Richard George on the culture behind an award-winning digital transformation for Refinitiv

Which matters more? Culture, or technology?

This was one of those theoretical questions I found myself pondering after a conversation with Richard George of Refinitiv, winner of The Magnifier category at the 2020 Adobe Experience Maker Awards. (Watch our full conversation below!)

Yes, this is an award category that is fundamentally grounded in technology.

It required the use of at least two Adobe Experience Cloud solutions to enter. It recognized how CXM technologies are used to deliver exceptional customer experiences and drive measurable business impact.

And, without a doubt, technology is at the core of this financial services and data company’s new, award-winning digital ecosystem. Multiple solutions from Adobe, including Adobe Experience Manager, Adobe Target, Adobe Audience Manager, and Adobe Analytics underpin their ongoing digital transformation initiative.

That said, the technology simply isn’t the hero of this story.

It’s the critical infrastructure that enables innovation. But, what brought that innovation to life, what sustains it, and what facilitated such a remarkable transformation is this organization’s relentless focus on culture.

“That was something we were very purposeful about from the get-go. We made sure that people were aligned around a shared purpose, and that they trusted each other to see that vision through.”

Richard George, head of digital, Refinitiv

Read on for the key elements of this winning culture, and hear from George directly in our full conversation below:

Be intentional about culture

The world of business has given much lip service to culture.

We have heard Peter Drucker’s counsel “culture eats strategy for lunch” and Tony Hsieh’s advice to “get the culture right and most of the other stuff will just take care of itself.”

Yet, it remains a challenge for many organizations caught up in legacy ways of operating.

Refinitiv’s intentional focus on creating a culture that enables change was key to their success.

“One of the reasons why the digital ecosystem has been so successful,” George explains, “is that we’ve built the right culture and people really believe in what we’re doing and want to push the ecosystem and the business forward as a result.”

Shared principles

Three core principles guide Refinitiv’s digital ecosystem:

“By building everything on one ecosystem, it means that as we create and we innovate on the platform, it’s available to all segments, to all touch points, at that point in time. In the past, if we wanted to launch web chat, we would have had to create web chat on three or four or five different channels. Now we create once and the customer has access to it a lot sooner. So, that time to market is really cut down.”

A clear vision and showing progress

George explained that the team took a “show don’t tell” approach to both its user experience on the website, and also to how it demonstrated a vision internally.

They used a deceptively uncomplicated tactic: A video that visualized what the team wanted to deliver.

“I know it sounds so simple,” says George, “But just to be able to show something, even though it wasn’t real, to be able to bring to life what this thing would look like meant that we could show code and experience sooner than we would have previously been able to.”

This was accompanied by a clear plan around future plans for the ecosystem and its benefits to the customer experience and business performance.

“With agile, I do think that you need to do a level of translation between how the program operates and what you’re doing in terms of iterating and innovation, and how you translate that into a 12 to 24 month road map. Laying out the roadmap and vision, how we would get there, and showing real progress quickly really helped us to get that C-suite buy-in.”

Validating stakeholders

George’s team ran regular surveys checking in with members of the team responsible for driving big changes in the brand’s digital experience, who worked tirelessly to align their offerings, consolidating experiences and creating a superb journey for customers.

“Make sure that as you’re going along the journey,” he says, “you’re validating that the team’s happy and engaged.”

These surveys were proof points that the culture was working, showing remarkable results along the way:

“It’s not about playbooks, it’s not about structure,” says George. “It’s about the culture that you’re building around the program.”

Always come back to basics

I asked what was next for George and the team as they continued to reimagine Refinitiv’s digital experiences.

His answer was surprisingly… basic!

“You can’t lose sight of really doing the basics well. Those basics never, never go away. The technology evolves, but you need to make sure you’re doing the right thing as a marketer. Even if there’s cool things happening around innovation and data, making sure we do our core job well is really important.”

For George, that means a clear plan that aligns with the broader business and sales organization, and understanding the customer journey and how it maps to personas, all underpinned by the right insight.

Continual innovation

“We have the saying that we always want to be riding the crest of the wave rather than swimming in the shallows,” says George. “We constantly want to be innovating and pushing. We want to win and we want to do it as a team. If you do those two things, then you can pretty much achieve anything.”

When I asked about his advice for 2021 Adobe Experience Maker Award nominees, I realized that for George, this is truly an ongoing, continual process.

“You never get to the end of these things, period,” he says. “Reflecting how you’ve really blended technology with experience, that’s what the core of these awards are about.”

Congratulations to the team at Refinitiv, a fantastic example illustrating what happens when culture is as much a priority as technology within digital transformation.

Honoring the movers and shakers. Learn more about the Adobe Experience Maker Awards.