Digitalization has been top of the executive agenda for several years – as businesses seek to leverage new technologies to respond to disruptive new market entrants and steal a competitive advantage.
Digitalization, of course, means many different things to different people. Some businesses are simply attempting to automate routine processes, others to adopt ground-breaking technologies such as big data analytics, AI, and machine learning.
However – despite this focus on digitalization – for most businesses, people remain the organization’s most important asset.
David Armano, global strategy director at Edelman Digital, writing in Forbes, states that one mistake he encounters frequently is “leaders underestimating the importance of human capital when it comes to navigating their digital transformation journeys.”
Putting People First
Armano argues that businesses must consider the organizational, behavioral and cultural aspects of human capital within any digital transformation initiative.
It is an argument underlined by strategic change consultancy Four Points. It makes the case that although, in 2016, close to $1.4 trillion was being spent on digital transformation, around 80% of all digital transformation projects fail.
The consultancy makes the point that it is the failure to put people first that undermines the success of many of these programs.
Four Points argues:
Digital transformation has only partly to do with ‘digital’ and ‘transformation.’ It has more to do with creating an organization that thrives in constant change, uncertainty and dealing with new technology. Creating that organization starts with culture and people.
Equipping staff with the skills and support to adapt to change builds a platform for future growth and agility, thus ensuring the success not only of the current digital transformation but subsequent transformations too.
It is a cultural change that Margaret-Ann Cole, Managing Director at Accenture Talent and Organization, argues is vital. Writing in Forbes, she states: “Organizations need to ensure they have the right skills to capitalize on advances, such as AI, and be open to new talent models that can foster a sustainable, agile culture with people at the center.” Armano agrees, arguing:
Putting people first, especially during transformative moments in business, means setting up a stronger foundation in the long run, even if it feels less gratifying in the short term.