As the world prepares to go into the holiday break, it is customary to reflect upon this year and employ those insights into the following year. Let’s look at how the last two years have changed us and how organizations can rethink and reimagine their strategies for a successful business transformation.
Shift to a digital-first world
The world has shifted to a contactless, digital-first environment and customer interactions now span different devices, channels, and environments. It is not enough to understand events that occurred in our products and services. We need to genuinely and deeply understand the context and situation in which these interactions occurred, necessitating data to be at the center of everything, making digital transformation imperative for organizations.
The pandemic was a compelling event that necessitated almost every organization to embark on a digital transformation or accelerate their current journey. Industry verticals such as retail have had to abandon their reliance on brick-and-mortar stores and switch to a digital-first strategy, enhancing supply chain logistics, integrating various systems, and modernizing their applications. This shift has enabled them to be scalable, reliable, and resilient. Travel and hospitality industries have had to radically rethink and reimagine their customer experience, emphasizing sanitation protocols, contactless processes, and customer delight through technology and applications.
Challenges faced while undergoing digital transformation
There are three areas where organizations have faced significant challenges while undergoing a digital transformation, especially in these last two years:
- Building a generative culture – Transformations require experimentation, taking risks, and innovation. This requires considerable psychological safety, trust, empowerment, and support within the organization. Building a generative culture that supports these concepts is hard, and trying to do this remotely has been extremely challenging for some organizations.
- Asynchronous Communication – As organizations shifted to a remote or hybrid mode of working, it has been challenging to adopt new ways of collaboration and communication to ensure productivity and seamless flow of information. Embracing asynchronous communication had been a challenge for some organizations which depended heavily on physical proximity for information dissemination, strategic alignment, or visibility of work.
- Empathy at the workplace – An organization undergoing a digital transformation must enable and empower its workforce. This is impossible without having empathy as a core tenet of their organizational culture. Unfortunately, some organizations have struggled with this concept and have not been very empathic to the stress and anxiety their workforce has been going through. It is not a grand experiment in working from home as some organizational leaders think. It is “Existence from Home,” and organizational leaders must demonstrate empathy for their workforce and not just their customers.
Common aspects of digital transformation that are overlooked
Most organizations focus on technology as the first step in their digital transformation. However, the optimal order is: the right organizational culture, empowered change agents, and optimal processes – before we even start looking at technology. People, not technology, are the actual value creators within an organization. Technology is only an enabler and can never compensate for an unhappy culture.
Digital transformations are arduous and require commitment, perseverance, and grit for long periods. Leaders need to consider the following aspects to ensure that the organization can digitally transform successfully and sustain it.
- The purpose of the transformation – the Why
Why is the organization embarking on a digital transformation? What is the aspirational state once transformed? What are the benefits, the market differentiators? Why go through all this pain?
- Why should the workforce care?
What does the transformation mean to each person? How does it improve the quality of life of people working? What’s in it for them? How can people undergoing a digital transformation also grow and transform themselves personally?
- What does success of a digital transformation mean?
What business outcomes define success? Many organizations define the completion of projects, tasks, or activities as a successful digital transformation rather than outcomes that they want to achieve.
- When is a digital transformation complete?
Is there a definition of done? Most digital transformations are continuous in nature, but organizations sometimes treat them as a state to achieve. Continuous improvement has to be a part of a digital transformation to make it sustainable, not just successful.
People and Culture will be the focus for 2022
In these times of the Great Resignation, talent shortage, and strained supply chains, organizations should make 2022 about people and culture to be successful. Empowerment of the workforce is essential for success. “If organizational leaders have clearly articulated the Why of a transformation, they should never second-guess How that teams come up with to achieve the outcomes.” Organizational leaders should lead with empathy and focus on making their workforce happy. We all need to rethink and reimagine our existing processes to embrace a hybrid working mode and improve how value flows through our organizations by reducing manual toil and reducing friction within our value streams. 2022 will be the year to leverage technology to improve human quality of life in all facets significantly.