Humans, not tech, key to transformation.

We humans (not tech) are the key to success in a digitally transforming world:

  • Human factors will deliver ‘change at scale’ digital transformation
  • Client co-created SaaS adoption the next value layer for IT?

Digitalisation is having a profound impact on how we humans live and work together. The magnitude of uptake of digital technologies means business as usual is not an option. Leaders who succeed in digitally transforming their existing business model will be those with both an open mind and the courage to make changes to how value is created, captured, organised and delivered.

While small energetic start-ups get the most public attention, established industry players are grappling with ‘change at scale’ challenges of digitally adapting their business models. The closer an established business is to digital savvy customers the greater the urgency for digital transformation. However, all organisations will need to strategise for business model adaptation.

For the leaders of established organisations, successful digital transformation will depend on a change management program built on (i) a clearly articulated ‘from-to’ vision for their business model, (ii) a business case based road map for tech selection and (iii) the building of new dynamic people and organisational capabilities. Central to the success of their change management programs will be a humanistic approach to workplace impacts.

Organisations that adopt an empathetic and thoughtful approach to the significant people issues thrown up and magnified by digital transformation, will engage and enable their people to embrace change and help build the workplace of the future.To understand and manage the change effect of digital transformation on people and organisations leaders will need to adopt a bi-focal frame of reference.

On one hand, the digitalised workplace of the future will be enabled by the creation of an aspirational culture that blends new and exciting ways of working with existing deep knowledge. Mundane work will be reduced and new jobs created. Dangerous workplaces will be made safer, organisation structures fattened and silos reduced to aid the flow of information. This will allow for real time continuous feedback from both customers and employees about organisation performance. Cross-functional collaborative teams will be focused on business improvement exercises. Workers will be afforded opportunities to learn new skills, mobility of work will increase as will flexibility of work patterns.

On the other hand, confronting and managing the potential downside of digital transformation will also be essential to building the workplace of the future. For example, digitalisation of work and process will mean less jobs in some key operational areas and change how work is valued and remunerated. Generational differences in digital knowledge and experience means the impact of digital transformation could be very inequitable. In areas of job loss, remaining workers with deep knowledge and experience could easily become organisationally disenfranchised. This risks knocking the business of its operational axis.

The good news…
is that for millennia, humans have been constantly learning and adapting to change. Ultimately it will be an understanding of both human factors and technology that determines the rate and degree of success in digital transformation. We humans have far more in common than we sometimes care to recognise. This enables us to predict how people and organisations will react to change and strategise accordingly. We know a lot about the social and personal skills (e.g. leadership, teaming, communication and decision making) which complement our technical skills.

Additionally, we understand how culture is shaped by behaviours, values and organisation characteristics. Expanding knowledge of human factors offers huge benefits for organisations. For IT organisations, developing knowledge of human factors that impact a client’s business could dramatically increase the likelihood of internal acceptance and usage of technologies by those clients. For capital-intensive industries, increased knowledge of human factors will contribute to building of new digitalised business models and enable an internal capability and operating rhythm that will deliver it.

Humans, not tech, are key to change at scale transformations. 

 Copyright Gary Cassidy 2017.