Successful Digital Business Transformation: People at the Center
Reimagining businesses through digital transformation was increasingly becoming a corporate imperative, but COVID-19 has brought in an urgency and accelerated the process. The dramatic pivot to remote work, new financial and economic constraints, and a multitude of other factors stemming from the pandemic has forced leaders to lean heavily on digital technologies in recent months, and they’ll continue to do so.
Not Without Pitfalls
A recent study from ZDNet and Forrester predicts that the rush to implement enterprise automation in 2020 will result in significant failures for some businesses in the coming year. If those predictions are a guide, the reasons for such failure won’t necessarily be due to technology but rather will be a result of a myopic focus on technology that ignores the importance of people in the change management process.
Why People Are Central
We are witnessing an emergence of a newer physically apart — always-on business model, quite different from the density-driven business models. The earlier business models largely focused on the customers walking into the place of business, and the metrics largely focused on density per inch. For instance, retailers would focus on in-store foot traffic; hospitality would consider room utilization; schools and universities would count on-campus students, etc.
Digital transformation initiatives often reshape processes, working structures, job roles, and induce redundancies in some jobs. When technology is deployed to support the new business models and newer ways of working — it is essentially how people collaborate not only with other people, but also with their digital colleagues. IT leaders quite often find themselves working in cross-functional teams. When people fear their contribution and believe their jobs are at risk, naturally they are likely to push back the initiatives. If the entire organization is not fully supported with the transformation efforts, it’s impossible to succeed.
People must be involved at every stage: discovery, development, execution, and adoption. Effective digital transformation is people-led and technology-enabled. It must prioritize people rather than just focus on technology alone.
New Business Models Require New Skills
The shift to hybrid business models has implications on not only how companies drive change but also how they measure outcomes and performance. Ensuring that the enterprise has multi-skilled, cross-functional employees with an innovation mindset is critical. At the same time, equipping people with newer skill sets in the changing environment is incredibly challenging — particularly when employees are working remotely and alongside their digital colleagues. Employees who otherwise would have learned some portions of new skills from colleagues and mentors might find it harder to do so when they don’t share a physical workspace. That’s why leaders must create learning opportunities and implement business structures that are less hierarchical in nature and encourage a problem-solving mindset.
By adopting techniques such as gamified learning, for instance, leaders can promote collaboration and technical training in a fun, hands-on environment. And fun is important. A study from Osterman Research revealed that employees who found training interesting were 13 times more likely to say it impacted their thinking than those who found it boring. Companies like McDonald’s, Deloitte, Nike, and other industry leaders have incorporated gamification strategies into their training programs.
Fortunately, most of your employees are probably up for the challenge. Another Forrester report found that nearly 9 out of 10 knowledge workers were comfortable with the prospect of reskilling in order to work alongside digital counterparts.
Change Starts Within
To win in this new paradigm, leaders must put people at the center of organizational change management. Everyone in your company will have a unique perspective on where and how change must occur, and you’ll need processes that facilitate effective collaboration and communication to ensure that the best ideas rise to the top. Moreover, you’ll need to make sure that those involved in facilitating organizationwide change — including CIOs, CHROs, and everyone else in the C-suite — are equipped with the knowledge and skills they need in order to contribute in a meaningful way.
Perhaps most important, you’ll have to cultivate a mindset of innovation that extends beyond the C-suite and perhaps beyond borders, depending on the nature of your workforce. When employees understand why you’re asking them to learn new skills and how their careers will benefit from the endeavor, change management becomes far easier for everyone.
Whether it’s difficult or seamless, change will inevitably impact your organization moving forward. Digital business transformation is now critical to the survival of virtually every organization, but it must be implemented properly to be effective. Putting people at the center of your change management strategy, and putting your employees in the position to learn in a collaborative environment, will give your digital transformation its best chance to succeed.
To learn more about the role technology will play in tomorrow’s workplace and the importance of people-centricity in digital transformation, download Wipro’s State of Automation Report 2020 here.
Global Head – Product and Practice, Wipro HOLMES®
Mohan is responsible for product strategy and innovation, driving open innovation ecosystem, startup acceleration, and go-to-market strategy. He brings in a deep understanding of technology and has extensive experience of accelerating artificial intelligence capabilities. Over the years, he has donned hats of being a change agent, strategist, change management, and delivering transformation.