Why I believe People is the Key to a Successful Digital Transformation

I remember once I had an interview with C-level executives where they asked me about my view on digital transformation. Lucky for me, on the way to the interview location I did draw something about digital transformation on my tablet so I just need to open the file and explained it to the interviewers.

My drawing on Digital Transformation

While I did mention about the 3 dimensions that must be taken care in order to have a successful digital transformation, but I clearly highlighted that the key is PEOPLE. And here’s why I think people is the key:

Like it or not, people are not digital. They have mind, they have feelings and emotions. Introducing new technology only won’t get you anywhere, people need to have the reason WHY do they need to change. What’s in it for them.
As Simon Sinek (the author of the book “Start with Why”) writes:

We want to be around people and organizations who are like us and share our beliefs. When companies talk about WHAT they do and how advanced their products are, they may have appeal, but they do not necessarily represent something to which we want to belong. But when a company clearly communicates their WHY, what they believe, and we believe what they believe, then we will sometimes go to extraordinary lengths to include those products or brands in our lives.

When an organization shares the same beliefs, the sense of belonging will appear, and this is fundamental for a transformation to success.

Mindset and Culture
For a digital transformation to work, employees must change how they do their work, leverage data, and use new digital tools. Change management is crucial to change the mindset, a new (digital) culture needs to be incorporated. Digital tools for sure will help to speed up some tasks but the real power in this is how we embrace the new way of working, teaming between human and technology. And this is not going to be easy.

Skills and Knowledge
Last but not least, people must have the skills and knowledge to incorporate new technology into new and existing work processes. There are two ways to achieve this:

  • Upskill and reskill existing workforce
  • Acquire new digital workforce

There are pro and cons on both approach. I personally prefer to do both, since existing workforce carries the process knowledge while the new talents can bring their new way of working to the company. The tricky part is how to blend them together and create a winning team.

This is where a leader needs to be champion of the change, to develop clear vision of the transformation, lead by example (and to lead them through the difficulty of the change – for greater good, of course), and always be there with the people to motivate them and to clear all the obstacles.

One thing is clear. Digital Transformation is not a trend but it is a journey. As amazing and exciting as these technologies are in themselves, it needs people and the right working culture to turn them into real world business benefits.

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