Developing people and culture to support your digital transformation
People, process, products and platforms are the essential elements to preparing your business for a digital future.
In a previous article, we introduced the concept of The Four Ps of Digital Transformation — people, process, platform and product. In this article, we take a deep dive into the first of these essential elements.
The first element of the Four Ps is people. Your people are ultimately responsible for executing change throughout your organisation.
Setting clear digital leadership and vision from the top
As digital technology is continuing to change how consumers interact with business, your people need to understand your digital vision, strategy and business.
How does your digital strategy align with your business objectives? How significantly has your business model and market been disrupted by new digital technologies and thinking?
Today's CEO and other business leaders need to embed digital strategy into the heart of the business strategy and clearly communicate what the digital vision is for the business so that everyone is working towards a common goal.
The executive team must take a more active role in defining and managing the digital agenda of their organisation.
A survey by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) examined the effectiveness of data-driven enterprises, revealing that digital culture is most able to take hold across a business when business leaders are heavily actively involved. The EIU questioned senior executives from around the world about their most successful strategies for promoting data-driven culture, with 49 per cent of respondents noting top-down guidance as the defining success factor.
Organisational design and driving digital agility
Business agility is more than just a buzzword — it has become the critical differentiator of businesses that are leveraging digital technology effectively.
Agility means making better decisions, faster. The product development cycle needs to be faster and needs to be able to pivot quickly to adjust to new data, market trends and competitor activity.
Large teams stuck in functional silos aren't going to achieve this. Creating smaller, cross functional teams and discouraging a corporate meeting culture helps drive agility.
It's also positive to bring in people from different backgrounds with significant digital experience, or to actively upskill long term team members that have significant domain expertise but limited exposure to digital technology.
Breaking through old patterns is an essential part of business evolution.
Checklist for success
1. Create and communicate a clear digital strategy and vision from your executive team.
2. Work to understand what new skills and expertise are really needed to transform the business.
3. Don't accept mediocrity. Make the tough calls to streamline the business for agility and developing high performing team culture.
4. Increase agility by creating smaller cross-functional teams. This reduces the reliance on large group meetings to make decisions.
5. Develop a compelling Employee Value Proposition to attract and retain your key talent. Identify and communicate the 10 key reasons that a top calibre candidate will choose to work for you over other opportunities.
6. Identify the key people in your organisation pivotal to your change programme and make sure they have what they need to maintain commitment, motivation and momentum.
7. Bring in external influencers to help your people develop digital opportunities. Suppliers, partners, customers and consultants will generally spare an hour or two to share their experience.
8. Invest in digital collaboration tools like Slack or Yammer to improve collaboration and reduce silos.
9. Create flexible operating models to leverage the skills and experience of contractors and consultants effectively.
10. Develop an innovation programme that operates throughout the business with an appointed champion on the executive team.
Make business units more accountable for the benefits
In the early phases of transformation, when organisations were just beginning to develop digital capabilities, the responsibility for digital innovation often rested with technology stakeholders — usually the Marketing or IT department.
As the impacts of digital innovation are now directly impacting the operating business units, it's clear that digital is not just a support function anymore. Accountability for the digital evolution of the business needs to reside at a business level, not a technology or marketing level.
Dividing the budgetary responsibility for digital transformation between sections of the business that will actually benefit financially enables a closer alignment of spend and business benefit, and ultimately delivers better business value.
Identify and motivate your pivotal change agents who can really lead the business through your digital transformation.
Identify and engage your pivotal change agents
Building an innovative centre of expertise is not simple within large and complex businesses. It's important to identify and motivate the change agents that are passionate about what digital can do for the business and have the experience, skillset and mind-set to make the change happen. Don't let these people leave. Work to understand what motivates them, how they measure success and what would help them stay engaged and productive. Business transformation is quickly undermined if you are churning your top talent.
On the other side of the equation, traditional businesses can be good resting places for non-motivated employees that are not really contributing. Find out who they are and address the issue directly.
Build capability quickly using flexible resourcing models
Circling back to the first point, it's likely that any impediments to digital transformation arise - at least partially — to a lack of experience and skills. While it has been stated that welcoming new, digitally-skilled people into your organisation is a smart strategy, getting the entire process underway and building momentum across an organisation is no small thing.
Knowing precisely where the company is falling short, where upskilling is possible and where a fresh start is required is the mandate of digital transformation consultants. Engaging with digital thought leaders outside of the business, leaders and employees can be exposed to training, events and operational models relevant not just to their own industry, but digital insight overall.
The use of consultants and contractors is key to being able to deliver digital transformation quickly, Assistance with resource augmentation can help to boost the team's technical abilities in the short term while permanent resource is being recruited.
Meanwhile, upskilling IT teams in new and evolving areas like continuous delivery, agile development methodology, testing automation and other innovations can lead to a more nimble operation.
At Solnet, we can help your business realise its digital potential, by providing digital strategy consulting, technology delivery and support services. Reach out today; we're here to help.
Phil manages Solnet's Digital Transformation consulting practice. He combines a deep understanding of business and marketing strategy with a passion for product and service design, customer experience and digital technology. With a track record of more than 15 years leading digital transformation programmes across a variety of industries, both in New Zealand and offshore, Phil helps Solnet’s clients deliver innovative products and services, improve customer satisfaction, build business agility, and reinforce digital culture.