November 30, 2018 / 3:19 PM / 2 months ago

Digital disruption versus people power

Why humans, not tech, are the true drivers of change in any business…

Our technological revolution
The digitalisation of our world continues to hurtle along at breakneck speed. Entire industries are undergoing a dramatic revolution. Artificial Intelligence, machine learning, mobile, Big Data and blockchain, are just some of the transformational technologies leading the march; these buzzwords simultaneously instil fear and intrigue. Yet, they’re changing the entire landscape of global business economics - of that there can be no doubt. And they’re creating a wave of digital transformation trends across the world.

“The first trend we are seeing is that customer demand is changing,” according to Anirban Bose, CEO of Financial Services at leading global consultancy, Capgemini. He adds: “It’s causing most organisations to look at digital transformation of the customer interface - customer centricity. The second one is how can organisations deliver promises to the customer in a more digital way. The third is how to become more data driven or insight-driven. The fourth one is how to compete, collaborate and create an ecosystem with external partners.”

Missing part of the equation
By now, most businesses – large or small - understand they need to embrace these new trends and technologies, or become obsolete. Many are investing heavily in them as part of their digital transformation strategies. But, and there’s a big but, while there may be surge in investment in shiny new IT systems, there’s sometimes an important part of the equation missing: investment in people. Without savvy, progressive employees driving forward any digital renaissance in any organisation, there’s a limit on what can be achieved as a business. Experts warn therefore, that focussing on new tech rather than the expertise needed to implement it, is counter-intuitive:

“The first phase of digital transformation starts with how to become a technology organisation. That’s where a lot of investment happens. But in some cases, I’ve seen that organisations have underestimated the impact on people. There needs to be a more holistic view,” says Capgemini’s Anirban Bose.

People first
With this in mind, business transformations are highly complex. Trying to grapple with such a massive undertaking in-house can be both costly, and resource-heavy. And this is where the misguided emphasis in tech over people can emerge. And yet, you cannot run technology and leverage its potential without creative and critical human thinking. In-house talent and an up-skilling of employees to embrace digital change is therefore vital. Often, though, there is an understandable – but misplaced – focus on integration and rollout dates, over preparing a workforce.

Tech-human symbiosis
As well as up-skilling, employees need to be won over by how new technology can enhance their role – rather than threaten it.. The buy-in of the workforce is critical to transformational success. This might mean investment in training and ongoing support. But attaining the important symbiosis between people and technology is hard for organisations to achieve if they go at it alone. What’s more, a digital transformation that has collaboration at its heart will always be more successful, according to experts.

“When it comes to digital transformation, collaboration is a key element. A big digital transformation never comes from one company or partner. It is a combination of platforms. It’s continuous collaboration: creating solutions together, creating a particular point of view that attacks a particular business problem, working together in one place and creating a collaborative environment,” adds Bose.

Fit for the future
Of course, small, agile start-ups are able to hit the ground running when it comes to their digital strategies. They don’t have the burden of IT and HR legacies and the weight of ‘this is how it’s always been done’ on their shoulders. That allows them to innovate quickly and easily. For larger, more entrenched organisations, digital transformation may feel like attempting to turn a large ship in choppy waters. The key for businesses is to have the right strategic partners to accompany them on their digital transformation journey. With guidance on how to invest in their most critical business asset – their teams - as much as their systems, they can re-emerge as nimble, intelligent enterprises that are fit for the future.

The Reuters editorial and news staff had no role in the production of this content. It was created by Reuters Plus, part of the commercial advertising group. To work with Reuters Plus, contact us here.

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