Article

Dig­i­tal

Remov­ing the human bar­ri­ers to dig­i­tal transformation

December 13, 2021

Author

Amiya Sat­pa­thy

Country Manager Regional Country Manager

A man­u­fac­tur­ing firm’s dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion pro­gramme was hit­ting a snag. Despite the effort and care­ful plan­ning done to find the right dig­i­tal solu­tion, adop­tion was slow dur­ing roll out. 

One of the pri­ma­ry rea­sons was with the senior lead­er­ship team. Some of them were reluc­tant to exper­i­ment with some­thing new, and, as a result, were not par­tic­i­pa­tive in the dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion. It goes with­out say­ing that the lack of lead­er­ship involve­ment cer­tain­ly sent the wrong mes­sage to the rest of the organisation. 

This is an exam­ple of one of the most over­looked and under­man­aged ele­ments of dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion pro­grammes – the “human factor”. 

With­out buy-in at all lev­els of a com­pa­ny, employ­ees often resist change or fail to ful­ly adopt new, dig­i­tal ways of work­ing. This results in many organ­i­sa­tions not being able to reap the full ben­e­fits of their dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tions.

To nip this in the bud, lead­ers must answer the fol­low­ing questions:

1. Do we ful­ly under­stand the need for change? 

Are your busi­ness chal­lenges clear­ly identified? 

Aside from clas­si­cal strate­gic con­cerns, such as ser­vice and/or prod­uct offer­ings ver­sus the com­pe­ti­tion, many busi­ness lead­ers strug­gle to clear­ly describe their dig­i­tal strategy. 

With­out a dig­i­tal strat­e­gy, dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tions may not take shape, get pro­cras­ti­nat­ed on, or if they do, end up poor­ly aligned with the organisation’s real needs. 

Dig­i­tal strat­e­gy for­mu­la­tion involves both exter­nal analy­sis and inter­nal analy­sis, as well as seri­ous con­sid­er­a­tion for tac­ti­cal issues. 

A start­ing point is to clear­ly out­line the issues across all areas of the organ­i­sa­tion in at least three dimen­sions:

Exter­nal Analy­sis, which involves understanding: 

  • What evolv­ing tech­nolo­gies are rel­e­vant and where are com­peti­tors on this landscape? 
  • How pre­pared is the organ­i­sa­tion to receive new tech­nolo­gies? For exam­ple, is the required IT infra­struc­ture (both hard­ware and soft­ware) in place? 
  • When would be the best tim­ing for new dig­i­tal ways of work­ing to be introduced? 

Inter­nal Analy­sis, which involves the usage of exist­ing technology: 

  • To what extent are process still man­u­al in nature? For exam­ple, are req­ui­si­tions still trig­gered manually? 
  • Is tech­nol­o­gy used to man­age resources? For exam­ple, is plan­ning still large­ly a manual/reactive process? 
  • How well do exist­ing tech­nolo­gies work togeth­er? For exam­ple, are employ­ees log­ging into and out of dif­fer­ent sys­tems, are reports gen­er­at­ed man­u­al­ly in Excel by export­ing and com­bin­ing data sources? 
  • How well is tech­nol­o­gy used to man­age per­for­mance? For exam­ple, do we have vis­i­bil­i­ty on our sales force efficiency? 

Tac­ti­cal Analy­sis, which involves the tac­ti­cal issues bog­ging down an organisation: 

  • How is the dig­i­tal account­abil­i­ty with­in func­tions and across the whole organisation? 
  • How good are the dig­i­tal com­pe­ten­cies of employees? 
  • How is morale among employ­ees? How will­ing are they to change?

2. Do we have a clear vision of our dig­i­tal future? 

How will the dig­i­tal solu­tions solve the organisation’s challenges? 

Once the analy­sis is com­plete, lead­er­ship must pur­sue a struc­tured eval­u­a­tion to arrive at what dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tions are nec­es­sary to address gen­uine busi­ness needs. 

Lead­er­ship must answer ques­tions such as: 

  • How will the avail­able dig­i­tal tech­nol­o­gy solve the organisation’s problems? 
  • What are the expect­ed Returns on Invest­ment (ROI)? Is there vis­i­bil­i­ty on the ROI? 
  • Are the dig­i­tal solu­tions pri­mar­i­ly used to pre­vent an unwant­ed out­come? How accu­rate and reli­able will they be? When prob­lems are being solved with the new dig­i­tal solu­tion, even sim­ple ones, hope and con­fi­dence will fol­low. Fear and skep­ti­cism will be reduced. 

