Insight article

Digital Transformation – Future proofing your organisation

Why the human side of digital transformation is more important than ever

The greatest challenge of digital business transformation is keeping it human. Your people and customers are integral to that process, and the story you tell about the benefits of this change could define the very future of your organisation.

“We live in a digital world,” said the internet entrepreneur Omar Ahmad, “but we’re fairly analogue creatures.” We crave the fuzzy warmth of the human, even as the cold, crisp inevitability of digital transformation accelerates rapidly around us.

As a leader, you can marry both worlds within your organisation by dovetailing the human and the digital in one seamless story of success. But what are the challenges that first need to be understood as you embark on your digital transformation journey?

Looking inwards: overcoming resistance to change

As the pandemic gathered momentum, it was all hands to the pump – people embraced the need for new digital solutions in the ‘needs must’ atmosphere of crisis management. But as our lives begin to return to a semblance of ‘normal’, there is a danger that your workforce will gradually feel less engaged with new ways of working that are very much here to stay.

Therefore, it’s crucial that your people feel empowered, not intimidated, by these new digital tools, as part of an inspiring and innovative business culture of continuous learning:

  • Your leadership needs to be authentic and visible, so that your employees understand that the organisation’s core values are still aligned with their own.
  • Your people must feel part of a coherent and cohesive organisational story, in which their own individual narratives about the digital transformation experience are included and valued.
  • And the transformation journey must take advantage of cross-team communities, where ideas and solidarity alike are encouraged to flourish and pollinate your company’s digital evolution.

Unless your workforce is united by and committed to digital transformation through this culture of continuous learning, your organisation is at risk of fracturing into increasingly isolated silos, whereby departments retreat into favoured ways of working and preferred technologies. The solution is systems thinking – a holistic, inclusive receptiveness to cross-organisational problem-solving, in which everybody’s voice is heard.

Communication is key, across vertical and horizontal axes. How do your employees exchange ideas, or express dissatisfaction? How well are you, as their leader, helping them understand the ways in which digital tools can protect the security of communications and data, improve and simplify workflows, and enable workers to touch base with colleagues across different departments and time zones? Are they aware of all the ways in which AI can augment the workforce, enhance creativity, personalize the experience of their customers, and create new collaborative opportunities amidst the thrilling potential of the ‘metaverse’?

Looking outwards: your customers are more than just ‘data’ points

Big Data has given organisations unprecedented access to their customers’ habits, needs and desires, and has allowed them to tailor their products and services accordingly, and with ever greater efficiency.

But it’s easy to lose sight of the human being hidden behind the digital noise they create. We see with ever greater clarity the granular specificity of commercial behaviours, but as more processes become further automated or managed by AI, our view of the beauty and individuality of human experience seems to become more clouded.

In order to extract the warm human analogue from the data-driven digital, business leaders need to embrace big ideas alongside Big Data. In the Insights 2030 report from data consulting company Kantar, empathy emerges as the key consideration when seeking to understand your customers as people, rather than habits. Empathy is the heartbeat of storytelling, and storytelling is the medium through which both your inward- and outward-facing communications will be at their most powerful.

The human warmth we crave need not be lost in the dizzying maelstrom of the digital transformation journey. The ‘analogue’ of the human experience within your organisation can itself become its central story – a narrative about an empathetic company culture that embraces ideas and innovation. Digital transformation presents an opportunity – to tell a compelling story that makes sense of these changes, celebrates the myriad ways they will benefit your workforce and its customers, and unites your people behind an energizing, inherently human common purpose.

Alastair Hagger