Let’s talk about digital identity with Jurgita Sarkovaite, Innovation and Strategy Manager at NEO Consulting.

In episode 28, Jurgita and Oscar discuss digital transformation, particularly in light of COVID19, and the critical role of identity in any digital transformation project. The conversation also explores the importance of digital identity in customer experience and how companies are approaching digital identity in light of that, including who has ultimate influence over digital identity projects within the organisation and the popularity of Identity-as-a-Service (IDaaS, SaaS-delivered IAM).

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“Digital identity is part of every digital transformation project because it would be impossible to do without it”

Jurgita Sarkovaite headshotJurgita Sarkovaite is Innovation and Strategy Manager at NEO Consulting. She’s also Professor of Digital Marketing and Digital Transformation courses at Pacífico Business School, Peru. Jurgita has 8+ years of project management experience in digital strategy consulting, technology and software development. Her research covers digital culture, entrepreneurship and innovation. She has a passion for education.

You can contact Jurgita on LinkedIn or email [email protected].

We’ll be continuing this conversation on LinkedIn and Twitter using #LTADI – join us @ubisecure!

­Go to our YouTube to watch the video transcript for this episode.

Let's Talk About Digital Identity
Let's Talk About Digital Identity

The podcast connecting identity and business. Each episode features an in-depth conversation with an identity management leader, focusing on industry hot topics and stories. Join Oscar Santolalla and his special guests as they discuss what’s current and what’s next for digital identity. Produced by Ubisecure.


Podcast transcript

Let’s Talk About Digital Identity, the podcast connecting identity and business. I am your host Oscar Santolalla.

Oscar Santolalla: Hello and thank you for joining today. Digital transformation is a term that we have been hearing and reading about in the last recent years, but I will say has never been as important as today. That’s why in this interview, we’ll dig into that. And also, we’d like to hear about the role of identity in digital transformation. And for that let me introduce you to today’s guest.

Jurgita Sarkovaite is Innovation and Strategy Manager at NEO Consulting. She’s Professor of Digital Marketing and Digital Transformation courses at Pacifico Business School in Peru. Sarkovaite has more than eight years of project management experience in digital strategy consulting, technology and software development. Her research covers digital culture, entrepreneurship and innovation. And she has a passion for education. Hi, Jurgita.

Jurgita Sarkovaite: Hi, Oscar. Nice to be here and delighted to share this time with you.

Oscar: Yeah, it’s very nice. Thanks for joining. It’s very nice talking with you and I’m really intrigued about hearing more about digital transformation that as I say is becoming more and more important in these circumstances that we are living. But I would like to hear a bit more about yourself, so please tell us what is your journey to be in this world of digital transformation and digital identity, et cetera?

Jurgita: Definitely, yes. So, I think as most professionals who are working in digital these days you know, my journey began a bit random. So, I kind of stumbled upon the digital at the beginning of my career, so I was freshly graduating from the university for my bachelor’s degree and I was looking for internships, for international internships. And so I started exploring around the globe and luckily I found this company, NEO Consulting, located in Lima, Peru, which was working in digital marketing at the time.

So yeah, knowing absolutely nothing about digital marketing, I joined the company and it started straight ahead. So, I was working there developing the digital marketing strategies for companies in different industries. And after that I found myself very interested in the field, so I continued my journey, went on to working for a time for a specialised software development company in Lithuania which was working for clients in Europe or in Switzerland and in the United Kingdom. And I think just somehow you know rolled over from there.

So, digital kind of became part of what I am, so I focused my studies on that. And I think it’s really important these days because digital is becoming a bigger and bigger part of our lives, so when I talk to students sometimes I ask them, “Can you imagine the world if you wake up tomorrow and all the digital devices are gone? How would your life be different?” And especially for the younger ones, you know so the Centennials already, they’re going to have a very hard time imagining not having their cell phones around, not having you know the constant connectivity around. So I think we in general, as the human species became very much dependent on the digital and it became part of who we are already.

Oscar: Yeah, excellent. Yeah, I could imagine the faces of your students, the younger students that are in the business school that don’t know how to answer about that, hard to imagine for them. But even for people like us that are a bit older than that, it’s very difficult to get the digital out of our lives.

Jurgita: Definitely. So, you know I was always joking, imagine you would have to actually call and send letters to people, how would that be?

Oscar: Yeah. It’s something that’s really hard to imagine these days. And one of the ways this has been conceived is about digital transformation, a term that I read from time to time, I hear from time to time, every time more often. So, let’s start with the basics. How would you define digital transformation?

