Digital transformation delivered via a remote workforce

Some buzzwords have a finite lifetime

They’re all the rage for a moment, and then they fall out of favour. You can’t say “reach out” today without having some serious side eye come back at you.

Others stick with us for years to come.

If any buzzword has proven to have the staying power of tungsten steel in the overlapping worlds of business, ecommerce and technology, it’s “digital transformation”.

That’s not to say, however, that the fundamental doing of digital transformation has stayed the same.

In many ways, like nearly everything else since March 2020, it’s changed utterly.

And for one reason.

Staff aren’t where they used to be.

The remote working watershed

Pre-pandemic, consultants like myself exhorted business executives to understand customer experience as the way to unlock their digital transformation strategy.

Those were simpler, happier times.

At that stage, the teams delivering customer experience were all sitting under one roof.

Or, perhaps, the call centre staff were elsewhere, but the rest of the teams were in the office.

Digital transformation was something companies were doing for their customers.

The reason why may have differed from organisation to organisation.

Perhaps it was to stay relevant, capture market share (or recapture lost market share), differentiate, grow revenue, streamline, or a combination of these.

But the point remains that digital transformation strategies were broadly implemented to address customer needs at the point the customer was at.

Then March 2020 happened and teams dispersed overnight.

Here we are two years later, and the demand for remote work is only going up.

The phenomenon called “The Great Resignation” is being partly driven by the demand for remote work. And a recent Forbes headline claims that “Remote Work Is Here To Stay And Will Increase Into 2023.”

Suffice to say, this genie is not going back in the bottle.

Which means that companies looking to deliver a digital transformation strategy now need to think about employee experience too.

Employee experience is now a category on its own

In 2014, three authors, George Westerman, Didier Bonnet and Andrew McAfee, created a framework called “The New Elements of Digital Transformation”. It was published on the MIT Sloan Management Review website.

This in-depth research looked at nine factors that, at the time, were considered essential for digital transformation.

Employee experience was not one of them.

It appeared in the framework, but was subsumed under the category of operations.

In 2022, things are radically different.

Today employee experience plays a fundamental role in the success of digital transformation. And, by converse, can lead to the failure of a digital transformation strategy too.

The same three authors have recently published a rethinking of their landmark research. Entitled “The New Elements of Digital Transformation”, their updated article was published on the same website.

It’s no surprise to find that employee experience is now a category on its own.

One of the authors states in no uncertain terms just how essential employee experience has become to digital transformation.

“Employee pain points can be valuable cues on where you can improve the business,” George Westerman says. “If you innovate the work experience, you make the whole company better, including the customer experience.”

Needless to say, we’re not talking about pizzas on Friday afternoons any longer.

How employee experience is transforming

Remote work is not only about where your employees are sitting.

In particular, three further components are transforming how employees want to work.

● Technology embedded into every element of work

We’re speaking about more than a company Slack channel here. Technology tools that enable employees to work productively, smartly and safely are non-negotiables for organisations looking to fully leverage digital transformation. The metaverse has something valuable to contribute in augmented reality tools for the frontline worker.

● Future-proof to continuously drive digital transformation

Enabling change and keeping up to speed with new technologies is what digital transformation relies on. And now there is a new seat at the executive table to ensure that an organisation’s learning and development function is kept strategic. The transformer CLO is the next iteration of the Chief Learning Officer, and their primary responsibility is training employees in new skills.

● Workforces don’t just mean employees anymore

Agile has long occupied a space in the digital transformation word cloud. In 2022, an agile workforce consists of employees, freelance workers and independent contractors. It’s known as “flexforcing” and supports remote working by having a contingent of trusted individuals available to support digital transformation strategies and plans.

In summary, a “customer-first” mentality has long been argued for to truly create and implement digital transformation that adds value. Now, that top spot needs to be complemented by an “employee-first too” mindset.

The reason why is simple.

Without a forensic focus on people, both inside and outside the organisation, digital transformation does not work.


About the Author

Allan Boyle is the founder of Saltwater Consulting. He has over 22 years experience in Information Technology and has cultivated a breadth of capabilities across finance, telecommunications and Internet sectors.

Featured image: ©Green Butterfly

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