Tuesday, 12th November 2019
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The truth about digital transformation

No-one is disputing the importance of hiring the right staff, keeping them engaged and boosting their productivity. By MD of EU and Ireland, Chris Labrey, Econocom.

Perhaps Sir Richard Branson summed it up best by saying if businesses keep their staff happy, staff will take care of clients. Keeping staff happy, however, is more than just salary and benefits; it also refers to overall job satisfaction, the working environment and the tools employees use to do their jobs.

It’s the latter element that many organisations might overlook, especially when it comes to technology. As more organisations embark on transformation journeys to streamline operations, improve productivity and deliver a better customer service, there is one issue that can’t be ignored; the user.

Digital transformation isn’t just about technology

Taking a step back, embracing change, especially digital change is about more than just technology. Whether that means moving systems to the cloud, updating end-user devices or increasing automation, it affects three main areas of business: technology, as discussed, but also people and processes.

The user is at the heart of transformation efforts. After all, employees are the ones who are most affected by the adoption of new technologies, not just in the ways they are used, but also in the way the technology affects actual processes, tasks and operations. A shift in mindset and culture is often needed to go hand-in-hand with transformation, which can be the most challenging aspect.

There are other challenges to transformation as well; funding is a prevalent problem, as is working around legacy infrastructure and lack of in-house technical skills to support change. In a nutshell, however, the success of any change programme ultimately hinges on staff, not just during the onboarding process, but throughout the lifecycle of the technology as well.

Projects do fail

Recent research revealed both the appetite for digital transformation, as well as the importance of considering the needs of the user. Surveying IT and finance decision makers across the retail, legal and financial services industries, the research showed the majority of organisations (80%) have implemented or are in the process of implementing a transformation plan. The surprising finding was that more than a quarter of respondents said they had experienced a digital transformation project fail.

The reasons for failure ranged from a lack of technology understanding (51%) and choosing a solution that wasn’t fit for purpose (39%), to a lack of skills (31%) and budget (23%). In addition, more than one in ten stated that their project failed because users didn’t embrace the technology.

Despite the fact that 55% of respondents admitted that the needs of users were a very important consideration when investing in new technology, the research does point to a disconnect in what is acknowledged and what is actually being accomplished.

Start with the user, end with success

But why are users so crucial to the process? While technology is the driving force behind a business, an enabler that pushes it forward, it’s the staff behind the technology who are pushing buttons, analysing data and making everything work. This includes everything from the very basic device level, such as tablets, mobile phones and laptops, to bigger technologies like cloud, applications and systems. Whether staff are based in a physical location like an office, or are on the road or working from a client site, everything from laptop to network access needs to work like a well-oiled machine in order for them to accomplish their tasks. If they are working with technology and systems that hinder them instead of enabling them, it’s not just productivity that suffers but morale as well.

In looking at digital transformation projects as a whole, it’s fair to say a lot of legwork is required before change can occur. From scoping out requirements, to formulating a roadmap, users need to be consulted and considered at every milestone along the way. The research showed that when investing in new technology, 37% of respondents had concerns that staff wouldn’t use it, while 41% said they worried about making the wrong choice.

Both figures raise serious issues, but for the most part the risk can be mitigated by involving users from the very beginning, aligning the organisation’s needs and long-term vision with those of employees.

The value of partnerships

Transformation projects are never attempted alone and it’s here that businesses can ensure they’re checking all the boxes. Working with the right partner can help organisations not only choose the right solutions and meet the needs of users, but also work out how to meet the longer-term goals, while overcoming challenges around budget (perhaps seeking alternative funding models) and in-house skills.

The future of transformation

Technology will continue to advance at pace and organisations will continue to transform, adopt this new technology and digitise their operations. In the process, businesses need buy-in and support from staff. As a result, the end user and user experience will remain just as important going forward and will be a key indicator for successful transformation

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