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People are the key to successful digital transformation

cloud digital transformation
(Image credit: Shutterstock / issaro prakalung)

Digital transformation - the adoption and integration of digital technologies across all areas of the business to fundamentally change and improve processes and value for customers. Whilst the concept appears a simple one. It is far from it.

It will look different across businesses, industries and countries. The conversation being raised due to varying issues or problems, improving customer experience or increasing productivity. All personal to the business. No one size fits all. 

What is universal, however, is that the key to successful digital transformation is not simply about implementing new technology. It is about using the right technology and the insights and analytics it brings, to transform your business. And that covers not just business processes and models but organizational culture. 

Digital transformation is a huge task. If we have learned our lessons from the past years, we are aware that adopting agility in business is critical and digital transformation can play a key role, not only for surviving but for thriving. It is about leveraging technology to fundamentally change, yet it’s not just about technology, it’s also a fundamental shift in culture where you need to continually challenge how things are done and be open to change.

In order to achieve success, it is just as much about people as it is about technology. Everything, from the vision and strategy to the execution, involves people. It makes good business sense, then, that the drive for transformation, comes from going back to basics, getting the infrastructure right, adopting the right technologies and taking your people with you every step of the way.

Leadership. 

Digital transformation isn’t about using the latest cool tech, it’s about using the power of technology where it makes sense to get the right business outcomes. What is the goal? Improving customer experience? Increasing productivity? Or delivering the best business partnership? 

Digital transformation touches all aspects of a business so a successful program engaging in this sort of work requires input from all areas of the business and leadership from the top. It requires a clear vision, strategy and road map. Where are you today? Where do you want to be tomorrow? And what you going to do to get there? And it requires checks and balances in place to monitor success and identify potential weaknesses and the ability to respond and adapt appropriately.

The main challenge in any digital transformation is taking people on the journey. You need to be clear on the outcomes of the transformation, how you will measure success but most importantly you need to double down on communication and training. I cannot stress enough that you can’t overcommunicate when you’re going through a process like this. There will be many people who feel uncomfortable and challenged by large-scale change but in order to succeed they must be engaged. You need to be clear about how they fit into the future and constantly communicate why you are changing things and support them through the journey.

Digital transformation should be seen as an enabler, touching all aspects of a business and its people to be the best that they can be. As such, the foundation of successful transformation lies within leadership and culture.

Culture. 

In cultivating an innovative, digital culture, it all comes down to your people. This means encouraging collaboration, multi-dimensional teams, idea generation and experimentation. To succeed and thrive, innovation needs a safe environment for your people to think independently, solve problems and be creative (within clear boundaries), giving them ownership, be listened to and valued and empowering them to make decisions and take action.

It is also about creating an environment where people are not afraid of failure, within reason of course, and most importantly learn from it in looking to the future. Understanding what your people and your business needs, how to implement with current systems and the benefit to the organization means that you are constantly on the lookout, always learning and always ready to react.  

The customer. 

Customer experience plays a critical role in digital transformation, and it requires a whole organizational approach. It is changing consumer habits, allowing people to access what they want, pretty much as soon as they want it. Embracing an ever more digital world means we need to rethink how we interact with our customers and for customer service it means being proactive in how you help your customers and offering a wide choice of channels to support them – social media, chats, forums, phone, email are all part of the mix. It is about being customer-centric, building experiences to meet their demands.

But it does not stand alone. It needs to be optimized in conjunction with your processes,  improving the efficiency of workflows and leading to empowerment of your people and organization, striking the right balance between work and life.

Good leaders have a clear vision of the path to digital transformation that their organization should take. One that is driven by embracing digital technologies to envision more efficient ways of working to suit their specific needs. They will also be able to adapt and evolve as the journey begins, all the time not forgetting the vision, the purpose. 

What is more, good leaders will be able to inspire employees to work towards the goal, joining them on the journey, shaping the strategy and generating a sense of ownership.

At the very heart of a successful digital transformation is leadership and culture. It is about people, not just the latest on-trend technologies. It is about understanding what digital means to your business, how technology can enhance your operations and customer values, yes, but it is about cultural change. It is about building a mindset that continually challenges, innovates and is comfortable with failure. 

Technology is changing the world at accelerating speeds. Businesses need to be agile enough to adapt and develop in order to keep pace. Putting leadership and culture at the heart of your digital transformation, people, businesses will stay ahead of the competition and thrive, regardless of what the world throws at it. 

Pete Hanlon, CTO, Moneypenny

Pete Hanlon is CTO of Moneypenny. Moneypenny handles outsourced phone calls, live chat and digital comms for thousands of companies globally.