Defining the human element of Digital Transformation
Updated: Aug 12
Why IT continues to struggle with a new world order
All buzzwords aside, Digital Transformation has now become something that is very real—a new must-have approach to business driven solely by the demands of end-users and consumers for a more connected experience—regardless of the vertical market. In fact, Digital Transformation has become such a driving force, a recent study has shown that a staggering two-thirds of CEOs within the Global 2000 have Digital Transformation as a key strategic component of their corporate strategies.
However, with so many companies embracing this new change and model, many struggle with what it actually entails—many times it’s the human element that’s the sticking point.
Simply put, Digital Transformation is the path forward in addressing our increasingly complex world—a world that is continually inundated with new applications and platforms and, as a result, an ever-growing amount of data that must be managed. Pair this with the rate at which all of these things are being introduced and the complexity and need for change becomes evident. The irony in all this: all of these challenges are created by the human element.
The challenge is not so much around introducing new technologies, it’s more about addressing the people, the past practices of IT, and the challenges associated with legacy systems and processes. Luckily, those elements are also easily defined.
First, there is simply the matter of bandwidth. It has been my experience that for almost every company I’ve worked with on a Digital Transformation project, the sheer amount of work that is waiting—an already long list of to-do’s and projects—is downright staggering. And whether that’s the result of understaffing, available bandwidth, or simply too many demands coming from all departments, asking an IT department to now address a perceived global shift in process management and technological infrastructure, can be just too daunting to consider.
Second, there is the IT budget. For most companies, the majority of their IT budget is categorized as an exercise in maintaining the status quo. Keeping legacy systems running and addressing the day-to-day needs of all departments to ensure business continuity will, ultimately, supersede the want and desire for perceived change. Allocating new budget for new initiatives outside of regular business can be perceived as either an exercise in excessive spending, or in taking budget away from something that is needed.
Third, there is the perception of IT versus the reality of IT. When embracing and enacting digital changes within a company, the expertise needed to implement such things usually falls far outside the internal skillsets of the IT department. And as a staunch advocate of IT departments, the skillsets should fall outside of their expertise as they are not within the scope of what IT does. Furthermore, they should not be chastised for not having those skillsets. Gone are the days where IT is expected to be able to do everything technologically related. The world is far too complex for those types of expectations.
Finally, there is the fear of the unknown. Digital Transformation is a highly complex animal—one that if done right can impact every aspect of a company and its legacy practices. Pair that with the profound need and demand for innovation and embracing an entirely new way of thinking, and the desire to tackle such a realm of uncertainty can be met with hesitation, to say the least. After all, the human element of adoption and consensus has a far greater implication than the technology that drives it. After all, if given the choice, aren’t incremental changes in business process far safer in comparison?
So, if the meaning of Digital Transformation is defined (that’s the easy part), it’s the approach to transformation itself that requires better definition and parameters. The good part in all of this is that too can be easily addressed.
As mentioned above, bandwidth and skillsets are always in high demand. But those elements can be resolved with the right partners, technologies, etc. The greater issue is that of the budgets and uncertainties that accompany Digital Transformation. For me, my approach is twofold in helping companies with digital efforts. The first is defining something that is tangible. A digital journey is just that—a journey. There is no need to boil the proverbial ocean on the first day. By creating an approach centered on minimum viable projects (MVPs), small and incremental changes can be made without disruption to the company as a whole. It also means that adoption can be more easily managed as the impact of change is not so great that it causes people to lose sight of their respective comfort zones.
As for the uncertainty around Digital Transformation—there’s no need for hesitation. Innovation doesn’t have to be stressful; in fact, it should be the opposite. Innovation should be exciting, engaging, and breathe new life into all departments involved. The best way to do that is to embrace a design-thinking methodology.
We all know that big companies can be cumbersome by nature. Breaking that natural state by utilizing a start-up approach to tackling new ideas and implementations can go a long way. It also naturally tackles other aspects of the adoption challenge. When people are engaged, excited, and see small yet important projects come to fruition, the road and vision forward is further embraced.
With the human element of Digital Transformation solved, now comes the next challenge—what technology to embrace. But that is for another day…another blog.