Everywhere you turn, businesses are talking about digital transformation.
Organizations are either planning it, doing it or trying to work out what it means. But how many actually recognize that people have to come before technology in digital transformation? Those that don’t will fail.
Business is changing fast. Companies need to adapt their business models and reinvent themselves if they are to fight off new challengers coming into the market. Start-ups may have an advantage in their digital status, but only businesses that have meaningful relationships with their customers and employees will survive. Quite simply, if transformation isn’t managed properly, the initiative will crash and burn.
We are on the cusp of what the World Economic Forum refers to as the fourth industrial revolution, which is set to disrupt almost every industry around the globe. It has the potential to push up income levels and change everyone’s lives. This change is being pushed by technology, but its success depends on us – as digital individuals.
Fitting humans in the equation
Peter Sondergaard, senior vice president at Gartner said that companies need to speed up their digital transformation plans. “This is a year in which we really need to take all the digital initiatives and pilots, and drive them into the mainstream of the business. We need to get off our horse of just piloting, and we have to get into the real stuff,” he said.
I agree with the sentiment, but people need support in digital transformation. Change needs to be meaningful and technology has to be useful. There is no point in technology for technology sake, just because it is the trend.
Change management and communication is an important component in digital transformation. People need to embrace change and that can often be a long and painful process. Of course, there will be some resistance as new processes and technologies are introduced. But people must be made to feel comfortable with this change and see the benefits.
It is easy to think of change management in terms of the technology. Yes, of course, training is very important. But it is the attitude and behavior of the people who are using the technology that can make or break a digital transformation strategy.
Organizations must not forget that some people are frightened of change. Millennials, who are digital natives, may be adept with smart technology. But their expectations and skill advancement will need managing. Conversely, older employees may require more hand holding.
Tapping into millennials
Millennials have grown up with IT and social media. They can be a huge asset in digital transformation. They are, after all, part of the sharing culture.
Thanks to the internet, they have a global perspective, are hyper-responsive and thrive on collaboration.
Companies need to involve millennials as part of their sustainable digital transformation plans to drive innovation and help deliver digital skills critical to business growth.
Getting it right
There is no silver bullet to effective digital transformation change management because the culture of companies and their technology levels differ. But a huge effort is required by HR departments and consulting to manage skill requirements, evolution, and anticipation. This needs to be coupled with a robust and long-term communications strategy to ensure each and everyone understands the changes ahead.
I’ve been involved very closely in a digital transformation project over recent months and have realized that the most important step we have made (and are still making) is to actually explain “what is in it for them”. This is in addition to training and coaching. The time and endeavor required is far higher than I would have first guessed.
Although the technology may be exciting and a real benefit to their daily work processes, I found that alone isn’t enough to get people to change the way they work – aside from a few digital savvy early adopters. Time and effort must be spent fully engaging users for a successful digital transformation.
Remember, technology may be the enabler, but it is people, the employees, customers, and users who are the real transformers.