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Digital Transformation Is Not Just About Tech, It’s Also About People


But what about the evolution of businesses in to the digital age? Yes, data is one aspect of the journey, but what about the other aspects? technology, people, operations are all important in the achievement of becoming a digital business.

I’ve talked extensively about the impact that data can and does have on a business, especially if you choose to ignore it (big mistake that will haunt you in the future).

But what about the evolution of businesses in to the digital age?

Yes, data is one aspect of the journey, but what about the other aspects? technology, people, operations are all important in the achievement of becoming a digital business.

What is exactly meant by digital transformation?

According to Wikipedia: “Digital transformation (DT) is the change associated with the application of digital technology in all aspects of human society. The transformation stage means that digital usages inherently enable new types of innovation and creativity in a particular domain, rather than simply enhance and support traditional methods.” 

A great deal of focus is placed on the technical elements associated with a digital transformation and rightly so. The infrastructure changes, adoption of new technology and shifts in ways of working, are “big deals”.

Companies such as Google, Amazon, and Salesforce have been leading this charge with radical changes to the traditional landscape. The advent of cloud computing e.g. Salesforce Lightning and easily scalable cloud infrastruct e.g. AWS, the art of the possible has been redefined.

The challenge facing slow moving or traditional businesses is how best to keep up?

The construction industry is largely antiquated in both technology and it’s thinking, the financial services industry is, on the whole, relatively risk adverse and the public sector are just playing catch up.

The move towards becoming a digital business can be complex one, but it doesn’t need to be. Companies hugely over complicate the issue by not defining their strategy and focusing predominantly on a technology provider.

Sadly, this is only one element of the solution.

Digital transformations consist of 6 parts:

  • Organisational re-wiring
  • Dynamic change
  • Agile learning
  • Extra-ordinary talent
  • Digital Leadership
  • New ways of working

Did you notice how not one single part refers to technology but the theme of ‘people’ runs through the entire model?

I hope so, especially if you are leading a digital transformation!

If that is true, why are businesses not focused more on the people element of digital transformations?

“Without the right people, neither an analytical nor a digital culture, will be achieved.”

With a transformation to a digital business, comes the evolution of a digital employee. As such, a digital employee has 3 constitute parts:

  • Behaviours
  • Mindset 
  • Engagement

The behaviours exhibited will be a direct result of the mindset. I’ve seen this many times in previous work environments - senior management talk a good digital game and then don’t follow through with actions thinking they know better. Good luck with that!

This is because they are not in the right mindset.

Change is necessary, not optional.The degree of change depends on the maturity of your industry or business, and willingness to ‘fail often, fail fast’.

Leadership mindset and behaviours set the tone for the rest of the business. We’ve all seen leadership teams stand up and say “we’ve had the most profitable year to date”, only to follow that up with “pay rises won’t be great this year”.

Conversely, when you see senior individuals ‘walking the walk’, it is a refreshing and revolutionary moment. Turning up to work not in a suit... wow!

  • Does that mean your standard of work will drastically drop? No of course not!
  • Does it mean you won’t be smart for your clients? No of course not!
  • Does it mean, they are endorsing the strategy of not wearing a suit, when they said you can? Absolutely.

Quite simply, this mindset and behaviour inspires others.

A digital transformation needs inspiration. It needs someone (or a team) to lead from the front, because there will be challenges & issues. Talk is cheap and staff can easily see through corporate nonsense.

With a digital transformation drive, you need your people to be engaged; to go with you on this journey (or even into battle).

Change is hard. Many will try to reject it.

This is where strong leadership with the right mindset and outward behaviours will gather or destroy employee engagement. An engaged employee is a ‘thing of beauty’. The productivity levels alone can increase multiple times.

Throw in the loyalty to a line manager, and you have yourself a bona fide jam factory – ‘the ability to produce the sweet stuff at fabulous speeds which people keep coming back from more!’

The adverse is also true.

Lack of engagement creates disgruntlement, a ‘them and us’ scenario, which never ends well.It could be pockets of individuals or whole departments.

Regardless, the need to have a workforce who will evolve and stand along side you in this digital journey, is strong and should not be ignored.

In a simplistic manner, for a digital transformation to succeed, the company needs to equip it’s workforce with the ‘tools for success’.

Training, communication, technology, and support are just a few elements which will influence the end result.

Perhaps it is easier to think of it in a different way: if you have ever worked as consultant or on client site, has the laptop you were given been up to the task? Did it work efficiently with sufficient RAM and software loaded to allow you to do the job well?

I’m guessing at least a few of you will answer no.

Personal experience dictates that I can easily identify with the answer above.

Being asked to ‘number crunch’ with a laptop that can not handle reasonably sized excel files, meant a huge drop in productivity and contentment. Alternatively, were your IT equipment so locked down that you couldn’t transfer a client file or connect to a WiFi network?

I’m not purposefully bashing the IT department here, as I know there are budgetary constraints, but come on! If you want to get the best out of your people, give them what they need to succeed.

Don’t be half baked with your actions, as I promise you, the reverberations can be wider than the one frustrated employee.

If you don’t believe me, that’s fine.

But consider this: by firing a good leader or manager, it’s not only going to affect that person, the knock-on effects will be far wider. Direct reports and colleagues will also be influenced by how a business handles itself. The result can be a steady stream of talent and knowledge flowing out of the business.

What I’m trying to impart here is, look after your people, but even more so when going through a digital transformation.


Your people are your business, and without them, you have no business.

This is simplistic but staggeringly true.

So looking back at the original statement, technology obviously plays a vital role in digital transformations, but your people will make or break the result.

By bringing your workforce on the journey, including them in the process and investing in them, you are not only increasing your chances for success, you are also futureproofing your business.

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