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In times of unprecedented change, delaying digital transformation cannot be an option anymore

(Image credit: Image Credit: Wright Studio / Shutterstock)

Recent research from the Global Data Centers, a division of NTT, revealed that more than half of digital transformation projects are currently delayed due to ‘the hesitancy gap’. According to the study, IT teams are costing businesses millions by laying the groundwork for digital transformation projects and not fully executing them, despite being in favor of many emerging technologies.

But in a time where we’re experiencing unprecedent change that will change the world and workplace forever, now is not the time to delay digital transformation. In fact, organizations should be encouraging it and not just on the customer-side. Having high-quality digitized services and products might be great for your customers and revenues but to really achieve business growth and survival, digital transformation must be implemented in all aspects of the business. Whether it’s moving operations to the cloud, adopting AI and machine learning to help with product design or investing in analytics to measure and monitor product launches, advanced technology and digital transformation is here to help and future-proof all organizations.

Organizations should not hesitate to push on with digital transformation projects. In fact, now if a great time to kick start or continue the digital transformation journey as people are more open than ever to adapting and changing their lifestyles. In an age where innovation moves at a fast pace, businesses must keep up, and part of that is implementing digital transformation projects that will enhance your people, i.e. digitizing HR processes.

And thanks to Covid-19, some traditional businesses have had their digital transformation initiatives accelerated and tested. Digital collaboration platforms and digital learning portals, especially, have seen immense uptake since lockdown. Microsoft Teams, alone, saw an increase of 12 million users in just one week during March, whilst our own research from the Cornerstone Institute of People Development revealed a significant increase in learning. The most popular courses consumed by Cornerstone learners in March included ‘Time Management: Working from Home’, ‘Build Work Relationships Remotely’ and ‘Tips for Remote Collaboration.’

Cornerstone client, Henkel, has a clear growth strategy with a strong focus on digitalization. For the past few years, Henkel and Cornerstone have worked together to drive agility and globally upskill its workforce. This groundwork and mindset within the workforce have been hugely beneficial to Henkel as it navigates the business through the global pandemic. “Coronavirus has brought unprecedent disruption to all businesses. We had already created a culture of continuous learning and development, showing our people the value in adaptability and upskilling themselves. This mindset of embracing change has meant we were prepared than most to handle the implications of the global pandemic. Our people continue to show resilience and determination, and our transformation strategy shows no sign of slowing despite anticipating more unknown challenges up ahead,” said Lucas Kohlmann, Henkel’s global head of HR strategy, leadership, talent management and diversity and inclusion.

It goes without saying that businesses are certainly reaping benefits of digital transformation throughout Covid-19, but this is only the start. The digital transformation chapter is never ending, and we must keep adapting. 

Beyond learning and adapting

Whether a large-scale change or a local project, digital transformation impacts all areas and stakeholders of the business, and in more ways than we think. Whilst digital transformation largely involves IT teams and technology, it isn’t necessarily the technology itself within the projects that has the biggest overall impact. Rather, it’s how the technology affects the individuals and stakeholders in the business, which then elevates and drives the impact to the wider business.

Take your employees, for example. If we migrate employee data into a centralized system, not only are employees able to see their own digital data and progression within the company, they can also see potential skills gaps within their portfolio and then be pointed to the right learning courses or content to build on those skills gaps. Having better visibility and support on those skill gaps means that the organization can keep up with emerging innovations. A centralized, digital employee system can also make employees more aware of internal roles and opportunities, and the skillsets that match, meaning that they are less likely to leave the company altogether because they can see potential opportunities within the company.

From a manager’s perspective, digitalization of employee data can support performance reviews, succession planning and training. If a manager has clear awareness of its employee’s career pathway through data and decisions that they’ve made throughout their journey with the company, they can make informed decisions on promotions as well as monitor productivity better. By providing data-driven feedback to employees, organizations can ensure they are deploying people in the right direction, enabling better business decisions.

It’s not just individuals in the business that digitalization impacts, whole departments can also be affected and enhanced too. For instance, a digitalized system can help the HR department better maintain employee data, reducing the need for spreadsheets and unnecessary admin jobs. Digitalizing HR processes also allows for better data privacy and security of employee data because it’s kept within a secure system rather than spread across multiple spreadsheets and files which could be more exposed and susceptible to hacks. With GDPR also in full force, data privacy remains firmly in the spotlight. HR departments of global organizations will benefit most from a centralized system in terms of management, allowing the company to move as one entity rather than each franchise or region following different processes.

With individuals and the HR department benefitting from digital transformation projects, the impact of then also reaches the C-suite, who can then access the right information to make data-driven business decisions.

Being an unbound business 

No one predicted the impact that coronavirus would have across the world, and there are clear winners and losers in the way that businesses have responded, both on a corporate level and people level.

The real winners of tomorrow will be the companies that are ‘unbound’ – meaning that they aren’t confined by yesterday conventions and issues and are ready to adapt to changing environments. What this global pandemic has demonstrated in the business world is how quickly operations can be pivoted, no matter what circumstances. Digital transformation, in many ways, has been a lifeline for businesses of all sizes, and to recover and come out the other side, and indeed, the future, we must keep going.

Geoffroy de Lestrange, Product Marketing & Communication Director EMEA, Cornerstone OnDemand