Hugo de Sousa has been working in the IT world for over 15 years. He’s been involved in several Digital Transformation projects, namely in the Portuguese Justice Department. He has recently moved to Dublin, and I caught up with him to find out more about the move, and about his take on some digital issues.
How did you first get interested in Digital Transformation?
After more than 15 years working in IS/IT and approximately 2 years with startups I’ve realized that technology is not only to support business but it’s mostly to transform businesses, sectors and lives.
Another reason is the huge opportunity there is to transform medium to large organizations. All the hype is about startups and what about existing companies? When everybody wants to join a cool startup there is a huge space to occupy in existing organizations.
Another interesting thing is that typical consulting companies, especially top-tier, still don’t have the courage to be disruptive. Another opportunity to join the DX field. They need disruptive people like me 🙂
How are our lives different because of the changes Digital Transformation enables?
Hard to answer because it’s already happening and part of our lives. Uber, Facebook, Google, Smartphones, AirBNB, …, etc, etc, etc, changed literally the way we do everything. And this is just the beginning. Self driving cars, unmanned drones, artificial intelligence, robots, nanotechnology for health, etc, will create a new world and a new kind of human being. It’s the end of the Homo sapiens and the beginning of a new homo. Exciting times ahead of us!
What’s the biggest challenge companies still have to overcome?
Agility and flexibility to keep transforming on shorter periods of time. It’s very hard for a big ship to change direction but that ability is crucial in a world where knowledge technology is accessible to everybody.
Another big challenge is status quo. Older companies are mostly about status quo – they look at change with disregard. They are afraid of hiring different people.
What were the main achievements from your time at the Portuguese Ministry of Justice?
I would say 3 things:
First – http://justica.gov.pt – created after a benchmark in London with GDS UK (responsible for gov.uk) it aims to be a new approach to digital services. Services that people actually use. In the first era of eGov the goal was to have something online. It didn’t matter if people were actually using those services. Today it’s fundamental to reduce offline services by making sure online services have the necessary ease of use on any device.
Second – the whole digital transformation strategy – it was the first time that digital transformation was discussed in the Portuguese Government. I’ proud to be part of the first team who aimed to really transform things in Portugal by having a citizen centric approach
Third – a new approach to Land Registry – I was part of a new and disruptive approach to Land Registry. The goal is to make sure all citizens adhere to Land Registry in a short period of time. Just like a startup that needs an exponential curve of users. The project is still on a pilot phase but it was innovative from the start: service design teams, guerrilla marketing, among other new approaches never tried before. We also had startups collaborating in this prototype. Quite something for a typical gov approach to solve a problem!
How did the chance come about to move to Ireland?
My wife got a job in Ireland. Family comes first. I decided to move and have my first job abroad. I’ve worked before in multinational companies in several geographies but it’s always different to actual move from your country to another one. I also needed this experience in my curriculum.
How has the experience been so far?
Amazing! I’m getting 5 calls a day from recruiters. It never happened in Portugal. Here people want to hire you regardless of your age or who you know (networking). If you are good you will get a chance to prove your value. From a salary point of view the question is not how much you make but how much you save per month. It’s a completely different reality regarding salaries. And yes, it’s still possible to enjoy Portugal during the weekends or even during the week because I’m able to work from home. It’s too soon to say that it was a good move but so far I’m really happy with everything.
What must companies do in 2018 to advance Digital Transformation?
They should get out of the comfort zone and prototype a change to an existing product or service. Or a new one. Set a budget, hire a courageous team with a different background and be ready to fail fast. If it works, be ready to scale up the new solution. And please get to know the difference between Information Systems and Digital Transformation. Innovation will NEVER come from the IT Department – still worried with keeping the lights blinking on the data center.
What’s the most useful piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Never ask for permission to do anything. Say sorry if it went wrong and move forward.