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Penny Murphy discusses Arcadis transformative culture

Penny Murphy discusses Arcadis' transformative culture

 May 09, 2019

Penny Murphy is the Head of Digital Transformation at Arcadis Asia. She chatted about her role with journalist Hilton Barbour and explained how Arcadis is building a transformative culture.

Digital Transformation is incredibly important at Arcadis

Penny describes her exciting role within Arcadis and how she is involved in diverse markets, from Singapore to Vietnam.

"Arcadis is a Dutch-headquartered global design and consultancy business. We’ve been in business since 1888 which is remarkable. We're involved in some of the most enormous and fantastic design and infrastructure projects around the world. From the amazing CCTV Building in Beijing to the truly breath-taking Burj Khalifa in Dubai, Arcadis is involved in some of the most complicated and boundary-breaking projects globally," explains Penny.

"When I joined the organisation, I didn’t realise how much of the work we do is around us… we fly low under the radar but the outcomes of our work with our clients have driven some of most iconic landmarks around the world. Our passion is to improve the quality of life and this is the drum of business," she adds.

"In terms of my role, I’m responsible for accelerating the Digital Transformation agenda across this region. That includes markets as diverse as Singapore, China, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines. Personally, for me it is about bringing experiences and business needs together to help drive cultural change."

Penny explains that, at Arcadis, Digital Transformation is incredibly important.

"Client expectations are constantly evolving so we need to evolve to fit those new models of project management, collaboration and consulting. In the Asia region that means transforming how we access, serve and consult with clients across our 50 regional offices and 4,300 people," she explains.

"When you consider Arcadis is actively working on over 30,000 projects globally the need – and the opportunity – for Digital Transformation is enormous."

"In many ways I think of myself as an integrator and my role is to make our various regional and business unit leaders comfortable with the changes ahead. I’ve had a non-linear career path which, in many ways, makes me appreciate different views and comfortable with change. I was very fortunate at the time I joined Arcadis, as the business in Asia was tackling some tremendous changes. We had this fantastic business diversification, but we also had to contend with new competitors coming into the market too," says Penny.

"So, at the same time as we were looking at developing how we could bring a better service offerings to our clients, we were also thinking about how we could build a cohesive cultural foundation that we could build from."

Arcadis uses innovative technology to create a sustainable future

Penny shares insights on how digital and sustainability are two important concepts at Arcadis - and ones that can work together.

"Considering the business we’re in, sustainability can evoke a certain perception or stereotypical definition. At Arcadis we mean sustainability in an infinitely broader context than just environmental. Of course, we are deeply embedded in thinking about how to create sustainable cities and environments for our clients. But it also means more here," she comments.

"We have a global strategy of ‘Creating a sustainable future’ – which intends to grow our company through the innovative use of digital technology to realize and sustain the full potential of Arcadis and the phenomenal talent we have within this organization. Digital tools and digital competencies play an increasingly large role in creating and nurturing that kind of sustainability."

And it's in terms of sustainability that the most interesting and complex part of Penny's role comes into play - thanks to the variety of clients' needs.

"My colleagues are supporting clients think through the sustainability of urban public transportation for a municipal body to the future of mixed-use residential and commercial malls to how and where can we build the next critical data center for China’s burgeoning number of tech giants. It is fascinating stuff and the transformation of how we, as Arcadis, operate is so critical so we can best deliver client success," explains Penny.

Arcadis is committed to improving quality of life

Penny shares how Arcadis' great company culture links with her role as Head of Digital Transformation.

"Considering we’re a global organization I should start with our three strategic pillars and those exist under our passion which is to 'improve the quality of life'," she says.

"The first is 'people first' which is a fantastic acknowledgement that we have to be committed to put our people and our culture first. Then we have 'growth and innovation' – again only possibly through our people. And finally, 'focus and performance'. They’re not as sequential as I might have portrayed them, but they’re totally linked and integrated in how we think about the business and how getting the culture and people piece right will fuel real innovation and our performance," adds Penny.

"My role then is to make these business objectives practical and deployable locally here in Asia. To remove the buzzwords, which can be intimidating, and filtering out the noise that inevitably occurs around change."

Sharing some valuable career advice 

Finally, Penny shares some career advice for other working women.

"Be yourself consistently regardless of the setting or the people you’re interacting with. Whether they’re secretaries or the country directors, be authentic. People seem to have a very well-tuned radar and they can instantly pick up if you’re being inauthentic or inconsistent. If they see that inconsistency or lack of authenticity you’re lost," explains Penny.

"Secondly, and perhaps, interwoven with authenticity, is modelling the desired behaviour you want from your colleagues."

"It took me some time, and some real introspection, to realize that I had to be the exemplar of the new behaviours and the new way of doing things. The classic thing about 'modelling' the behaviour you want to see," she adds.

"As I said at the start, while my title might say Digital Transformation, the most impact I can have is to help our people bring about new behaviours. That’s when I’m really delivering on my mandate. Behaviors and authenticity goes a long way in the business of change."

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