Dig­i­tal­i­sa­tion ben­e­fits must be clear­ly artic­u­lat­ed to every­one. Doing this will help your dig­i­tal­ly averse peo­ple gain con­fi­dence in the dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion programme.

3. Who are your ‘dig­i­tal­ly averse’ people? 

Is it the whole organ­i­sa­tion or just the senior man­age­ment team? Is this prob­lem par­tic­u­lar to a depart­ment, such as man­u­fac­tur­ing, sales, or finance? 

Typ­i­cal­ly, any new idea divides peo­ple into one of these groups: 

  • Enthu­si­asts (15%) 
  • Unde­cid­ed (70%) 
  • Skep­tics (15%) 

In an oil and gas com­pa­ny I worked with, although the tech­nol­o­gy team was con­vinced of the ben­e­fits of a dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion, the oper­a­tions team were scep­tics. By iden­ti­fy­ing the source of resis­tance, we were able to devel­op appro­pri­ate strate­gies to trans­form them from resisters to adopters. To turn this around, we over-communicated the ben­e­fits of the pro­gramme and shared proofs of con­cept and suc­cess stories.

4. Are you man­ag­ing the change process? 

Any organ­i­sa­tion that has ever attempt­ed a trans­for­ma­tion­al jour­ney would agree that the suc­cess of trans­for­ma­tion was a func­tion of both tech­ni­cal and tac­ti­cal actions. 

Organ­i­sa­tions are gen­er­al­ly geared to focus on the tech­ni­cal aspects and neglect the tac­ti­cal ones, such as upfront com­mu­ni­ca­tions and iden­ti­fy­ing and enforc­ing respon­si­bil­i­ties and account­abil­i­ties in the new dig­i­tal ways of work­ing, start­ing with the lead­er­ship team. 

With a dig­i­tal strat­e­gy in hand, lead­er­ship plays a vital role in involv­ing, pro­mot­ing, inspir­ing and engag­ing every­one in the organisation. 

Although lead­ers under­stand the impor­tance of “solu­tion accep­tance”, many do not under­stand how to bring about a high lev­el of accep­tance. I often hear lead­ers say that to bring about accep­tance, more train­ing is required. In my opin­ion, this is only par­tial­ly true. Many organ­i­sa­tions spend mil­lions train­ing their employ­ees, yet dig­i­tal adop­tion rates can still be very poor. To tru­ly bring about accep­tance, organ­i­sa­tions must think beyond just train­ing. For example: 

  • Dig­i­tal deploy­ment involves hav­ing an action plan attrib­uted to indi­vid­u­als (not teams) so that there is clear-cut accountability. 
  • Pro­grammes should have eval­u­a­tion mech­a­nisms that quan­ti­fy and track dig­i­tal adop­tion. These should be pub­lished to high­light the lead­ers and laggards. 
  • The dig­i­tal jour­ney must also have con­tin­u­ous gov­er­nance – senior leadership’s time and atten­tion must be pre­served all the way through to full adop­tion. When senior lead­ers fail to engage, pro­grammes slow down and may even stop.

5. Are you cel­e­brat­ing success? 

A suc­cess­ful dig­i­tal jour­ney should result in sig­nif­i­cant ben­e­fits. How­ev­er, many organ­i­sa­tions fail to cel­e­brate – no feed­back can be worse for morale than neg­a­tive feed­back, and of course, pos­i­tive feed­back is best. 

A lack of cel­e­bra­tion may impact morale and depress inno­va­tion. This may even­tu­al­ly push high con­trib­u­tors away and dis­cour­age fence-seaters from par­tic­i­pat­ing in future efforts. 

Sig­nif­i­cant con­trib­u­tors to the change, or the users demon­strat­ing phe­nom­e­nal results, should receive due praise and thanks. 

In one of my projects, the com­pa­ny decid­ed to give 50% of the finan­cial ben­e­fits back to the employ­ees. This gen­er­ous act result­ed in phe­nom­e­nal enthu­si­asm from the work­force and out­stand­ing growth for the com­pa­ny in sub­se­quent years. 

Bring­ing about dig­i­tal change requires care­ful plan­ning and exe­cu­tion – involv­ing and sup­port­ing the work­force through­out the jour­ney. Dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion done well brings about finan­cial and oper­a­tional improve­ments, as well as increased employ­ee morale – all ingre­di­ents for future success.

* We take client con­fi­den­tial­i­ty seri­ous­ly. While we have kept the brand anony­mous, the results are real.

Author

Amiya Sat­pa­thy

Country Manager Regional Country Manager

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