Image credit: ca.com
Image credit: ca.com

Digital Transformation – has everyone gone nuts about it?

Digital transformation – this is the only thing I see, read about, talk about recently. Everyone has picked up the lingo and is throwing it left, right and centre. I thought about it, and then decided – I am going to throw my thoughts at it as well. One post probably does not do justice to the topic, as a whole book can be written. I will probably have some follow ups in due time.

2015’s buzzword was ‘digital’, 2016’s one is ‘digital transformation’. Everyone is talking about it, everyone is doing it – it is the Big Data craze of 2016. A lot of people, when hearing ‘digital transformation’ think it is all about technology. The reality is, it is all about people and vision, technology is just an enabler. Customers demand faster, real time interaction with brands, from the local shop to high end luxury. Legacy is a great brand pillar in traditional marketing, but it is not a major asset when it comes digital. The digital world is all about change, pushing the boundaries and testing the limits. This has caused a lot of organisations to put ‘digital transformation’ on the road map, and ask their workforce to ‘change’.  This post will look into some of the challenges that organisations face when they embark on this journey.

To start with, I was thinking of the top actions I would suggest to any company when it comes to digital.

My top transformation tips:

  1. Do not pigeonhole employees or potential employees
  2. Digital transformation is a mind-set, not an app
  3. Agility and resilience should be the top skills a company recruits for
  4. Allow your workforce to be creative
  5. Allow for risk and failure
  6. Invite junior employees to some of your strategy meetings
  7. Be open to change yourself
  8. You might not be an active Snapchat user but it is always a good idea to check out what is it all about
  9. Age and title are no longer a valid measure of success

If you think I am alone on the above 9, think again. I stumbled upon this TEDx talk by Tobias Burkhardt which showcases how people react to digital transformation: fear, over confidence or being condescending. He also touches on how legacy in education systems continues to create people, who come out of university with a fake sense of entitlement. Something that was probably more relevant in the 80s (yes, you did get a job the moment you graduated, no this is not the case nowadays). However we see those typologies in organisations every single day.

Legacy recruitment policies:

Image credit: Pinterest
Image credit: Pinterest https://uk.pinterest.com/pin/327777679110553324/

The amount of times I have seen jobs advertised, stating some fancy digital title, with job specs that do not make sense, are unrealistic or show complete lack of understanding of the subject matter (for more on this read my other post). So for starters – how can you transform if you do not know whom are you looking to hire? One of the biggest mistakes brands still make is looking for attributes such as ‘Degree in (Subject)’ with a GPA of X, specialist experience in X industry. I think if anything, digital has taught us that anyone can do anything, skills are cross industry and the fact that you studied for 5 years and have an MBA is no longer a major differentiator. Truly digital brands are open to people, they are curious to meet candidates who do not necessarily fit in a particular box. Why would you want the same like everyone else?

People often think that innovation emanates from sudden flashes of brilliance on the part of a gifted few. In reality, many new ideas arise through collaborative efforts among people of different backgrounds. Digitally maturing companies are in a position to recognise the benefits from collaboration. More than 80% of respondents from maturing organisations agree or strongly agree their workplace environments are collaborative compared to competitors. Only 34% of respondents from early-stage companies feel the same way. Digitally maturing organisations are also much more likely to use cross-functional teams to implement digital initiatives — 44% of respondents from maturing organisations versus a scant 16% from early-stage companies. RESEARCH REPORT STRATEGY, NOT TECHNOLOGY, DRIVES DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION (DELOITTE)

One of the first things Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield says to job candidates during interviews is, “Tell me your story.” He wants to know: How much of your success came down to luck, and how well do you appreciate that as a factor?

I would not hire a person just because of their education/particular experience – I would hire them based on their potential. I also think that the more diverse crowd I work with, the better results we can achieve as a team. Cross industry expertise, different paths of lives – that is what makes an amazing and successful team. And yes, some of the above is luck, and yes we should all appreciate luck as part of our success.

Reward failure

Poster to be hanging in every company, encouraging employees to try and maybe fail, or succeed?
Poster to be hanging in every company, encouraging employees to try and maybe fail, or succeed?

Digital is all about trial and error, or said in a more scientific way – it is all about testing. Companies that want to be 100% sure and launch the ‘perfect’ product/service will find it challenging to embark on a digital journey. A majority of employees are likely to be less risk prone, as taking a risk means taking responsibility for their action, being accountable. Most traditional organisations ‘punish’ failure, which makes employees fearful to make a mistake. That fear, leads to indecisiveness, which leads to missed opportunities. The company culture needs to allow employees to innovate, take risks and work together – and senior leadership needs to agree that a failed attempt at a task is also a potential outcome. The reality is, digital is a new path. Nobody has walked it before us, and we are currently creating the best practices of the future. Every new concept in this world has taken a lot of trials and errors until it got perfected by everyone. The difference is that back in the day, this path to innovation was available to select few, now through digital and open source, it is accessible for everyone.

Phil Simon, author of several books on how technology impacts business, sees risk aversion as a serious impediment that plagues many established companies. “For every Google, Amazon or Facebook taking major risks, hundreds of large companies are still playing it safe,” he says. “Today, the costs of inaction almost always exceed the costs of action.”

Disney is making great strides in closing the gap. The company is identifying early adopters and rallying them. These employees buoy risk taking by encouraging Disney employees who are not yet actively involved in the company’s digital efforts to join the ranks. “We are moving with as much speed and nimbleness with our efforts as we do on the consumer side, so that the appropriate level of risk taking and speed is balanced,” Milovich says. “You can tap into small but growing virtual communities to keep things moving along.”

More of these examples can be found here.

How does the organisational structure differ between the maturing digital companies and the ones in the early stages of digital transformation?

Graph credit: RESEARCH REPORT STRATEGY, NOT TECHNOLOGY, DRIVES DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION (DELOITTE)
Graph credit: RESEARCH REPORT STRATEGY, NOT TECHNOLOGY, DRIVES DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION (DELOITTE)

Are you and your organisation on this journey? Share your thoughts, and have fun 🙂

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