Jurgita: Yes. So, we start straight from the very tricky ones. So I guess, digital transformation, you’re right, so you’ll hear a lot about it. It’s all over the media headlines. In the businesses I think it’s one of the most popular buzzwords around for the last few years. But I guess it’s also the complexity there because everybody understands and defines it differently. So, there is no one universally agreed definition for digital transformation.

But what I like to use when working with clients and when discussing it. So basically, it’s the process, it’s the strategic process of adapting and using the new digital technologies in order to enhance and reinforce business processes. And basically, with the purpose of reinventing the essence of their organisation so reinventing the business model, reinventing how the company communicates with its customers, with its stakeholders, how the internal processes are carried on.

So basically, it touches every single facet of an organisation’s core capabilities and looking for ways to re-imagine and re-invent the organisation through the digital technologies. So, I guess, yeah, that’s a very broad one but I think it fits straight to the point, because for every company, every organisation, digital transformation will look a bit different and this is where the broadness comes in.

Oscar: Yes, but all comes to a sort of re-invention, right, of the whole organisation.

Jurgita: Yes, that’s I would say, definitely, the key part of it so it’s the re-imagination and re-invention of the business.

Oscar: Of the business, exactly. Exactly. And the other term that is related and sometimes is also somehow confusing and even sometimes used in a bad way is digitalisation, so how would you contrast these two concepts?

Jurgita: All right. So, these terms are often being used interchangeably. But digitalisation, I would say, it’s part of the digital transformation process so it’s once again transforming the physical assets or physical processes through digital into online, into digital ones, right? But this is a much more technical term so this is how we actually use and adapt technology to enhance some specific outcome. So, I would say, for example, if we take a look into one specific product so very classical example of how the music industry was digitalised from the CDs and cassettes before that into a digital format. So, that’s digitalisation.

Oscar: Yeah, it’s as you say, it’s a tactical part. It’s one part of the digital transformation.

Jurgita: Right. So, one thing that I always like to clarify as well, so for me, digital transformation even though it has to do a lot with technology, it’s a very much strategic and people process. So, in digital transformation, the hardest part is not working with technology, it’s working with people and changing and adapting our mindsets to shifts in technology. So, while in digitalisation, definitely, the challenges are very much technological and technical ones.

Oscar: OK.

Jurgita: So, I guess this helps to clarify a little bit more.

Oscar: Yeah, exactly. So, that shows a difference as well. Excellent. As you mentioned, you have been in several countries: Lithuania, Peru, UK, I would like to hear some examples of successful digital transformation.

Jurgita: Right. So, I guess, you got a tough one there for me. So, I think digital transformation processes are still ongoing and I guess it’s hard to find companies that you would say, OK, this company has already completed their digital transformation, and this is where they want to be. So, I guess it’s a pretty much continuous improvement cycle on how companies constantly need to reinvent themselves. But if I think about some well-known examples, so I would definitely think about some loved brands like Starbucks or Lazada in different industries, so how have they been able to reinvent the way people see and interact with the brands at all levels, right? Another example that I really like and often use is Burberry, so you know the luxury brand.

They’re very conservative, very traditional one, but I think they started their digital transformation process very early on and there are a lot of beautiful campaigns of how they’ve been able to use technology in order to change even the perception of the brands. We’re going from very traditional upper class to appealing to the younger generations through technology, through interaction. For a very personalised experience, of course enabled by the digital technologies that permits getting this personal touch and interaction with a brand.

Also, another example I think in more hardcore industries, so banking, I would say BBVA, so the Spanish Bank has been going through digital transformation for some five, six years I would say already and a very interesting example of how they have been transforming the banking experience. So, once again, very tough industry, a lot of mental barriers, a lot of legal regulations of how to treat these customers, but we’ve been able to overcome this in very creative ways and enhancing with technology to elevate the experience of the customer banking.

So yeah, these are some of the examples that come to mind. But a lot of work I guess still has to be done and the companies are catching on. And that’s because, I think very understandable, the technologies are evolving so there is no point and we’re say, we’re stopping now and coming to the new normal and this is how we’re going to operate. I guess every company is constantly trying to look for the ways to improve and become better at what they do and how they interact with customers and how they generate value for their stakeholders.

Oscar: Yes, as I can imagine you said many, many companies who are already working into digital transformation. They are in progress so they have seen some results but still not a huge reinvention, but many are already working into that. Banking industries is a really good example because there is a big difference between doing everything paper or going to the agency and doing everything let’s say from an app. In many places in the world, you can do nearly every single operation just with an app and it’s a huge difference in how you can serve your customers and be more efficient. But at the same time, as you mentioned, complying with regulations, that is very difficult in these kind of industries.

