Digital Transformation, or People Transformation?
Do you think you’d secure a pound of budget if you called it “People Transformation
By Stephen Johnson, CEO - Roq
Who knows. But why not? For the last 5+ years, I have spoken to many organisations and technology leaders and the ‘digital transformation’ phrase gets banded around continuously. I get it. Organisations are leveraging new outcomes – revenue streams, margin gain, market share, territory share – all through the implementation of technology. But is that really the transformation?
I have also sat and listened at conferences, podcasts and webinars, and read posts on ‘digital transformation’ but it always comes back to one thing.
Without a significant cultural shift (the people) – executive to shopworker – there will be no transformation. Well, one that meets the real needs of the business, anyway.
Post-Covid, you hear more organisations talk about the wellbeing of the team. I am sure plenty did before, but it was never as front and centre. Maybe with talent shortages, there is a sense of it being a differentiator. But that is not for me to judge.
But if the people are truly key to your success, and any significant business change (transformation) happens, then surely the people - the ones who serve you daily as employees or customers – should be at the very heart of the problem statement, and therefore at the fulcrum of the solution outcome.
If we break it down a little more, then we need to look at the executive level first; the folks finding the funds and making the go/no-go decisions (yes, these still take place). I don’t say this critically, more from observation, but the size of the transformation (budget/timescales/breadth) seems to be the measure by which you are deemed to be doing it properly. Now, is that because it’s what executives really believe, or what feels like the right cards to play on the digital transformation poker table?
Re-imagine the CEO of a large corporate charging his entire leadership team, and the associated hierarchy, to deliver business growth, whilst improving the internal Net Promoter Score of their entire workforce by 25%, to have an 85% engaged team in the next 5 years through improved technology and working practices across the globe. Imagine being part of that kind of transformation. Imagine going to work every day, knowing that for the next 5 years, you are working on solutions to make you more engaged, significantly happier and all sponsored – financially as well as emotionally – by the CEO and the board. Do you think it would make a difference? I do.
Take it down a level or two, to the integrated functions of a business. The ones who are continuously fighting against the politics and legacy of an organisation, just to get the simple stuff done. Does anyone think that creating a vision board with some clouds on it, and a few choice words like “Agile”, and “our only way out of this mess” is going to inspire the masses? I am not so sure.
That same change should be positioned – in my humble opinion - in a whole new way through the lens of the people who are the enablers and the beneficiaries.
With a huge talent shortage across all industries, not just technology, there is a real opportunity for organisations to genuinely lead on a people transformation, that has technology at the heart of it. I am sure some organisations are doing this. I just don’t hear of many stories told in that way. I also don’t get invited to webinars about people transformation. Yet, and maybe the saddest truth of it all is that the people who are driving this change always talk about the people. They care. Just not enough to put it in the programme title or on the annual prospectus.
Like with all my articles, it’s purely a viewpoint that I have felt for some time, reinforced continually by the folks I connect with. I don’t judge in any of this. I just wonder if there is an opportunity missed.
I’m happy to discuss over a coffee/beer, or both.