Digital Transformation – It Should Be About People, Not Technology
Published by : Industrial Automation
Akhilesh Mahto on what defines a Digital Transformation and two key mindsets that need to be the driving forces behind a successful transformation.
We currently live in a world where almost everything is available at the tip of our fingers, a few clicks away on a smart phone or a tablet. The likes of Uber, Airbnb, Apple, Google, Amazon has made access to information and services at our fingertips. The consumer today lives in a hyper connected world and expects similar flexibility and ease of navigation in the
professional world as well.
Digitisation is centuries old and led us into the Industrial age, but it wasn't until the early 20th Century when we started seeing more innovations in the digital space which included the development of personal computers by Apple and IBM. 1990's brought another wave of change with WWW and Web Browsers fundamentally changing the face of digitalisation. Globally, in last 5 years, Google web search for the term "Digital Transformation" has steadily been on a rise.
These buzzwords are not synonyms
Some commonly and in many instances interchangeably terms are Digitisation, Digitalisation and Digital Transformation. In my view, they are different, and it is important to understand the differences to be able to appreciate the place of each in an enterprise.
As per Gartner, these terms can be defined as below:
- Digitisation is the process of changing from analog to digital form, also known as digital enablement. Digitisation takes an analog process and changes it to a digital form without any different-in-kind changes to the process itself.
- Digitalisation is the use of digital technologies to change a business model and provide new revenue and value-producing opportunities; it is the process of moving to a digital business.
- Digital Transformation refers to anything from IT modernisation (for example, cloud computing), to digital optimisation, to the invention of new digital business models.Digital Transformation Initiatives
As part of my work, I often speak with customers on challenges facing their business and how we can help them address the same. In speaking with customers and having worked on a number of Digital Transformation programs, I have identified some commonalities on what defines a Digital Transformation and two key mindsets that need to be the driving forces behind a successful transformation.
It is about people: Digitisation started with Industrial age and with the internet we moved into a world of Information age. Currently we live in world which can be classified as Experiential or People age. Consumers and End User behaviour is driven by the experience they get when using a system, solution or application. A McKinsey research highlights that only 1 out of 5 Digital Transformation initiatives have been successful in achieving the outcome they aspired for. The primary goal of a Digital Transformation initiative should be to provide the users, a better and pleasant experience than what they had before. If for some reason there is no positive change in people experience, then in my view the transformation hasn't achieved its goal.
Adoption is not something that can be mandated. Adoption occurs when users decide for themselves that the solution provides them with a net benefit.
In my opinion, a technology program led with people first culture is likely to be more successful.
It is not all about technology:
Ok, I am a technology enthusiast, but let me make it clear,any digital transformation should never be about technology. Technology should be an enabler to achieve the higher-level outcome that an enterprise wants to achieve from their transformation program. Understand your audience well, put yourselves in their shoes, understand the challenge and be very specific about the outcome you want to achieve. If you are not aware of the challenges and more importantly have not vetted it with the real users, the transformation program is likely to have adoption problems. Once you have a good grasp of the challenge and outcome, then shift your focus to technology. Identify technologies, applications, solutions which will complement your digital transformation. The same McKinsey research shows that enterprises that deploy more technologies have been more successful in their digital transformation, but it also goes on to say that technology is only one part of the story.
Lessons learnt from successful digital transformation
This is a summary of my key learnings from the transformation program that have been engaged with. This is not a comprehensive list and I am cognisant of other influencing factors impacting the outcome.
1. Engage impacted line of business stakeholders and end users from the get-go. Involve them from the beginning to understand what works and what doesn't work for them in the current enterprise solutions. Business users should be part of the program, have stake in the success instead of just being at the receiving end, as happens in many technologies driven transformations.
2. Lead the program with a benefits/value realisation approach. Have good KPIs and measures in place to tangibly identify value realised from the transformation program. Measuring success is equally important and this will help you quantify the outcome you aspired. More importantly, remember that benefits may not always be financial.
3. I have been part of many projects, some small scale, others large scale, but there has never been an instance where there have been no teething issues in the early days. It all comes down to how those issues are managed and communicated. Communication is key in managing some of the initial hiccups. Your business stakeholders (who were part of program), will play a significant role in communicating and maintaining a positive attitude.
Digital Transformation can be ‘part of the solution’ or ‘part of the problem’. It solely depends upon which side of the fence are you in and your vested interest in making the technology work for your users and customers.
(Opinions expressed in this article are mine and have no affiliation with my employer –Author)
Akhilesh Mahto is a Solution Architect, guiding organisations in their Cloud and Digital Transformation journey. He is passionate about emerging technologies and their implications in the real world. Akhilesh has a MBA and a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and Technology.