Typically, the core aim of technology change is to improve products or services to internal or external customers. When considering digital transformation, it is common to focus on the revenue-driving benefits for external clients or vendors. However, it is vital to also consider the impact and outcomes for your own employees. Why? Because human capital is often the most important asset of an organization – and it is people who hold the key to successful digital transformation.
In this second article in my series on building a thoughtful technology strategy, I look at how companies should put people at the center of their initiatives to see a measurable impact on their bottom line and significantly improved transformation results.
Focus on leadership buy-in
Sustained digital transformation requires adjustment across every facet of an organization, and leadership buy-in is critical to propelling that shift; the most successful technology transformations are supported from the outset with a leadership-driven push. A lack of leadership buy-in can lead to an insufficient allocation of resources as other business activities are viewed as more critical, ultimately resulting in delays, overruns, and poor delivery. Ideally, this support propagates through the leadership team including the C-Suite, who has the vision to recognize and articulate the company north star, and who can provide steering guidance for big decisions that require trade-offs and need decisive action.
Additionally, leadership communication and transparency throughout a transformation program have the ability to make or break success. With any technology change – particularly one that involves automation or AI – there may be concerns about existing roles within the business. Executives must establish trust across their teams to ease these worries and encourage participation. Participating in these types of transformation can often be a springboard for an individual’s career within an organization, which leaders should understand and clearly articulate. Strong, visible examples of leadership at these sensitive times is key.
Business-led and tech-supported
A common mistake we see organizations make in their transformation program is to qualify strategic initiatives as an ‘IT issue’, since they are leveraging technology to address a problem or improve a service. This mindset can drive wedges in the relationship between business operations and the technology team and will inevitably lead to the proliferation of spot solutions that address duplicate technical needs, lack integration, and end up as a management burden or untracked technical debt. In fact, technology is simply a tool to help an organization achieve its wider goals – and the IT team is often not even the end-users or beneficiaries of the new solution.
One way to prevent a disconnect between IT and the business is to establish a transformation Center of Excellence (CoE) to govern the program, drive executive alignment to the roadmap, and ensure collaboration across different departments. The CoE should consist of both business operations and technology team members. These champions should be put in place early on to establish logistics before implementing technology changes – and be tasked with spotting missed opportunities and fixing bottlenecks.
Break down silos
If an organization hopes to use technology differently then it will likely need to operate differently. This doesn’t always mean removing departments or assigning new roles; it can be as simple as establishing a new mindset within the team – a mindset that prioritizes agility, collapsed hierarchies, and speed over perfection.
There are many ways executives can look to break down silos. For example, an evolving technology program comes with a shift in defining, measuring, and incentivizing success. Employees are typically rewarded for achieving KPIs within their own functional silo rather than their impact on the wider organizational goals. Adjusting productivity measures and personal KPIs to reward those who work cross-functionally is one way to incentivize optimal behavior during a transformation. Data is another common area where we see siloed activity – CIOs may want to reassess their data strategy and identify ways to better leverage their insights across the organization.
Invest in your people
An investment in technology almost always means significant investment in people as well. This may be less of a concern for start-ups, who typically prioritize hiring digitally proficient talent from the outset. However, for larger incumbent enterprises, there should be a strong focus on equipping employees with the right skills and mindset to navigate the changes.
For example, this could involve training programs to educate the wider workforce about the importance of security issues. It might require establishing the right talent mix to perform the ongoing management of the technology program, such as license and access management, configuration, security hardening, and bug and issue management. For organizations that are looking to leverage disruptive technologies like AI and automation, leaders will need to embed AI ownership and accountability into the relevant teams. But whatever the scale or focus of the program, leadership must take responsibility for investing in their people as well as the technology itself.
The goals of a technology transformation program will always vary depending on the organization; you may be looking to implement a new ERP system, move your business to the cloud, or leverage AI and machine learning. But regardless of the strategic aims, it is your people who will ultimately make the change successful and sustainable.
At Cuesta Partners, we can help you deliver a people-led technology strategy that builds a fit-for-future organization. You can reach out to me to talk more about implementing successful change management as part of your transformation program.