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People, power, change - the shift in digital transformation

business
(Image credit: Image Credit: Rawpixel / Pixabay)

Businesses are now more reliant on technology than ever before, and this reliance will only increase as the digital age advances. Whether it’s enhancing the customer journey, increasing productivity or improving staff well-being, firms are looking to new platforms, software and technological innovations to provide solutions to these challenges. 

In recent years we have come to call this process digital transformation and, while the practice of adopting technology to provide business solutions and gain a competitive advantage isn’t new, we are certainly now at the peak of this movement. 

This shift occurred for a couple of reasons. One is that digital solutions are becoming cheaper and more accessible as technology has advanced. The second, and most jarring, has been the Covid-19 pandemic as businesses increased their digital capabilities in order to remain operational while complying with government guidelines, such as through home-working and moving products online. 

Tech itself is not the answer 

Despite being at the forefront of many businesses’ minds, many are struggling to implement a successful digital transformation. This was highlighted in a study by Boston Consulting Group which found that 70 percent of digital transformations failed to meet their objectives, while just 44 percent created some value but did not meet their targets, resulting in limited long-term change.

Companies need to understand that digital transformation isn’t as simple as installing new technologies and then expect problems will be magically solved. These projects often hit roadblocks because decision-makers overlook where investment is needed to make the transformation process a success. 

One of the main areas that gets overlooked is staff adoption of new solutions. Investing in new technologies that staff are unwilling or unable to embrace is, ultimately, useless. This means that those commissioning digital transformation projects need to consider the cultural changes required to drive the integration and use of platforms needed to make them succeed.

People must be front and center 

To encourage staff adoption of new solutions, a people-first approach to the transformation process is vital. Employees, processes and culture need to be at the heart of any digital transformation strategy. This will ensure everyone in the organization understands the changes taking place, where improvements need to be made and how effective these will be. 

Staff should be brought into the project right from its initiation. Involving staff and communicating to them the challenges and solutions being put in place will allow them to understand why these changes are taking place and drive their willingness to adopt new solutions.

Utilizing HR departments 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, HR also has an important part to play in implementing a people-first digital transformation project. With the installation of new software or platforms, staff may need training to understand how to use these effectively once live, while some may be uneasy about the upcoming changes and have questions or concerns that need to be addressed.

These challenges will usually fall under the remit of a company’s HR department and, as such, they will need to be made a key cog in the digital transformation wheel to ensure staff are ready and able, both during the project and after its completion.

Find a figurehead 

Within a business, decisions on what digital transformation projects will take place and how these will happen are usually made from the boardroom. While this is understandable, it does not mean that CEOs, board members or other senior decision-makers are right to lead the transformation project itself. Employees may have little to no interaction with these individuals, meaning they may be hesitant to put their faith in them or follow their lead. This could hamper a digital transformation right from the start as there is an inherent lack of trust from the get-go. 

People want to follow individuals that they admire and who they know have their best interests at heart. As such, choosing a project leader who has earned the respect of staff and who is at the same time open and communicative with them, will encourage employees to support the digital transformation process and increase involvement and engagement. 

Choosing the right partner 

Finally, firms need to choose the right solutions that meet businesses needs, while at the same time can be easily understood and used by staff. Decision-makers within an organization may not have the knowledge or experience to know how to find the right solutions. Questions like ‘do I need a bespoke platform or will an off-the-shelf solution work for us?’ or ‘Will this solution be easy for employees to adopt once installed?’ can be difficult to answer, even for a tech-minded individual.

Businesses should look to work with experienced digital partners that understand technology adoption is a nuanced, people-first process. Providers who have this knowledge will be able to spend time consulting with partners on the most innovative solutions for their goals that are cost-effective and scalable. This will help ensure the right platforms are put in place to meet theirs and their staff’s needs, while allowing decision-makers to focus on distilling the culture that will ensure the longevity of digital transformation success. 

At the same time, the right digital partner should also be able to help in the training and upskilling of a business's employees. Their experience of using and implementing solutions, or designing the platform if it is bespoke, will mean they have the understanding and knowledge to explain to staff how it works and how they can use it effectively once live. 

Whether it is a local restaurant or an FTSE 100 corporation, technology is fast becoming the lifeblood of businesses no matter their size or what industry they operate in. This means that digital transformation is more important than ever if businesses want to remain active, growing and relevant. However, transformation for transformation’s sake is counterproductive and conducting them in the right way so that they produce benefits is vital. By moving the focus away from technology and making people central to a transformation project, this will ensure a company’s digital evolution is effective, enduring and benefits everyone in the organization.

Iouri Prokhorov, founder and CEO, Helastel

Iouri Prokhorov is the founder and CEO of software developer and IT consultancy, Helastel.