Digital Transformation: Where’s the Benchmark?

Many business leaders will yawn at the idea that they haven’t already undertaken the transformation to make their organisations relevant to the technology-enabled economy.

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But here, Mark Creighton, CEO at AVADO Learning, offers some insight into the possibilities of transformation and that by which real transformation should be benchmarked.

The risk is that restructures, directives and digital pontification have simply washed over the people within an organisation. As a consequence, the value of the digital transformation is never truly felt across the business and therefore the individuals within that organisation do not see the value.

1. Nurturing behavioural change, over moving the ‘digital deckchairs’

Part of the answer to any digital transformation is restructuring the organisation to be more relevant to the digital economy. The introduction of new skills, a greater emphasis on extending the right mandate to digital leaders; or the introduction of new people and teams to accelerate technology adoption; are highly relevant steps, but only a small part of the equation. Transformation is about the behavioural change an entire organisation needs to make, so that all of its people can contribute to the potential gains within the digital economy. There is no quick fix to this. Leaders need to drive a commitment to long term reinforcement of new behaviours that increase understanding and confidence about the value of digital technology. They also need to communicate examples of how new behaviours are making the organisation more successful; and recognise that in a constantly evolving digital landscape the speed of change means that people need to be allowed to ‘fail fast’. A point of absolute maturity is never reached in a technology-driven world – only new opportunities for growth – so the truism of constant ‘test and learn’ cycles, must be encouraged and nurtured. Failures should simply be seen as an opportunity to learn and grow.

2. Developing new skills within, not just recruiting from the ‘Digirati’

Any guru, particularly digital ones, are a false economy. One star signing or technical whizz, doesn’t enable an organisation to transform, in fact in some cases they can hinder it. Often the greatest context for how new technology can benefit a business comes from the people that already work in it, as they fully understand the context of the product or service you provide. Through effective learning and development, people within your organisation can be given the digital skills and understanding, to make a far faster impact on the organisation’s transformation in a way that is relevant to what you do. At Avado, we measure the increases in digital confidence of our learners as a consequence of completing our digital learning programmes. Our perspective is that ‘confidence’, enables every individual to combine a better grasp of the potential of digital technology and its benefit, with their existing experience and knowledge of the organisation. This makes people far more equipped to driving the digital agenda of a business from within.

3. A practical technology strategy for the business, not a pipe dream for the Boardroom

Technology strategies should be aligned to enable the business to maximise the opportunity of the digital economy. It should be set in the context of how technology allows your business to do what it does better, or helps you to respond to your customers more effectively. Yet many of them are highly unrealistic, convoluted, acronym-riven PowerPoint slides, with little alignment to a business’ commercial reality. A good technology strategy should be understandable to the whole organisation, not just technology professionals. It should have clear outcomes that benefit what the business does and that everyone can relate to. It should also consider how everyone within the business can access and adopt the solutions that have been developed. An audit of any organisation, will identify those technology ‘white elephants’, which failed because no plan existed for how they would be adopted by everyone in the organisation.

4. ‘Build it and they will come’…they won’t, because they already have it

‘Proprietary technology’ is a fallacy in the majority of instances. If you aren’t a technology company, your ability to ‘build your own’ will be a time consuming, expensive endeavour. By the time you’ve built it, the proprietary value will have been superseded by a dedicated technology player who can build it cheaper and in some instances give it away for free. Smart organisations partner in technology and spend their energy on thinking about how they connect technology platforms together to create proprietary services which benefit customers or make their business more agile.  The agility to connect and then adapt the technology, is a skill far more valuable to the majority of organisations than people who could build it.

5. Ask the most junior person in your organisation first

The likelihood is that the most digitally native people in your organisation are the most junior. They are a generation who don’t know a time before the internet existed so their behaviours with technology are innate and as a result, more natural. As a consequence, their views on the applications and relevance of technology to your business are some of the most powerful. One of the pieces of anecdotal feedback we receive from those clients who partner with us to develop their new entrant apprenticeship schemes, is the value that apprentices have brought to developing new thinking and helping to drive innovation to their business. Inevitably, some of that has come from the initiative of the apprentices themselves, but in a number of instances it is where leaders leaned in to ask what they thought about how the organisation could evolve their digital agenda. That simple action has brought invaluable insight, but also evidenced the digital ambitions of the organisation and inspired the engagement and empowerment that our youngest talent value.

For me any business transformation is a journey and a digital one is no different. The sooner organisations start to view it through this lens, the sooner they will start to reap the benefits of ongoing transformation.

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