. This includes assessing business key performance indicators (KPIs) such as revenue growth and cost savings, gauging improvements in customer experience metrics, evaluating operational efficiency gains, and analyzing employee engagement levels. Additionally, conducting digital maturity assessments helps understand the organization’s readiness for digital transformation. Monitoring time-to-market for new products or features, calculating return on investment (ROI), and assessing adaptability and agility are also crucial. The selection of metrics should align with the organization’s specific goals and priorities, providing a comprehensive view of the impact of digital transformation on financial performance, customer satisfaction, operational effectiveness, employee engagement, and overall digital maturity.

  1. What strategies does your company implement to reduce training and support costs?

To reduce training and support costs, my company implements several strategies. These include leveraging e-learning platforms and online training modules, maintaining a comprehensive knowledge base and documentation repository, promoting peer-to-peer learning, utilizing video conferencing and webinars, incorporating gamification and micro-learning techniques, designing user-friendly systems and interfaces, and promoting a continuous learning culture. These strategies aim to provide cost-effective and self-directed learning opportunities, encourage knowledge sharing among employees, simplify training processes, and cultivate a culture of continuous learning.

  1. How do you stay up to date with the latest trends and advancements in digital transformation?

To reduce training and support costs, my company implements several strategies. These include leveraging e-learning platforms and online training modules, maintaining a comprehensive knowledge base and documentation repository, promoting peer-to-peer learning, utilizing video conferencing and webinars, incorporating gamification and micro-learning techniques, designing user-friendly systems and interfaces, and promoting a continuous learning culture. These strategies aim to provide cost-effective and self-directed learning opportunities, encourage knowledge sharing among employees, simplify training processes, and cultivate a culture of continuous learning.

  1. Are there any IT trends that have caught your attention and that you believe companies should be aware of?

There are several IT trends that have caught my attention, and I believe companies should be aware of them. These trends include Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML), Internet of Things (IoT), cybersecurity and data privacy, cloud computing, and blockchain technology. Cloud computing and blockchain, in particular, play a crucial role in transparent decarbonization through the use of carbon tokens and traceability. Other notable trends include edge computing, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), and data analytics and business intelligence. Embracing these trends can lead to enhanced efficiency, improved customer experiences, and competitive advantages. It is essential for companies to stay informed about these trends and assess how they can leverage them to drive innovation and foster business growth.

Sarah C

Sarah oversees all things inbound marketing, exploring the many business uses and topics surrounding digital adoption. Her previous experiences include B2C and product marketing in the social listening space, uncovering emerging industry trends.