Put people at the heart of your business' digital transformation

 
Michael Curry
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Taking digital transformation seriously doesn’t mean relocating your offices to Shoreditch (Source: Getty)

Companies are waking up to the need to make their organisations more digital. Knowing that you need to do something “digital” is easy. Understanding what it is that you need to do is a lot harder.

Transform from the top

Leaders can lack the confidence needed to lead in a digital environment because (rightly or wrongly) they feel that others are more acclimatised to it than they are: not being a “millennial” is often a popular excuse.

The temptation is simply to appoint a head of digital. But the best results come when change is being led by the whole leadership team and built into everything a business does, rather than being annexed to a particular team.

For this to happen, senior leaders need to face up to and upgrade their own digital capability in order to inspire and guide others. One simple way to do this is to spend time online as a “customer” of your business – buying products on your mobile website for example.

A means to an end

Some may try to address the digital challenge simply by bringing in new technology. But while technology is clearly a vital part of a digital approach, it’s not a solution in isolation. It’s more important to think about how people can use this technology to make a real difference in line with an overall digital goal.

For example, data is a priority for many businesses, but simply collecting more data doesn’t add value in itself. However, when you empower people with the skills to be better able to draw conclusions from existing data, use these to make fact-based decisions and establish patterns, the way you use data becomes interesting.

A common language

Organisations – particularly those with a global reach – need to speak a common language. As you continue to recruit the brightest digital talent, it is imperative they share this knowledge across the organisation. The key here is humility; there is a danger that those lacking digital skills shy away from what they don’t know.

Be humble and appreciate that knowledge is no longer hierarchical; a collaborative way of working is key to delivering meaningful change.

The greater the digital literacy divide across your organisation, the more departmentalised your ways of working: adopt one coherent digital lexicon.

Upskill

Taking digital transformation seriously doesn’t mean relocating your offices to Shoreditch, or investing in fancy themed meeting rooms. The most successful companies put people at the heart of their digital strategy.

This could be as small as setting learning and development goals to make sure they’re always equipped with the latest digital skills.

Specialist knowledge needs to be built within an organisation. Whether it’s data analysis skills, digital marketing expertise, or experience in a particular type of software, if your organisation is, or wants to be, utilising a particular digital skillset, then specialist knowledge will lead to organisation-wide adoption. When staff are empowered with digital skills, it contributes to a culture that changes the whole mind-set of a company.

Even if there’s no immediate issue with the way your company is working, there’s certainly no guarantee this won’t change in the future.

There’s no doubt that digital tools and techniques are rapidly transforming businesses and industries around the world. Those that don’t take steps to get up to speed now are at risk of being left behind.

As “digital” continues to code its way into our day-to-day, it is vital to couple this influx of technology with an equal or greater change in capability.

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