Yuval Dvir is best known for his transformative influence on Skype, which created a blueprint for successful data and culture change. Today, he is a Global Director at Google and a top Artificial Intelligence Speaker. We recently sat down with Yuval to hear how he transformed Skype and what business leadership must do to successfully adapt their own organisation to the new digital landscape.

How did you transform Skype?

“When I was promoted at Skype to lead the business transformation, I had multiple people across the organisation telling me it was the third attempt trying to change the company culture, and the business was going to fail again. After a few weeks, I understood what they meant. Nobody really had any sort of appetite to change, and we were very close to failing once again.

“The difference sometimes between failed transformations and the one that succeeds is the conviction you have [from] the leadership team, and the people who move and adopt the transformation. That’s a key thing.”

Why do some business leaders resist digital transformation?

“Well, some business leaders are genuinely concerned about technology, because, in their past experience, they haven’t really dealt with it. They’re not as proficient with it as some people. Some of them are just concerned about what technology would bring, because digital disruption may be triggered by technology, but it means much more in terms of what it brings to the company.

“Some people, as a result, would prefer to stop any change from happening whatsoever, and ensure that their own domain and function continues as the way it is, with no transparency, with no change to their business. So, those are the problematic people that have the resistance. The others, the ones that are not as proficient, but have the ability or the desire or the motivation to learn, usually see the benefit, the value to them.”

What metrics do you use to define the success of digital transformation?

“There are two types of metrics that you need: the metrics for the transformation itself and the metrics for the business, they are tied. What I mean by that is the metrics for the transformation depend really on the type of transformation.

“Are we doing a sort of initiative or a new product or is it the true corporate-wide transformation which has not only the technological aspect or the business aspects, but the people aspects and very much cultural aspects? If we think about the transformation metrics, it is how many engaged employees do we have? Are we able to reduce the complexity of the organisation using any sort of metrics, to see the time it takes to launch an event or a product? And so on and so forth.”

What is it that you like about data?

“What I like about data so much is the fact that in some cases, when it’s measured correctly or when you’re being very thorough with the data, then sometimes… it’s a slam dunk! You can’t argue against it. It closes a situation or debate. It supplies factual evidence and makes decisions as a result much faster. I think what we’re starting to learn more and more right now is things we’ve considered not data scientific enough, such as gut feeling and intuition, are becoming actually more scientific than we initially thought they were.

“So, to give you an example, we believe that our conscious mind is what makes us make decisions and decide where we want to go. But it’s actually the main part of our brain that we don’t have even access to, the subconscious mind, where all the decisions, all the calculations are actually being made, because there are some things that we are not aware of and are due to our computing power in the brain. Perhaps, that shines a light on something that currently our conscious mind cannot even see.”

This interview with Yuval Dvir was conducted by Chris Tompkins.