by Sara Hill, Senior Vice President, Southern US & Mexico, Enterprise Ireland
For many business managers, Digital Transformation holds a nebulous meaning, and has been considered an eventual, (non-essential) part of their overall strategy. It was a buzzword for what is to be considered, researched, planned for, and then at some stage, deployed.
With the onset of Covid-19 however, that deployment stage arrived swiftly. Faced with the pandemic, the implementation of new platforms and digital technologies took precedent; as companies rushed to enable work from home strategies, transition into the world of e-commerce, and maintain their viability. Many companies’ digital transformation timelines were accelerated, and many initiatives were launched in the absence of a proper strategy or consideration for what was required for success.
Now, 18 months after the outbreak, many are moving into the recovery phase. Employees and customers have adopted a very different perspective regarding digital tools and technologies. At this point, it’s critically important that executives assess where their companies are within the digital transformation journey and how to move forward for success. The return to the non-connected, pre-pandemic environment is simply not an option.
Covid-19 may have forced businesses to integrate previously unplanned tech into their go-to-market strategies, but it has also presented many fast-learned lessons and opened our thinking to evaluating the very nature of commerce. To help alleviate some of the apprehension managers have about their digital journey, I have highlighted the four most common myths I hear about digital transformation, and try to dispel these misconceptions. Hopefully, this will help shed light on a brighter path toward successful long-term digital adoption.
Myth #1: Digital Transformation is the tech department’s responsibility
There is often a lightbulb moment when managers realize that digital transformation is just change management. While the term digital transformation may be relatively new, there are decades of research, models and experienced managers on how to prepare, support and accomplish organizational change. Viewing a digital transformation strategy through this lens should help with the understanding that leadership and other individual change drivers (outside of one department) are essential for a successful adoption. Leaders may drive the change management, but the shift is a cultural change that extends to all levels and functions of the enterprise. Unfortunately, many organizations fail to approach their digital initiatives in this manner.
Using John Kotter’s 8-Step Process for leading change involves building a guiding coalition which may include, but should not be limited to the tech department. Every department within an organization has a unique group of employees with varying skills and experiences. Once properly utilized they can significantly contribute to the efficiency and success of the digital transformation. Understanding that change management is at the core of digital transformation can help managers design a strategy that is engaging, enables action and institutes lasting change.
Myth #2: Digital Transformation is just implementing new technology
This myth could not be further from the truth. As noted under Myth #1—with digital transformation being equal to change management—digital transformation should center the people in the organization and its customers. Doing so will require a shift in mindset, communication, and workflow, and will need to be reinforced by the company’s culture.
Companies like Workvivo know this all too well. They developed an employee communication platform to excite, engage and connect entire companies. Their approach is a combination of a bespoke internal social network and comms platform. During covid it allowed for managers and employees to stay engaged, communicate, and feel they are part of the company culture from their homes. Using platforms like Workvivo or others that keep employees engaged, allow for open communication and transparency, can help with the transition.
Myth #3: Digital Transformation will cause job losses
New technology within a company certainly means change, which oftentimes causes uneasiness or even fear. However, the notion that new technology brings a high level of job loss does not prove out as accurate. Yes, some jobs become less necessary, but new jobs are also created. Digital transformation often brings more flexibility, security, and efficiency to tasks, not a replacement of roles.
When Verizon Communications Inc. closed many of its retail stores during the pandemic, it retrained 20,000 employees to handle new jobs ranging from sales to customer service. Verizon plans to retrain over 100,000 employees worldwide this year to prepare them for the demands of 5G, the next-generation wireless standard.
Many digital technologies are simply alleviating arduous time-consuming tasks that have reduced employee efficiency. Take for example Enterprise Ireland companies Tekelek and ASD. Tekelek’s remote tank monitoring solutions prevent the need to travel on-site to monitor levels in tanks containing liquids, solids or gasses–saving employee’s time and company spend on reorders thanks to this IoT-enabled tool. Similarly, ASD provides RFID tracking solutions for items on aircrafts. Item counts that had to be done manually can now be done in a matter of seconds—providing a more efficient process, reducing aircraft turnaround time and freeing up staff to concentrate on other tasks. These examples demonstrate how digital transformation allow employees to simply add efficiency to the more menial tasks within their current role.
Myth #4: My company/industry doesn’t need Digital Transformation
By far the most business-damaging myth. The progression and adoption of digital products, technologies, and connected environments will not go away — the ubiquitous rate of integration into our personal and business lives has advanced exponentially in recent years. Ignoring the shift is a sure way for a company to be left behind.
Digital transformation not only brings with it the tools and services that employees and customers now expect, but it also brings a level of insights and actionable data into the company that is simply vital to stay relevant in today’s competitive, fast-paced business environment.
Today’s devices and sensors generate valuable data at a rate we never predicted just a few years ago. Companies must tap into this information and empower their employees with the data analysis skills to create and shape business cases for moving the organization forward. From all points of view, ignoring the digital transformation is simply not a plan for success.