Digital transformation starts with people, not tech

Digital transformation starts with people, not tech

Whenever I engage in a discussion about digital transformation with a business owner or top-level manager, nine times out of ten their response will veer exclusively towards technology, investment, and computer systems. Fair enough, I say, digital is all about technology… but surely any successful transformation needs to be understood, accepted, implemented and indeed utilised by people?

Digital transformation is sweeping through various industries, as businesses try to use technological advancements to stay competitive. However, many businesses striving for digital change do not appreciate the holistic nature of the change which digital transformation implies; that it is about a multi-dimensional interaction involving clients, employees, and any other stakeholders involved in their business transactions or operations. Hence many businesses striving for digital change fail to realise that any transformation in that direction also requires considerable investment focused on the people concerned.

The ultimate scope of digital transformation is to harness the power of technology to improve customer experience and enhance the competitiveness of one’s business. However, managing the digital transformation process is vital for success. This is because going down the digital transformation route is a cultural evolution in itself, and any respected business leader will tell you that one cannot dictate or direct culture. Change has to come from within the business, making sure that your people buy into the vision, strategy and the impact which this strategy will have on them as individuals, and their work. They must be convinced that the technology will be there to supplement and support the change process, making tasks simpler, or enabling them to handle the more complex tasks more efficiently and effectively.

Let’s take a step back here, and ask ourselves why we would be going for digital transformation in the first place. Is it to hop on the latest business or technological bandwagon, and to show people that we’re on top of things? Are we trying to use new technology simply to try to replace human activity, rather than as a tool for increased efficiency and improved performance? Are we really committed to making significant changes to long-used legacy systems? What is our strategy?

Quoting Peter F. Drucker, “there is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.” Plugging technology into processes that are not well thought out, designed and explained, will only generate what lean management terminology refers to as muda (waste and uselessness) at more efficient rates; increase mura (irregularities and unevenness) in operations, with uncontrolled variations in performance; and cause muri (overloads and unreasonable expectations) at bottleneck points. The end result – employee absenteeism, physical and mental illness, and breakdowns of machines and systems!

In this regard, I recently came across a scenario where a bank, as part of a pseudo-process of digitalisation, converted a never-ending series of mundane, paper-based forms into kinky-looking e-forms, which only managed to reproduce and automate inefficient manual processes which have been in place for the best part of the last decade! A classic case of digitisation… but certainly not digitalisation!

Someone once remarked to me that in the rush to transform everything to digital we often forget that employees and customers, i.e. human beings, are essentially ‘analogue’ creatures. They have daily variations in their feelings and behaviours. They are prone to personal perceptions, distractions, distortions in what is heard, deletion of large amounts of information received. Amen to that! And it is these very human traits that dictate that everything we do must be communicated effectively, that our employees have to be trained, and that clients and other stakeholders should be supported along the way.

At BEAT we guide you through the thought process leading to an appropriate digitalisation strategy for your organisation. We also assist you in planning the transformation journey which will see you reach your goals, and provide support along the path towards implementation.  In the meantime, our specialists will work with you to help redesign your processes with the right level of technology backing. All of this will lead to a change in your business model, thus enabling new revenue and value-adding opportunities, simplifying effort, and empowering all players in the process.

Click here to learn more about our advisory services or send us an email.

by Ing. Joseph Micallef, Chief Operations Officer / Partner at BEAT Limited

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