Jurgita: Definitely and I guess in the last couple of months of this particular context of lockdown in most parts of the world has really also demonstrated the companies which have been already advancing in this direction and they have been able to provide a differentiated experience from the companies that are lagging behind in the process.

Oscar: Yeah, exactly. The ones who were more advanced in the transformation have reaped the benefits in this short time. That’s true. And one element on the digital initiatives, digitalisation, digital transformation, it’s talking about the customer experience, in the bank for instance, customer experience in brands like luxury brands you mentioned Burberry, customer experience to appeal to younger generations. So what is the importance of digital identity in customer experience?

Jurgita: I think it’s very important. It’s essential definitely but I think it’s such an integral part that when working on the digital projects, we don’t necessarily look at it at an individual level. So, it’s part of the construction of a digital experience and you definitely want to include and be able to identify your customers through digital identity, while at the same time protecting their privacy and protecting their identity, right? So, it’s a double challenge because from the company’s point of view, the companies are always looking for ways to be able to identify and interact with the people at a personal level, right? So, the more information the company has about its users, the better experience they can provide.

But on the other hand, it’s also, it comes with regulations and it comes with the responsibilities, right? So if you have personally identifiable data of customers at your disposition – so you have to act responsibly of how you use it and use it for the purposes that the customer has provided confidence for you to provide that information, right? So, it’s a tough challenge but I would say that digital identity is part of every digital transformation project that we work on because it would be impossible to do without it.

Oscar: Yeah, exactly. And in companies that have already executed digital transformation at largely or some extent, these type companies, so what are the digital identities that they have put in practice, they have chosen?

Jurgita: So I would say there is a pretty broad mix of how companies approaching that. I guess since treating with and dealing with digital identity, so it’s not something new, a lot of companies by legacy they already have internal systems and internal databases in place where they actually like to pull the digital identity of customers from their own point of view. So creating a separate username and separate account for different systems, so that’s much more, you know company-centric approach.

On the other hand, as the companies move towards more customer-centred approach, they like to take advantage of the digital identities that are already available in the ecosystem, in the digital sphere, right? So then using like a social logins and using the identities created by the users, for example, their email accounts or login with Google, login with Facebook, that sort of thing is also getting more and more access to and I would say becoming more popular because it provides us simplicity to our users, the workflows of reducing the number of clicks from a customer to finally reach the goal that they are trying to interacting with the company.

So, I would say it really depends on the situation and once again the security is one of the issues so sometimes you can use a third party identity provider already available. For some reasons company might want to ask a user to create a separate account and to isolate this part of their digital identity that comes within the company in order for them to explore the data that they are collecting on the users.

Oscar: Yeah, definitely, as a company embraces more digital, they also go beyond their own data repositories of users to, as you mentioned, social logins or anything that the customer already is using to have this concept of bring your own identity – so use the identity you’re comfortable with. Imagine a project of digital transformation, so you have had experience also from their development point of view and managing projects like this. Who is a person or who are the persons who has the biggest influence to have the ultimate influence in choosing what is the digital identity that is used for projects?

Jurgita: I would say it’s a collective decision most of the time, right? So, usually, the proposal comes from the development team or from the UX designers as they’re offering you know and designing the workflows for how they users will interact with the systems. And that also comes in hand with internal protocols that the company is complying. So, normally, the IT department is heavily involved in that.

And in the cases, in more advanced or companies that are more mature in their data management strategy, then there might be a CDO or CDTO involved in its decision. And then usually, it comes down to collective decision going for the optimal trade-off between, OK, so the depth of the information, the simplicity of the solution and the ability to collect and use the data that is already available there. So, yeah, I wouldn’t say there is one person or one role that usually defines it but it rather comes from different perspectives and then there’s kind of negotiation and reaching an agreement on that.

Oscar: Yeah, definitely that’s good to hear from your experience because traditionally, identity was many years ago either domain from the technical, from the IT or also from the human resources. And that’s it. Nobody else had the power of managing the identities for an organisation. So, it’s definitely good to see that now, in this new way of reinventing the companies or organisations, now there is more contribution from several…

Jurgita: Yeah, it’s more flexibility, definitely as well. Because I would say, a lot of solutions are moving into the cloud and more and more applications are using the Software-as-a Service model, so called SaaS, also the tech providers, they have built-in options to choose from the digital identity, right? So, it’s easier for the development teams and for organisational teams to have this discussion because the solutions are already available there. So, it gives them the flexibility and it doesn’t imply extra development time and effort for the team to include different options of the digital identity for the customers to be able to choose from. And to some extent, the technology in the cloud is democratising the way that we as customers we’re choosing which digital identities we can choose to interact with the company.

