In my previous blog I already mentioned that the often used term ‘Digital transformation’ should really be expanded to ‘Digital Business Transformation’ because it is actually not about digitization but about business transformation. When we first started implementing integrated business software at the end of the last century – such as MRP, ERP and CRM – we discovered that the process had to be prepared ‘in advance’ for this. The term ‘Business Process Redesign or Re-engineering’ – abbreviated BPR – then became a hype, because for the first time company management had to think about how to ‘streamline’ a process so that business software could be implemented seriously and successfully.
Redesign of business processes
Wikipedia describes BPR as “a business management strategy developed in the early 1990s with a focus on the analysis and design of workflows and business processes.” The great initiator around 1990 was Thomas H. Davenport: a business process is a series of logically related tasks performed to achieve a specific business result. Re-engineering emphasized a holistic focus on business goals and the way processes relate to them. Complete process redesign was encouraged rather than iterative optimization of sub-processes.
According to Davenport – currently a professor at Babson College – we are now in a third era of transformation. The ever-increasing digitization generates data traces, which are increasingly better collected and analyzed. These datasets create incremental value for much more accurate decision making. This in turn requires a new design of the processes in order to actually use that added value.
In addition to new process designs, organizations are currently also confronted with: “Great Resignation”. A major layoff that puts new pressure on both organizations and remaining employees. Many experienced baby boomers leave the organization, and many other employees do not automatically return after the corona period. Because a lot of experience is lost, this makes the new ‘process re-design’ much more difficult.
Never finished transforming
We learned from the first ‘digital transformation’ in the early 1990s that change is never finished. Every five to seven years, so much new technology is created that its use is a ‘sine qua non’. The architecture of a business process must be robust enough to be permanently changed. A challenge for every Enterprise architect! Transforming a process is also about people; often a blind spot for organizations. If your people don’t go with you, you can transform whatever you want, it will never succeed. Every organization has digital transformation high on the agenda, but they all struggle with the critical success factor of employee engagement and satisfaction.
As long as the management only talks about uncertainty, change and job security, you will not get your employees on board, and there is a good chance that they will leave. Successful transformations start with engaged employees. Not just to convey the ‘digital story’, but to offer employees something for the future to ’embrace’. Something to be ‘enthusiastic’ about. With its own role and added value in itself. A clearly widespread vision through which the whole organization ‘automatically’ enters a transformational mode: that people want to move forward enthusiastically.
What’s in it for me?
A previous blog, The Chief Meaning Officer, covered the successful leadership of Jack Welch, who was the successful CEO of General Electric (GE) for many years. In this video he says that a leader must first and foremost be a Chief Meaning Officer. Let everyone know where you are going, why you are going there and – last but not least – how important it is to everyone that we are going there. Especially the latter, Welch said, many managers forget to explain. ‘What’s in for me’ is not only important for management (how does it benefit us?), but certainly also for employees: how does it benefit them?
Why does an organization choose a particular path? Why is this interesting for everyone involved? If the employees do not know and understand what the added value is for them to support a strategy, you will hardly get any support. Eliminate red tape as much as possible. No management based on existing rules. Break down the old silos in your organization, because digital transformation is about connecting horizontally. So ensure enthusiastic internal communication throughout the organization.
People transform the process
Successful organizations recognize the importance of people and involve them in the transformation, inspiring their teams ‘better’ to embrace change. To create and strengthen a culture of transformation. Employees who see that they can become agents of change. Get rewarded for taking initiative. Inspire with a clear vision. A bottom-up change mindset that empowers employees at all levels. Only in this way will you change the culture around further digital.
A study (2021) by HBR ‘Digital transformation refocused: New goals require new strategies’ shows that digital transformation success goes hand in hand with modernizing their ‘workplace cultures’ compared to the rest of the sample: 63% vs 23% according to for the investigation. One quality that characterizes top organizations is their attitude to failure. In far too many organizations, you get ahead by never making a mistake. But with any transformation, you need to build a culture where it’s okay to try new things and take risks.
Reassessment of the employees
The key is to ‘have’ the right people to initiate, lead and implement change. Organizations faced unprecedented labor shortages in 2021. Workers took a closer look at their careers and left their jobs in record numbers. The survey shows: 43% of respondents say that one of the biggest challenges facing digital transformation is finding and securing their own top talent to support their digital initiatives.
Current investment in automation is partly driven by labor shortages, Davenport says. “Companies did not know that there would be so many layoffs. That there would be such a big battle for talent,” he says. “I think a lot of people are still pretty confused about how to attract talent when geography — where you work — doesn’t matter that much anymore.”
New cultural challenges must be solved. Enable transformation across the organization. Evaluate recruitment strategies and support retraining and upskilling. Embrace your own top employees and let them contribute to the new vision. In fact, they often know better than their leadership. Put together a group of your own architects, super users, experts and visionaries – outside the operating organization – and let them develop the blueprint for the new (digital) organization. In this way, you not only protect your own talent, but you also create internal enthusiasm that not only retains, but even attracts people. . .
By: Hans Timmerman (photo), Chief Data Officer at DigiCorp Labs and Director of Fortierra