There is a Workforce Side to Digital Transformation and You Ignore it a Your Peril
Digital Transformation is probably part of your strategy
If your organisation is somewhere between the top 50% and top 3% top performing players in your industry – no matter what that is – “Digital Transformation” has probably popped up in a business strategy paper recently (the top 3% stopped mentioning it explicitly, because it’s an inherent part of their actions). Whether or not it is a fitting name for what is happening (digital technology has been used in organisations for more than half a century now), there is no doubt this technology is now becoming so omnipresent and independent that it we can expect huge change and with that – as always – winners and losers.
Cautious estimates assume 35% of today’s jobs in Britain will be obsolete in 20 years’ time and drivers replaced by driver-less cars are only the tip of the iceberg.
So, yes, there is huge change ahead and it’s just as well that your business strategy is recognising that and finds ways to exploit rather than suffer from it. However, the old truism “Culture eats strategy for breakfast” is still just that: true.
If Digital Transformation is at the heart of your business strategy, but not at the heart of your culture – or, worse: opposed by your culture, then you’ll be in troubled waters soon – or in the doldrums.
So, you’d better make sure Digital Transformation is part of your organisational culture
The answer is obvious: we need a culture of digital transformation. Let’s write up a bright and shiny brochure “This is our culture”, mention digital transformation in there 99 times, print it and distribute it in the tea rooms. Done! Or is it?
Culture manifests itself in artefacts and behaviours (but company brochures, printed or not, are just a weak indicator) and it can also be influenced by manipulating these artefacts and behaviours. The basic prerequisite is: walk the walk, not just talk the talk. And that affects workforce facing processes, usually part of overhead / back office functions in particular. Saying “the customer comes first – we need to show a modern face towards customers and more importantly get our products up to speed” can get you only so far. If your people don’t buy into it, your competition will just shoot past you, possibly with some of your former colleagues on board, who became disillusioned.
The sad truth is that most companies are actively discouraging employees from living and breathing digital
I daresay the majority of organisations would already be doing much better, if their workforce facing processes wouldn’t make any disciple of Digital
Just look at Praveen: he’s an engineer, who’s just been to a conference on industry 4.0 and digital transformation and has come back full of e
nthusiasm and ideas to improve customer service by using all available data much better. But when he sits down at his desk a reminder pops up “don’t forget your expense report”. He finds the Excel form somewhere on the internet, fills it all in, email sit to his boss and puts all the paper receipts into a paper bag to send it to accounts. Once that has been accomplished, the energy levels driving his Digital vision have been cut by half.
Or look at Helen. She’s leading a sales team and her knowledge and enthusiasm earned her the job to spearhead sales of data driven highly automated maintenance services with customers in her region. At the end of the meeting this has been agreed, her boss realised this would change the goals they had agreed on in January. So, he asks her to write a note about it, make him sign it and bring it to HR so they can add it to her file for consideration next January. the thought of the tedious annual ritual drained all her energy. All she could do was trigger the agreed new hire process for a young professional with passion for and experience in digital transformation, when she was in the HR office.
6 weeks later the job has been published. Yuan, a data sciences graduate, who just finished a very successful project in her first job, cutting delivery times to customer by 35% using predictive analytics, finds the advert on Linkedin and wants to apply. When she realises that the job portal asks her to manually fill in a score of fields – including information it should be able to pull from her Linkedin profile, she just can’t be bothered to go ahead. She just closes her browser and opens WhatsApp on her mobile to get some advice from friends for the interviews she has scheduled next week.
A 25 years old young professional would look at a browser (rather than mobile app) based Expense process with the same disdain as I would have at a paper based process in 1995
I could go on and on, but you get the idea: your people expect some consistency of vision. They can understand that not everything is perfect and that customer facing projects may enjoy priority, but at least they need to see a start. What you do internally will inadvertently transcend to your customers. A modern system can support a Digital culture, give you a cutting edge brand, and empower people to make the right decisions for the organisation. If you leave it too late, many people will become disengaged and leave. Or worse: they become disengaged, feel trapped and stay.
The good news is: some good starting points for workforce facing digital transformation are also good starting points for your transformation journey as a company. Travel & Expense or Recruiting are typically:
- low risk (compared to, say, CRM and production)
- relatively easy to manage
- affecting a large number of people (T&E even more than recruiting)
And with cloud based systems like Concur Travel & Expense or SuccessFactors Recruiting can really deliver encouraging quick wins at the start of your journey. Performance review and goal management may carry some more risk, but as the old “textbook” annual process is a huge pain point for many organisations it could also be a great place to start.
Workforce facing Digital Transformation can be your saviour
So, in a nutshell, workforce facing processes:
- Can facilitate or shoot down a Digital Transformation initiative
- Drive your culture
- Are often great sandboxes for digital transformation or cloud transformation in particular
- Usually offer considerable quick wins
Luckily, help is nigh! Solutions like SAP SuccessFactors and Concur will not do the transformation for you, but at least they won’t actively stop it and, when sued well, they can make a significant positive contributions.