5 Thoughts on the Digital Transformation Craze

By Jeremy Ames, CEO

En route to UNLEASH Amsterdam to lead their Digital Transformation (DX) stage, I wanted to take a moment to express some thoughts on one of the hottest terms of 2018.

1. It ain’t new, but it sure has accelerated and is rapidly taking us to new levels

First, permit me a moment of defensiveness. I’ve been working on systems for 20+ years. That decision support system at the Buenos Aires hospital did transform the way the hospital managed open beds. The voice response system at Fidelity did revolutionize the way customers were serviced on their retirement benefits. The 100+ Human Capital Managements we’ve worked on have changed the way employees transition through their lifecycle.

That said, the exponential growth of technology – driven by improvements such as chip speed and cost-effectiveness – has enabled a never-seen-before pace of innovation. Attend conferences like Unleash, for example, and you’ll see what’s both currently available (on the Expo floor), and what’s coming (from the speakers in the main sessions). Combine that with intense competition across nearly every industry, and the choice is either to digitally transform and thrive, or put yourself in a box and die.

2. Organizations should understand where the hell they’ve been before continuing

Again, transformation didn’t start today. Rather, it includes everything that has happened across the realm of technology, and specifically how you’ve utilized that in your organization to date. In our case, that journey began 8+ years ago, and thus far we’ve implemented numerous transformations to better manage the company. One example is the ability for employees to send badges to their colleague by creating a simple message in our communication app which then routes to our performance management tool.

That said, when you continue your DX journey, you have to realize that some of what you’ve done will need to be chucked out the window. New technology is created daily that does a better job of digitalizing your world than what you bought a year ago yesterday. Cloud technology has mitigated that risk by enabling continuous improvement, but you still need to select the vendor that’s going to grow their capabilities, incorporate them into your new way of doing business, and keep an eye out for what’s next. The following task list (built out of Teamwork), illustrates the journey an organization could take.

3. The scope of DX is huge…you really gotta focus

This human journey towards the ultimate digitalization is both exciting and daunting all at once. In order to hone in on what an organization’s DX should look like, therefore, your own voyage must be extremely focused and personalized. What are you looking to transform (for example, in our case we’re targeting specific aspects of the employee lifecycle)? What, then, is naturally not included in that scope?

Honestly, Human Capital Management is probably on the slower end of the spectrum when it comes to DX. Why? Because the connection between employees and the bottom line has always been difficult to measure, and therefore disciplines such as sales and marketing have received more of the budgetary funding. Organizational leadership have to make sure that all disciplines are marching forward into the future, and internal technical leadership needs to make sure those collective efforts take the overall company into the future.

4. Don’t kid yourself about what’s DX versus basic digital competency

When you look at what digital competencies have already been built to get you to this point in 2018, you really have to consider which have been transformative, and which are just mirroring some pre-existing competency. For example, creating an electronic version of your old performance review is not transformational. This, precisely, is where you really need a master facilitator who knows the following:

How to reengineer and derive digitalized processes that are transformative, and
What's is the most advanced technology available to turn that vision into reality

And from there you need the metrics in place to determine how much your transformation has improved the organization.

This image by Altimeter does a great job of illustrating the stages to travel through on your DX journey.

5. Keep DX from becoming a short-lived, annual buzz word

Unlike some buzzwords of the past, very real outcomes have come, and will continue to come from the collective focus on DX. In fact, I’ll be listening closely this week on stage in Amsterdam. 11 actual stories will be told, such as the one of Fidelity International’s innovative digital adoption strategy. Are these organizations looking at their past, present and future, or just relishing in where they are today? The point, and this is where we tend to fail, is that when something is tagged as being the flavor of the year, the implication is that you can tackle it in a calendar year, or at least some period of time covered by an organization’s budgetary cycle.

Your ability to turn this into tangible effort will likely determine whether you can keep pace with your competitors…or even better push the needle closer towards that ultimate digitalization.

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