Digital transformation: Whose job is it anyway?

A lot of us probably agree that the need to drive digital transformation is about adapting to how consumers engage, how we communicate and collaborate, and the pace at which we are able to innovate. Last week, Google’s Joris Merks-Benjaminsen talked about the innovation formula during one of our webinars.

The innovation formula is about striking the right balance between data and talent – meaning every customer interaction and touchpoint today is data. In order to innovate, and innovate quickly, we need two things: access to data and the talent that can create insight from data.

As the HBR reports, executives across a range of industries anticipate moderate or massive digital disruption over the coming 12 months. Currently at the forefront, we at AVADO see this within banking and finance with the rise of Fintech businesses over the past few months alone.

Digital transformation: The challenge is on

And businesses know it. In a recent AVADO survey, 84 per cent of business leaders said they were expecting to play a role in digital skills transformation but only 20 per cent knew how to get started. Oftentimes, they are looking to IT to provide the platforms, tools and data thinking systems that can make the change.

However, the same study clearly showed that true digital transformation goes way beyond investing in technology. Our latest DigiSkills report shows that almost a quarter of organisations don’t practice basic agile principles, and that only 22 per cent of organisations have a single data warehouse or dashboard to access actionable, organisation-wide data.

To put it in Joris’ anecdote: businesses are failing both sides of the innovation formula. They don’t have the data that makes them more effective and they don’t have the talent and mind-sets to drive change fast enough. A telling example that comes from our DigiSkills report is that less than 45 per cent of respondents said actual data is referred to in meetings before making a decision. This is a clear failure in today’s world where (almost) every customer footprint can be tracked and measured.

Is your business digitally literate?

The DigiSkills report also finds that under a quarter of organisations are 'digitally literate' and states, 'The trigger for change often comes from leadership, but requires effective support functions, particularly learning and development (L&D), to be fully implemented.' It found that over 40 per cent of surveyed organisations can’t quickly upskill existing employees with digital skills.

The digital challenge, it seems, is one of pace and one that goes through an entire organisation.

Let’s think for a moment:

The mobile-first generation (those growing up with the first iPhone) will enter the job market in 2-3 years’ time.

Mobile use overtook desktop use two years ago, whilst many businesses are still struggling to adopt a digital-first strategy.

Today’s business environment requires a whole new way of thinking and collaborating in order to be effective. Traditional frameworks and models – still very valid and valuable – are no longer enough. Not when organisations must be as agile and innovative as small start-ups disrupting the market. Moreover, top talent craves – and increasingly demands – new ways of working.

A senior account director now working at M&C Saatchi hit the nail on the head when she said, 'Many people reach a certain point in their career and won’t admit the need for improvement'. And this, I find, holds true across all functions and levels in many businesses.

In fact, findings only released last week by Wakefield Research highlights the fact that C-Suite executives are in urgent need of digital skills, as many leaders are disconnected with teams that drive digital. An earlier report published by AVADO showed huge disparities between functional teams’ adoption of digital.

Then what works?

What I see is a different kind of education that now resonates with leaders: one that’s not anchored in research and models that are a few years old, but rather is a type of learning that is rooted in the experience of others who have been disrupted, and the experience of those with a bias toward action over planning.

Digital transformation and leadership training needs to transform the business’ mind-set, and effectively ‘unteach’ the way the organisation has always worked, instilling in its place an agile, adaptive outlook and approach. Successful learning programmes must have the essential components that will help companies transform, from both a mindset and practical point of view.

Michael Curry, AVADO Co-founder, CEO of Partnerships

Image source: Shutterstock/Sergey Dudyrev