Digital transformation is all about using digital technology to change how a business operates and delivers value to customers. Choosing appropriate technological tools across all areas of your business lies at the very core of digital transformation. But that's only half of the story.
Research has shown that technology alone isn't enough to drive digital transformation. Every organization serious about achieving its digital transformation goals has to take the human factor into account or risk total disaster in its digital transformation drive.
Having the grandest ideas or the latest technological stacks is not enough. When it comes to digital transformation, your strategy is only as good as the people implementing it. From ideation to execution, all the critical components that spin the wheel on your digital transformation journey are people-enabled.
In this post, we'll take a closer look into people's role in digital transformation, the human-related challenges of digital transformation, and how to take it more seriously.
The people who drive transformation
True digital transformation is all about using technology to change business models, optimize processes and transform organizational culture. This shows that the real change you're trying to achieve lies with people (the managers of your business model, executors of your processes, and custodians of your corporate culture).
Organizations that focus on who these people are and how digital transformation strategies impact them are more likely to succeed in their quest.
According to Dr. George Westerman, a senior lecturer at MIT Sloan School of Management, digital transformation is more of a leadership challenge than a technology challenge. Many organizations have it backward in this regard, and this is a common reason for digital transformation failure. A digital business model needs agile leaders to carry out a well-thought-out implementation plan.
The name or role given to such leaders does not matter. Some organizations create new functions like the Chief Digital Transformation Officer or simply let people in existing positions, such as the Chief Information Officer, Chief Technology Officer, or even the CEO, handle the digital transformation.
Regardless of the role, the most important thing is that the leader has a clear vision of the digital path you intend to take and the goals you are meant to achieve. Leaders should also be adaptable and be able to inspire members of their teams toward these goals while navigating any challenges that may pop up along the way.
Although coders or developers are essential for digital transformation, everyday employees and business users play a significant role in achieving digital transformation.
The people running everyday business operations, interacting with customers, selling to them, and designing the solutions they need are crucial to any digital transformation plan. These employees will be in charge of using the different technologies you intend to implement and, in some cases, may build these tools themselves in their role as citizen developers.
Thanks to no-code development, everyday users can now leverage their technical and business knowledge to build the tools needed to optimize business processes. You'll still need the traditional coding team to design, code, and build tech products as part of your digital transformation program. Your citizen development program needs to be under the control of your IT department to prevent it from losing direction.
One less-talked-about and equally important "people component" of digital transformation is your customers. Ultimately, digital transformation is meant to impact their experiences and meet their needs. This is even more complex because customers are continuously evolving, and their needs constantly change. Analyzing data to gather insights about customer needs will help align your digital transformation effort toward achieving desired results.
The challenges in implementing the people side of digital transformation
The "digital" part of digital transformation is relatively easy. The biggest challenge comes with the "transformation" aspect. Changing anything is a complex endeavor, especially when it involves people. The following are some of the common challenges in implementing the people's side of digital transformation and the best approach for solving them:
Adapting to organizational change
Digital transformation forces a change in your company's business model and overall organogram. How challenging this is will depend on how it is implemented and how receptive people are to such changes. Here are a few tips that can help minimize the effect of organizational change:
Plan carefully. Analyze your process, create a clear list of priorities and develop a comprehensive plan.
Push for adoption from top management level
Create a digital transformation roadmap
Execute, measure, and adjust accordingly
Upskilling and recruitment
It would be best if you had a pool of talents to execute digital transformation successfully. For many organizations, this may require hiring new talent. But in most cases, it's cheaper and more efficient to train your existing team to use the digital tools you intend to deploy. One approach that solves the problem of upskilling your team is to choose new technologies that are intuitive and easy to use for everyone. Managing digital transformation with a simple no-code or low-code platform limits the need to train employees or invest heavily in recruiting new ones.
Resistance to cultural change
Resistance to cultural change is one of the leading causes of digital transformation failures. Transforming an organization digitally often translates to changing the cultural mindset of the people.
Take an organization whose processes over the years have been paper-based. It will be easier to radically change the process of getting permissions from higher-ups or migrate communications to a cloud-based platform after changing people's mindsets. An excellent method to prevent employee resistance to such digital changes is to carry them along right from the onset, get them all on board, and communicate consistently with them throughout the process.
Frequently Asked Questions
How does digital transformation affect people's lives and well-being?
Any transformation woven into a company's fabric has the most significant impact on the leaders and employees implementing it. Some of the ways digital transformation improves people's lives include:
Expands the skillsets of employees
Eases people of mundane and repetitive tasks
Overall improvements in job satisfaction
Improves employee experience
Should digital transformation focus on technology or people?
The technological aspect of digital transformation is a given. It is almost impossible to think of digital transformation without considering the new tools to adopt or the cool new features to add to the tools you already use. While the focus on technology is often by default, it's easy to lose sight of the glue that holds it all together, the people that build the incredible technology and those responsible for implementing them. Thus, every digital transformation initiative must cater to the people who will be the end users of the technology to deliver desired results.
Why do people fear digital transformation?
Digital transformation is a complex undertaking. Transformation means change, and change is never easy. The fear of what it'll require to master new techniques or adopt new innovative methods often forces people to stick to the status quo. So they'll continue doing things the old way instead of adopting change.
Are people really the key to digital transformation success?
Yes. People are the key to the success of any digital transformation initiative. Your new technology stack won’t run itself. Digital transformation initiatives often fail due to the disconnect between digitalization efforts and the humans at the center of the processes you aim to transform. Digital transformation needs managers with a clear vision, a skilled team to build the technology stack you need, and reliable business users willing to adopt and implement the digital initiatives you recommend as part of your digital transformation strategy.
How Kissflow enables the people side of digital transformation?
Kissflow is a user-friendly digital transformation platform that enhances day-to-day internal operations and improves communication, collaboration, and productivity. With low-code and no-code technology, it simplifies processes and facilitates cross-functional collaboration, making it easier to adapt to cultural change during digital transformation.