Since Covid-19, lifestyle changes brought on by pandemic mitigation measures have resulted in a dramatic increase in the pace of digital transformation. As companies forge ahead with transformation efforts, it’s easy to lose sight of what really matters.
Experts have long emphasised that successful transformation hinges on people, not technology. Fancy digital processes and tools won’t accomplish anything if the people within your organisation don’t have a digital mindset, or if they can’t behaviourally adapt to get the most out of technology. Technology is merely a tool, an enabler.
PEOPLE ENABLE TECHNOLOGY
However, the discussion needs to shift even further.
Today, more than ever before, we must realise that while technology enables people, people are responsible for driving technology even prior to creation, purchase and implementation.
To stay ahead of the curve, you need to address the talent supply and demand gap and develop people with the right skills. HR leaders admit that before even thinking about investing in technology, organisations need to invest in people who can assess and identify technological needs intelligently, create and augment systems and finally, implement transformation successfully.
A FOCUS ON SOFT SKILLS
While there is an obvious focus on acquiring professionals and specialists with hard skills in areas such as data science, software development and cybersecurity, experts say the attention should shift to soft skills. These soft skills are linked to learnability – an individual’s sense of curiosity, flexibility and adaptability. It’s no secret that technical skills can become obsolete in the blink of an eye. However, a person with a greater aptitude for learning can easily continue developing both hard and soft skills.
In recruiting talent, we recommend using a dual approach – identify people with soft skills in terms of their potential for learning and innovating, and match this with their aptitude and interest in hard technical skills. Once you come to terms with the fact that their hard skills will become outdated, you will end up placing a slightly greater focus on their soft skills.
SOCIETY’S TECH NEEDS ARE ASSESSED BY PEOPLE, NOT MACHINES
Society’s technological needs are typically determined by circumstances and people. As you invest in technology, remember that ideally, humans should be driving change rather than be driven by change.
You need professionals who can accurately assess society’s needs and identify or create solutions to meet those needs. Building the software and hardware to enable innovations is the next stage. As you build an ecosystem for transformation, keep in mind the former is just as crucial as the latter.
Dan Higgins, EY Global Technology Consulting Leader and Nicola Morini Bianzino, EY Global Chief Technology Officer said it best in a recent Harvard Business Review article, Tech Should Enable Change, Not Drive It.
“The smartest, most nimble, and most innovative enterprises will be Human Enterprises where “business transformation” is in fact people-led transformation aided by technology: where humans sit at the centre, ensuring that technology and innovation meet genuine needs… As the front line of any organisation, humans must be the ones driving the technology, assessing the value of the technologies being introduced and deployed to ensure long-term success and effective change,” they said.
In this context, those with business acumen and a keen interest in sociology or business ethnography are in great demand.
LEADERSHIP STILL MATTERS
A 2018 McKinsey study found that less than 30 per cent of digital transformation efforts succeed. These failures were mostly a result of mismanagement of cultural and organisational challenges. Aside from building the capabilities of the workforce, McKinsey recommends having the right leaders in place.
We believe leaders themselves need to transform before organisational transformation can take place. As you select and groom your top leaders, be mindful that they must embody and demonstrate a spirit of transformation and innovation. You might recruit data scientists, hardware and software developers in droves, but their efforts won’t amount to anything if they are mismanaged by leaders.
To increase your chances of success, begin with people, not technology. You’ll find that technology falls into place easily once you’ve adequately addressed the human element.