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Change of any kind – especially when it’s foisted on you without your commitment – can be dreadful. It may even resemble the return home from a disappointing doctor’s appointment. After shocking the doctor with high numbers across the board, your spouse replaces all of your most-loved foods (the leftover pizza from last night!) and beverages (the “after work” beer and soda!) with kale, quinoa, and juice that looks like algae purged by a blender. Immediately, you resist: “How dare my loved one change my diet without my consent ! I have no control! Why eat if I can’t be happy with what’s on my plate ?”

That’s exactly how most employees view digital transformation initiatives. During the Americas’ SAP User Group (ASUG) Webcast “The Only Thing to Fear Is Fear Itself: Embracing Change and Seizing the Opportunity of the Digital Transformation,” Keith R. Sturgill, CIO of Eastman Chemical Company and ASUG Board Chair, “In times of transformative change, great opportunities are invaluable. But, it also comes at a great cost because it’s not easy.” Sometimes the process is so daunting that we stop it, ignore it, and resume using our ingrained habits.

While technology-enabled, the real change behind digital transformation is all about people: how they work, collaborate, and make decisions. And changing people is always harder than implementing new technology. But, it’s not impossible once everyone – including leadership, employees, and partners – accepts these three realities of our digital world.

Reality check #1: Digital disruption is not just evolving. It’s already here!

Hearing from customers directly, reacting to what they want, and correcting what they don’t like at hard-to-imagine speeds is raising the bar high for every business. “Connecting people worldwide isn’t just allowing them to self-organize ideas and share opinions; it’s creating a new environment [in which] new business models can emerge. Just ask any growing business,” cites Sturgill.

Just think:

  • Amazon is changing the face of retail without a single brick-and-mortar store.
  • Airbnb is surpassing traditional hotels and motels without building a physical resort.
  • Uber is upending the whole notion of taxi service without a single cab.

However, it’s not as easy as setting up a Web site and creating a network of people, assets, and capital to support it. According to Sturgill, “It’s impossible to know the impact of what’s going to occur [in the future.] We can’t even begin to imagine how this is going to change the world. But without a doubt, it will be huge.”

Reality check #2: Decision making will never – and cannot – be the same.

In the past, computers were set up with rules to inject automation and efficiency into business processes. Yet, they failed to support more difficult, complex problem solving such as predictions and forecasting that went beyond the scope of a predefined set of algorithms.

Our digital era is bringing about a new approach to decision making. Not just improving or accelerating decision, but ultimately changing how they are made. Without the confines of codified decision flows, machine learning will soon consume and process an incredible amount of data to “understand” patterns and correlations. And as more data enters the systems, decisions on complex issues will likely become more improved and accurate.

“Machine learning algorithms will augment human insights, not replace them. Let people do what they do best – create, design, establish relationships and capabilities, and knit together insights to innovate with better judgment and unimaginable ideas,” advises Sturgill. “Think of your business as a decision machine.”

Reality check #3: The user experience (not technology) matters most.

Like I said earlier in this blog, digital transformation is not about the technology you implement; it’s about your people. This is why the user experience will always eclipse corporate standards. From your customer to your workforce, consumer-grade technology is increasingly expected to become the norm – and it’s even happening to business-to-business (B2B) companies quicker than anyone realizes.

Most digital transformation strategies place a bright spotlight on the customer experience. By understanding what customer value and their unique preferences, B2B companies are using technology as a differentiator that gives customers a reason to engage and purchase from the business.

However, digital transformation does not end with the customer experience. “It is about people in your organization – talented, empowered, and passionate people. Employees should expect the work environment to be at least as good as their home computing environment. It should be easy to order a new laptop at work as it is at home,” remarks Sturgill. “You need to commit to improving the work experience of your employees.”


Get your workforce engaged and passionate about digital transformation. Watch the Webcast replay The Only Thing to Fear Is Fear Itself: Embracing Change and Seizing the Opportunity of the Digital Transformation in a series hosted by ASUG.

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