Ready or not, the mass WFH experiment has pushed companies to adopt new working practices and technologies to survive in the digital economy – but this doesn’t mean that the process has been simple
Embracing the future of business is never easy, and contrary to popular belief, ‘transformation’ is not as straightforward as simply implementing new tech. Adopting the latest technology alone won’t guarantee a successful digital transformation, or help to sustain a genuine competitive advantage.
Digital tools can quickly become outdated, so transformation must begin within the company’s internal culture to help drive continuous change as the market evolves. Innovation calls for an environment where ideas can breathe, and failure is viewed as an important step towards success: a curious mindset, adaptability, and flexible management practices will be far more rewarding in the long-term than funnelling resources into the latest equipment.
With this in mind, here are some tips for businesses keen to evolve, and embark on the path to digital transformation…
Understanding the ‘why’
One of the most important things to bear in mind is that people should be at the centre of any wide-scale digital transformation strategy. Naturally, this means keeping employees in the loop from the very outset, and explaining why steps are being taken to change the regular state of affairs. Communication is key, and employees must understand the ‘why’ behind these changes to ensure that new efforts to innovate run smoothly. Ultimately, staff members should have a solid understanding of the benefits to be gained by harnessing new tech.
Cultivating an atmosphere of openness and transparency will also serve to get buy-in from employees, who might otherwise be reluctant to get on board with new digital initiatives that alter the status quo. As a starter for ten, business leaders should remain accountable and make themselves open to talking to employees and addressing any concerns. Not only will this allow them to take on board new ideas, but it will also send a strong signal that all voices will be heard.
For larger organisations still struggling to convince their staff of the merits of new tech and shift away from old ways of working, these businesses could consider appointing ambassadors for digital change across different departments. By giving the floor to employees with a passion for innovation, this should go some way towards ensuring that positive attitudes towards transformation trickle down into the wider organisational culture in the long-term, and that good ideas don’t simply come from the top.
Promoting digital literacy
Another important facet of the digital transformation journey, and one that might have gone amiss until the COVID-19 crisis made any issues glaringly obvious, is the digital skills gap.
One might think that nowadays, all individuals are digital natives. But after years of maintaining legacy practices and old ways of working, some employees might need a helping hand. Indeed, many businesses got a taste of the dangers of putting this reality to one side when their workforces were prompted to shift to remote working practices in March 2020. As these organisations piloted new software and cloud computing, a stark digital skills gap began to rear its head. Significantly, a recent report by McKinsey suggests that 87% companies are concerned that they have skills gaps, or expect to encounter one within a few years.
Clearly, this is an ongoing problem that needs to be addressed, and enabling employees to build a solid foundational knowledge of all things digital should help to level the playing field. Businesses must first invest in training and upskilling their workforce before turning to new and potentially complex systems to make their operations more efficient, otherwise these new initiatives could be counterproductive.
Thankfully, it seems that many business leaders are taking this notion on board and are now making skills development a priority within their organisation in 2021. According to a Studio Graphene’s recent survey, two-thirds (67%) of UK firms plan to invest in technology training opportunities for staff members this year.
Offer your employees the driving seat
It is no secret that most organisations want to avoid risk when launching a new digital product. To do so, they embark upon long and cautious road-mapping to implement projects. As such, these proposals are often only trusted in the hands of those in the upper echelons of the company and subject to lengthy bureaucratic procedures – meaning that when initiatives are delivered, they might miss the mark.
To this end, a recent report by PwC found that only about half (53%) of employees agree that their organisation takes into account the needs of its staff when introducing new technology, despite 90% of C-suite executives saying that they do take this into consideration.
While sometimes the end-users of new tech products or processes will be customers or clients, rather than the employees themselves, it is nevertheless vital that all individuals within the business share their input and get involved in the decision-making process. After all, it is those in middle management and junior positions that will have the best feel for what needs to be improved to ensure that customers are well-served and employees can perform optimally. Through interaction with customers and day-to-day experience with critical business tech, workers at these levels will have a good insight into what is, and what isn’t, working well on the digital front.
Business leaders should actively seek out staff feedback and work to improve their understanding of employees’ experiences with technology. Organising meetings with individual workers, conducting internal surveys and audits, and facilitating round table discussions are all great ways to get employees involved in the journey.
When all is said and done, digital transformation means much more than just technology. Companies must “unlearn” old practices that no longer serve their operations and adapt to new mindsets if these initiatives are to succeed. And as they do, they can take solace in the fact that the technology is actually the easy part.
About the Author
Ritam Gandhi is the Founder and Director of Studio Graphene – a London-based company that specialises in the development of blank canvas tech products including apps, websites, AR, IoT and more. The company has completed over 100 projects since first being started in 2014, working with both new entrepreneurs and product development teams within larger companies.
Featured image: ©Vitomirov Igor