It is difficult to imagine how people, businesses and institutions would have responded to the devastation of a global pandemic had this happened a decade ago. Whilst the COVID-19 containment measures have primarily been successful; they have upended almost every aspect of our daily lives, affecting enterprise and organisations, disrupting supply chains, and significantly impacting the tourism, transport and logistics sectors.
Consequently, in a few short months, remote working, virtual meetings, e-commerce and digital contact tracing have become the new normal. Without a shadow of a doubt, advancements in digital technologies have cushioned many against the crippling effects of the Coronavirus all while unwittingly accelerating the digital transformation agenda. However, will all the progress in digitisation result in a permanent shift?
Firstly, let us demystify digital transformation. As with every new technology trend, a buzzword is coined, and the meaning is more often than not, a blur. In a nutshell, digital transformation marks a radical rethinking of how an organisation uses digital technology to empower people and to redesign processes to improve business performance fundamentally.
Now, in the spirit of business continuity and adhering to the public-health guidelines, many organisations have found themselves in a digital frenzy as they hurriedly rush to execute on their digital transformation objectives, now turned into priorities. For instance, work-from-home has become the new norm leaving employers with the challenge of maintaining employee productivity in a virtual workspace.
In a nutshell, digital transformation marks a radical rethinking of how an organisation uses digital technology to empower people and to redesign processes to improve business performance fundamentally.
This comes with other challenges such as maintaining cybersecurity in a distributed environment and provisioning online productivity tools, which if implemented propel organisations further into digital transformation arena.
Technology is a crucial tenet of digital transformation and facets such as cloud computing, artificial intelligence, automation, and big data analytics are essential for disruption and transformation. We live in an age where apps and online presence are just as significant as brick and motor stores. Amidst a global pandemic, early adopters of these technologies have had the upper hand as consumers and employees migrate to digital channels.
However, just as security personnel have yielded their metal detector wands in favour of thermo guns, many of us have found ourselves using digital tools that would take a little getting used to. On a very high level, this points to the holistic nature of digital transformation that goes beyond technology and encapsulates people and processes. As myriads of organisations adopt a digital-first approach, the workforce strategy often lags behind a company’s ability to use new digital tools.
The smoking gun is the tendency to put technology at the heart of digital transformation when, in reality, it is people that drive successful transformation. Unfortunately, without a competent people strategy, all progress made in digitisation may have limited success and here is why. Digital is more or less about the technology, and transformation is more often than not about the people.
Simply introducing newer technologies will not result in lasting change because employees need the awareness to leverage digital tools and embrace new ways of working. A shift in mindset and behaviour alongside leadership support is required to ensure that digital initiatives are welcomed and successfully implemented. While it is tempting to only focus on technology, the winning formula to successful transformation is human and machine partnerships.
Finally, many organisations living through this raging pandemic have had to reinvent themselves to remain profitable and relevant. Digital technologies have been the saving grace for many, but lasting change will only come about through the right application.
Many organisations living through this raging pandemic have had to reinvent themselves to remain profitable and relevant. Digital technologies have been the saving grace for many, but lasting change will only come about through the right application.
For instance, many companies have embraced digital transformation with the singular purpose of improving efficiency and reducing cost. While the application is affirmative, it carries the flawed assumption that other applications of digital technologies would not disrupt business models.
A good parallel is the banking and fintech industry. As such, digital strategy is not monolithic and must be an integral part of the overall business strategy. Digital transformation is not an island on its own; rather, it should be deeply embedded in all aspect of an organisation.
A proper framework for reinventing business, as recounted by Sunil Gupta, applies digital technologies towards reimagining your business, reevaluating your value chain, reconnecting with customers and rebuilding your organisation.
All in all, technology is a key pillar of digital strategy, but ultimately it is the people who allow transformation to happen by bringing digital thinking and digital processes together.
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