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Technology doesn’t drive digital transformation, people do

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.

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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.

Up next

Are you ready for 2018?

Sometimes I feel like I want to break down and cry!

As a technology consultant living in a world that is moving at such a ridiculous pace it can feel very lonely. Businesses can feel the same, smart competitors constantly snapping at your heels, vendors and suppliers offering too much choice. Finding a trusted partner to help you through the techsand is essential.

Today my brain hurts! In fact, on a daily basis my brain hurts, it’s a pain that can’t be cured by the swallowing of a paracetamol, it’s like a cloudy fog that has descended and is taking up residence within my skull.

This is what it’s like being a technology consultant. The world is a complex place at the best of times, but the accelerating pace of change in technology is frightening.

If you are not careful it can become so overwhelming that it leads to paralysis. A state where you find yourself constantly surfing the web for help and only result in opening more and more tabs. It’s a condition I like to call cyber staring.

Moore’s law states that processing power for computers will double every two years, and visionaries like Ray Kurzweil state that the total power of all computers will be equitable to the total brainpower of the human race as early as 2019.

There are many predictions like this which can amplify the fear. The trick is to not be scared, to embrace change and to find a way to move out of the techsand and make technology work for you.

Embrace technology, embrace progress, embrace change

It’s easier said than done, I recently presented to a group of IT professionals who were discussing the risks of the new world of IOT and machine learning. The lawyers present were laying out the new threats posed by sensors publicly storing data sets. Two good examples used were Alexa being aware when you are in and out of the house and pattern management sensors used to support dementia sufferers who want to stay longer in their own homes, both data sets in the wrong hands will show when homes are unoccupied and where vulnerable people live.

The conversation continued to play out along a similar vein with different technologies looked at in a negative, we are all doomed fashion. Until one person stepped up and commented, “well if you knew then of all the bad things the Internet can be used for, would you still have invented it?”

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The consensus was a resounding yes, and a sense around the room that we should all look at the good in things first. Embrace technology, embrace progress, embrace change then look at working with the challenges to adjust, shift and head towards transformation.

How can you possibly navigate your way through safely?

It can be a daunting landscape for a business, with new solutions that promise the world, with your competition always seeming to embrace these new technologies faster than you can. How can you possibly navigate your way through safely? It’s all about small fast steps.

Be prepared to try out new things, but don’t take your eye off the things you do really well. Success within technology needs to be about balance. A balance between the continuation of the things you do well, mixed with a hunger and desire to discover new avenues that your business can go down.

The other important point is that you move at the right pace, and keep moving. Build the right technology foundations that will facilitate and complement your future transformation plans. For example, if you are under pressure to move or have a desire to move to the Public Cloud, do so in a controlled way at your own pace, move to a hybrid environment before you go full Public Cloud.

In my day job, I jump from one technology conversation to another, from BlockChain to Big Data, from Haptic Feedback sensors to Hashing Algorithms. It can be a complex world.

At one of my particularly foggy moments I decided to create a mind map of all of the technologies that had crossed my path over the last few weeks. I call it my crow’s nest, I imagine myself every now and then taking a quick shimmy up to my crow’s nest so I can look out and take in the chaos that lays around.

We are technologists not accountants

If you have the right technology partner they will talk to you about finding the right pace for your business. Whether it’s starting to look at IoT trials and the way sensors will benefit the way you do business

Or how you can become infrastructure-free or how sweating the assets that you have invested in can complement a next generation strategy. When we created our consultancy, just over a year ago the best piece of advice we received was to hire someone to look after the books.

Find the right partner who understands your business goals and objectives, let them help you through the techsand, so you can reach your transformation goals.

We are technologists not accountants. The same could be said of the network and technology. Find the right partner who understands your business goals and objectives, let them help you through the techsand, so you can reach your transformation goals. Move at a pace that doesn’t break your business, finding that perfect balance of sweating what you do well verses trying new things. Now I am off for a quick shimmy up my crow’s nest.

Article written by Che Smith, Technology Associate