Oscar: Exactly. And coming to back to our topic that we cannot avoid in these times that is COVID-19, so how would you say that is affecting digital transformation?

Jurgita: Yes, I think it’s definitely having a huge impact, right? So there is a lot of jokes and memes circulating over the internet, who’s the main responsible for the digital transformation in your company, the CIO, the CTO, the CEO or COVID-19? But for me, we kind of treat it as a joke but what I would say, if their company didn’t have any efforts or any initiatives going through the digital transformation before the lockdown, before the pandemic started, it’s really difficult that any company would develop something within those two, three months.

So really, what COVID did is accelerate it and made evident the advancement that the companies have already been doing before that. So it makes it much more tangible in a very short way. And then we have specific industries, right? So the e-commerce boom was something that nobody could have foreseen it beforehand right? So we had, especially here in Latin America, where the e-commerce growth rates were lagging behind the US or European standards. So, we’re seeing evidence for you know the 500% e-commerce growth month by month and we reached the levels of what the analysts had foreseen for you know 2025 in three months basically.

But once again, what COVID did was actually accelerated the things that companies have already been working on or they obliged the companies to reprioritise their initiatives and their digital projects that they are having on at hand. So, the companies that once again, the ones who dealt with it strategically and had been planning ahead to execute the different sorts of digital project were much better prepared and were able to carry those on much faster, much more efficiently. And they were not as effective as companies in the current context.

Oscar: Exactly. And you have seen during these months, some of the let’s say slower companies catching up in these recent months.

Jurgita: Definitely. So, we have also seen, and there’s an evidence especially in the essential industries that kept functioning during even the strictest lockdown. So here in Peru, I think we had one of the strictest lockdowns in the world. And what we’ve seen is a lot of consumer-packaged goods went from the distributor model to going direct to consumer. And then a lot of solutions came up that were really quickly designed for troubleshooting the current situation. So for example, very simple e-commerce platforms that were available that allowed the companies to integrate with their ERP solution and come online live in a month or two.

So, I think that was something that the companies acted very fast and it’s a short-term fix and a short-term solution that allowed them to operate very soon and not losing these essential revenues that they’ve been losing over the traditional lines of businesses. But then what we will see in the next months and probably next couple of years is you know the companies that had started experimenting with these troubleshooting solutions during the pandemic, they are actually starting to see the value of the digital channels and how they’re performing and enhancing their business and they will move towards making it more strategic, investing in more sophisticated solutions that will allow them to grow and really take advantage and reap the benefits of the digital channels.

Oscar: Yes. So excellent that many companies were able to catch up in the right direction to serve better their customers and also have better processes. Jurgita, now, could you give us a practical advice, a tip for anybody how we can protect our digital identity?

Jurgita: Of course. Yes. So, protecting digital identity I think we often don’t treat it as our responsibility but it’s definitely one of the things we can do. So, my first tip, always use your common sense and criteria when logging in to different systems. So, always have a critical eye on the things that you’re leaving your data and leaving your digital identity.

And another probably very practical and very simple one, use a strong password. You wouldn’t imagine the number of times that we encounter data breaches because people choose very simple you know, 123456 type of passwords that are very easy to hack and even though we always tend to believe the best in the people, there are a lot of cyber threats lurking behind. So, do the simple things that you can do to protect your digital identity starting from such a simple thing as using a strong password.

Oscar: Yeah, definitely. And in these interviews, we have talking about many replacements from passwords but passwords are going to stay at least for some time so we have to use them well, strong passwords and checking where we are putting our information in.

Jurgita: Definitely. So, I would complement that of course, using you know the two-factor authentication or other means like fingerprints or more bionic means for recognition are way to go and this is the future. But for the meantime, and at the simplest of the means of what we can do, a strong password is definitely the 101, the basics that everyone is able and should be able to follow that.

Oscar: Well, thank you for that Jurgita and it was very interesting hearing about digital transformation and how it has been transforming companies, reinventing as you said and what things are going to happen in the next months. Please let us know how people can follow you, get in touch with you. What are the best ways for that?

Jurgita: Sure. So, delighted to continue chatting on this topic if anyone is interested so you can find me on LinkedIn, Jurgita Sarkovaite, or also you can shoot me an email so its [email protected].

Oscar: Excellent. Again, thanks a lot Jurgita. It was a pleasure talking with you and all the best.

Jurgita: Thank you Oscar. Pleasure is mine. And have a great day.

Thanks for listening to this episode of Let’s Talk About Digital Identity, produced by Ubisecure. Stay up to date with episodes at ubisecure.com/podcast or join us on Twitter @ubisecure and use the #LTADI. Until next time.