Gain confidence that your digital transformation will succeed

© Suttiwat Phokaiautjima

Tony Eccleston & Will Bentley of Marlborough Consulting share insights based on successful digital transformation experience across sectors

Investment in digital transformation has accelerated across sectors through the pandemic, with heightened customer expectations. The importance and urgency of digitally enabled change are at the forefront of organisations’ priorities to meet customer and workforce needs, and to deliver joined-up and personalised public services.

In our experience, organisations face many challenges when effecting digital transformation. Whilst digital transformation is never ‘painting by numbers,’ we observe common success factors, often less visible and ‘below the waterline,’ which when addressed upfront, significantly de-risks transformation and increases the likelihood of greater, early, and sustained business and customer value.

By addressing ‘non-technical’ success factors early, our customers achieve sustainable Value and Return on Investment (ROI) from digital transformation.

Digital transformation: Setup for success at Northern Rail

Northern, the second largest train operator in the UK, plays a vital role in the north of England by connecting tens of thousands of people to work, leisure, education and more every day. As such Northern’s vision is to “make a positive impact for the North, in all we do and for all we serve.”

Investment in digital transformation is a key enabler for Northern’s vision, which includes using technology to improve every step of the customer journey.

Marlborough was delighted to be appointed, in partnership with Northern, to support one of Northern’s key digital transformation workstreams. Marlborough deployed a senior team, combining technical and digital expertise with significant leadership experience to strengthen the foundations for effective digital transformation ahead of the deployment of more visible customer-facing technologies and solutions into 2022.

We subsequently:

  • Conducted rigorous business impact assessments to ensure a firm baseline for cross-functional change. (Recognising transformation spans more than technology, including customers, business functions, assets, process, stakeholders, data and third parties).
  • Challenged and shaped transformation workstream goals, supporting Northern’s wider cross-functional goals, notably; Improved Customer & Colleague Experience, Partnerships Strengthened with Industry Stakeholders, Measurable Service Improvements, Innovative and Customer Focused Products, Reduced Running Costs and Enhanced Cyber Security.
  • Established effective governance, respecting senior leadership time, to steer and make timely and informed decisions, injecting agile techniques and subsequent agility to proactively navigate inevitable transformation challenges.
  • Proactively engaged internal and external stakeholders, including through workshops. This was made significantly easier due to the positive and customer-centric culture experienced across Northern functions.
  • Introduced a tailored blend of good practices and leading frameworks. For example, UK NCSC Cyber Assurance Framework.
  • Injected drive, commitment and a collaborative style of facilitation and engagement.
  • Invested in developing teams through the journey. Marlborough invested in learning about Northern, sharing experience and enhancing capabilities to develop permanent talent, delivering to the Head of Information Systems’ ambition of more value-adding in house technology capabilities and sustainable improvements.

effective digital transformation

Value realised by Northern includes:

  • Strengthening Northern’s digital foundations, with significant cost savings (high double-digit %), redirected to invest in technology to improve the customer journey.
  • Enhanced business processes and ways of working, embedded through upskilling teams and processes to increase consistency and predictability of performance levels.
  • Supplier performance improvements to deliver to time, cost and quality, whilst mitigating risk.
  • Improved regulatory compliance and mitigation of business risk, exceeding expectations by accelerating the delivery of key regulatory requirements. Northern’s management of Cyber Risk has received outstanding feedback from internal and external stakeholders, including the DfT (Department for Transport) and the DfT inspection team.
  • Protecting customer experience and service levels by raising maturity and strengthening key processes.
  • Strengthening permanent team capabilities.

Throughout, Marlborough continues to work in partnership with Northern, injecting Digital and Technical experience, good practice and always with a focus on doing our best for our customers in support of their business outcomes, making a valuable contribution to their business and continued great success.

Marlborough is passionate about transformation being set up to succeed at the outset. Our experience shows that addressing the less visible, non-technical enablers dramatically increase the likelihood of achieving early, sustained business and customer value, and gives leaders greater confidence in transformation success.

How ‘Digital Transformation’ confident are you?

Seven questions leaders should constructively challenge themselves and their teams on.

Do we have? …

  1. End-to-end experience & the track record to successfully deliver target outcomes?
  2. Customers & external/internal stakeholders engaged & ready?
  3. Teams adequately supported?
  4. Suppliers’ goals aligned to our digital outcomes?
  5. Necessary energy, drive & collaboration?
  6. Technology, data, cyber security fit for purpose?
  7. The right approach? (defined and agreed)


About Marlborough®

  • Marlborough is a ’Strategy to Action’ Trusted Advisor & Delivery Partner.
  • Our services span the full spectrum of Digital and Technology, delivered with a powerful combination of board-level experience, best in class consulting practices and deep subject matter expertise.
  • Our customers span sectors, including Government, Healthcare, Renewable Energy, Pharmaceuticals/Biotech, Aviation, Rail, Logistics, Housing, Financial Services, Legal, High Tech, Media, Fashion, Sportswear and leading high street brands, from start-ups to the most digital ‘FTSE 100’ businesses.
  • Our cross-sector experience brings ‘fresh eyes,’ good practice and pragmatic experiences that are actionable and highly valued.

“Marlborough have been a great service provider and partner on our digital transformation journey. It was really enjoyable working with the team – they were extremely professional, experienced and energising to work with”

Matt Williams, Finance Director, Northern.

“Marlborough provided essential and invaluable support to us during the development of our in-house cyber capability, helping us to respond effectively to mitigate cyber-attacks”

Phil Jones, Head of IS, Northern.


Marlborough Consulting


Please note: This is a commercial profile

© 2019. This work is licensed under CC-BY-NC-ND.

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