Guest Feature

Digital transformation is all about people: here’s why

By Business & Finance
08 August 2017

The key to successful digital transformation is people, not technology, says Ronan Gray

As the lines between our physical and digital worlds become increasingly intertwined, one could be forgiven for thinking we have reached the peak of the digital era. Where before businesses would have considered ‘being digital’ as a competitive advantage; today they are waking up to the fact that is becoming an essential, event expected, quality.

While digital transformation is as old as technology itself, in recent years it has become a bit of a buzzword, as orgnaisations race to implement the latest tech. In their haste, however, too many businesses are forgetting the most critical element to any successful digital transformation: People.

At best, companies that overlook the human element and steam ahead, introducing and integrating new technologies, can hope for a fragmented digital organisation. At worst they can expect to see big bills for procceses and software that have been relegated to the back-up drives of their computers.

Here are three reasons why successful digital transformation is all about people:

All great transformations need a leader

Technology doesn’t just implement itself. There is no magic spell for digital transformation. It must be a carefully thought out and managed process. To make it happen, there must be someone in the driving seat. Moreover, that someone must have the power to make the hard decisions: It must be someone from the C-Suite.

The problem here is that, very often, within the Cx group there is limited time available to understand the latest technology and how it applies to their industry.

The natural and most obvious choice for leading this transformation is the CIO. However, too often, the CIO is bogged down with the day-to-day operational issues of maintaining the systems that keep the organisation running. They simply don’t have the time to keep pace with changes in technology or focus on the changes required to enable the organisation to adjust to market demand. This accounts for the rise of the ‘Chief Digital Officer’ or CDO. This dedicated transformation champion is invaluable in getting things started. However, as digital plays an increasingly significant role in our personal and professional lives, I believe it will merge with the CIO’s role.

Ultimately, digital transformation needs to be driven by the CIO and supported by the entire leadership team. It will only succeed if the entire team is engaged to deliver against a common goal, which brings me on to point two.

You need buy-in to bring about change

While the world is full of examples of great ideas that failed to launch because the people that counted didn’t fully buy into them, tech is a particularly crowded space. Introducing new technologies and processes means disrupting the way people operate. If you want them to really embrace what you’re doing then you need to get their total buy-in.

To achieve that, you need a very well thought out engagement plan with the right strategies to achieve buy-in at many levels within the organisation. A critical element of that plan is identifying the key champions for change. Just as important, however, is providing a vision of what else is possible when the technology is in place. The vision of what higher value work can be achieved by individuals as some of the lower value tasks become automated, must be the message.

 You must invest in experts to get it right

Developing a strategy that factors in the countless variables is a complex task and not one that should be treated lightly. Working with digital transformation experts, helps ensure the smooth transition of your company.

Application modernisation, financial planning, implementation, migration to the Cloud, are all important considerations when preparing for digital transformation. NashTech has worked with hundreds  of businesses to bring about successful digital transformation. Irrespective of their size, sector or location, the main things almost all of them underestimate are:

  • Organisational Change Management

Large scale change is difficult and deals with the most challenging thing of all – PEOPLE.  The largest part of this is culture and the fear of change. This is an area that needs specialised skills and experience of having done these types of changes previously.

  • Training and Adoption

All change needs a training programme to cater for the various styles of learning with an organisation. Equally there should be an appropriate adoption plan covering not just when and how, but also detailing support mechanisms for the cross over period.

  • Business Function Prioritisation

This is also sometimes underplayed or overlooked. Put simply business function prioritisation (BFP) is where the changes within the organisation are mapped to the business priorities. Quick win and greatest value return are planned out and used to driver rollout and training plans, thus providing a higher level of return to the business in the early adoption of the change.

There can be no doubt that embracing technology and becoming ‘digitally native’ is a must if your business is to survive. But that technology is only as powerful as the people behind it. The interdependency between our workforce and technology is growing and we must ensure we do not forget either in our bid to stay ahead of the curve.

Ronan Gray is Senior Vice President of Advisory Services at NashTech Ireland, specialists in advisory, software development and business process outsourcing, supporting global organisations to deliver the right technology solutions to support their individual business needs.