by Lee Hull
I read recently that digital transformation is 1% tech, 99% people. On the whole, this is true. Your unified communication strategy and cloud infrastructure service are only as good as the workforce behind it, after all. Technology may not drive change in its own right, but it certainly is an enabler.
First of all, why do businesses decide to digitise their infrastructure and communication processes?
It’s for your people
The benefits of a digitally transformed workplace are well noted, largely for the main driving force behind your brand — your people. Work is something we do, not somewhere we go in modern business. Giving people this extra scope to work remotely and opening better lines of communication increases overall user experience, and frees everyone up to work from their preferred location.
But creating a more flexible place to work, with extensive remote capabilities, is as beneficial for business as your people. With more opportunity to personalise their experience, your workforce will feel more valued. When people feel appreciated, their motivation and productivity increases. This can only grow the bottom line.
What’s more, you’ll increase your talent acquisition in the younger millennial workforce by offering them a desirable work environment. Giving people more freedom, to do what they do best, communicates trust. They will be more loyal to your business, boosting your retention.
Giving people more freedom, to do what they do best, communicates trust. They will be more loyal to your business, boosting your retention.
Digital transformation has some tangible cost benefits, too. If you’re streamlining all your business communication into one unified channel, for example, you’ll reduce the cost of managing multiple contracts and suppliers.
Also, giving your workforce more real-time, synchronous communication channels like IM or high-def video conferencing means they are less likely to pick up the phone. Fewer long-distance calls reduces the cost of legacy phone line charges. When your staff do make calls or set up audio conferencing, it takes place over IP or broadband, which saves money.
Changing a mindset
Human behaviour, as I already mentioned, is the most important aspect of digital transformation. You can implement the fastest networks, give your staff the best cutting-edge technologies and all the latest communication tools but if they don’t understand the benefits, they will struggle to shift their working practices.
Instilling a forward-thinking business mentality is about leadership and business culture. Encourage your management to trust their employees from the top down, to ensure you have full buy-in across the company. This is absolutely critical; McKinsey found that 84% of CEOs are involved in and committed to transformational change while only 45% of front line employees are. If the culture doesn’t filter down to the ground-level, you’ll never achieve the desired results.
The businesses that have truly transformed their workplace into a future-proof digital environment have technology ingrained in their brand DNA. These businesses live and breathe innovation, and their staff enjoy the benefits of a more cohesive, collaborative, and productive workplace.
Breaking down silos
In a chat about digital transformation, Martyn Croft - former CIO of the Salvation Army - explained to me that he’s been an advocate of the digital workplace for many years.
“The Salvation Army is a traditional organisation. Instead of embracing mobile working, it prefers to keep people widely distributed in physical areas,” explained Croft. “Something we observed, when you stretch the collaborative channels you remove the ability for people to get together. We broke down the cohesion from being so geographically dispersed.”
As a result of a growing silo culture, Croft oversaw the implementation of a number of unified communication tools, and deployed a private network that allowed role-based access from any location on any device. As part of its digital transformation, the Salvation Army encouraged its staff to collaborate in real-time using technology.
Using the most appropriate platforms available at the time - Microsoft Sharepoint and IBM connections - the workforce suddenly had all the tools at their fingertips to collaborate more effectively. But did it change the Salvation Army culture? Croft found he still struggled to unify the people behind the new technology.
"It’s not just about the platform, it’s about the people."
“You’d think it would work well for the Salvation Army,” he concluded. “We had 60,000 people that could all contribute to the conversation. But I learnt it’s not just about the platform, it’s about the people.”
But the tech helps
Digital transformation, then, is a business learning curve. You can lead your people to water, as they say, but you can’t force them to drink. With the right platforms, you can provide the tools to get people talking from anywhere, but the conversation has to be forthcoming. Technology is an enabler for digital transformation, not the driver.
So, is digital transformation 1% technology, 99% people? Cloud infrastructure services, like those from Intercity, give your business all the next-generation unified communication tools it needs to improve productivity and reduce operational costs. Without the workplace culture and buy-in from the people, however, your technology sits in a vacuum.
In my opinion, tech doesn’t drive digital transformation, people do; but the tech helps.
For millennials, access to the Internet is not optional. They’re more dependent and demanding of the use and benefit that technology can bring to their everyday lives.