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Digital Transformation: A People Powered Revolution

Digital transformation and digital technology revolution are changing the business landscape and the trend is set to continue and increase in tempo for many years to come. The digitisation and the revolution we’re witnessing could not have happened without the enabling technologies such as cloud computing, but the biggest challenge facing every organisation that hopes to thrive and survive in the new digital world is the shortage of people to deliver the digital transformation.

The removal of barriers such as the need for existing initial capital or readily available infrastructures have helped a new wave of digital disruptors to challenge the norms and shape the future of businesses - and societies. One thing is for certain; there’s no turning back. The changes brought about by digitisation and digital technology will continue to spread rapidly into all aspects of our lives and the question is “not whether you are ‘for’ or ‘against’ artificial intelligence [for example] — that’s like asking our ancestors if they were for or against fire …” said Max Tegmark, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in a recent Washington Post Review. Today’s question is not ‘if’ an organisation will join the digital revolution, it is ‘when’. Those who don’t, according to all signs, may not survive for long. Martin Mühleisen writing for the International Monetary Fund argues that Digital Transformation is something that will profoundly change the way we live and work:

“… digital transformation results from what economists who study scientific progress and technical change call a general-purpose technology - that is, one that has the power to continually transform itself, progressively branching out and boosting productivity across all sectors and industries. Such transformations are rare. Only three previous technologies earned this distinction: the steam engine, the electricity generator, and the printing press. These changes bring enormous long-term benefits. By their very nature, general-purpose technological revolutions are also highly disruptive. Digitalization will also transform people’s jobs. …”

But before we can answer “How does an organisation join the digital revolution?” question, we need to understand what digitisation means. Here is how Niall McKeown CEO of Ionology describes digitisation for business and service providers and the people delivering them.

"Digital is the synonym for the pace of change that's accruing in today's world - driven by the rapid adoption of technology. This is putting existing companies under tremendous pressure, in some cases, driving them to the land of irrelevance. Some are seeing the signs and some others just - don't!

Because of rapid technology adoption, how our customers engage with us is changing the operating system of how we create new sustainable comparative advantage and how we must change if we are to keep pace.

We're seeing two types of organisations; those that are just doing digital and the new kind, the digital innovators. The digital innovators are winning. They are disrupting every conceivable marketplace enabled by this new technology adoption. The biggest mistake we're seeing is that many oSo what is digital transformation? Digital Transformation is a journey of strategic - planned organisational change. It starts by empowering our teams with new methods to create highly responsive strategy and a fearless culture of innovation. It's the right leadership that creates the high performing innovative organisations which is delivered by marketers and technologists principally - This is digital transformation."

So what is digital transformation? Digital Transformation is a journey of strategic - planned organisational change. It starts by empowering our teams with new methods to create highly responsive strategy and a fearless culture of innovation. It's the right leadership that creates the high performing innovative organisations which is delivered by marketers and technologists principally - This is digital transformation."

So what is digital transformation? Digital Transformation is a journey of strategic - planned organisational change. It starts by empowering our teams with new methods to create highly responsive strategy and a fearless culture of innovation. It's the right leadership that creates the high performing innovative organisations which is delivered by marketers and technologists principally - This is digital transformation."

To answer “How does an organisation join the digital revolution?” question we need to think of the integrated and intertwined components of digitisation;

  • the clarity of the underlying business goals and strategy,
  • the organisational change which translates to empowering the people who will deliver the digital transformation and,
  • provisioning of the enabling environments, tools and technologies to deliver the business goals and strategy.

The skilled and empowered people equip with the right tools and technologies deliver the digital transformation - and the shortage of skilled people is already proving to be the Achilles' heel for most organisations and has become the most immediate obstacle in the path of innovation and progress. Many have identified the criticality of the situation and the race is on to find solutions to address the shortage of the skilled people. Businesses need disruptive, innovative human resources strategy to meet the demand.

Some companies, concerned with the speed of change and their competitive positions, have turned to contractors and temporary staff who may be experts in their respective fields. While it is inconceivable that any company in the digital space can perform its daily functions without the occasional need for temporary staff but the most effective way of addressing the long term need for skilled people remains to be nurturing permanent members of staff and equipping them with the mind-set and tools to deliver an organisation’s commercial goals. The long term use of contract and temporary staff has the potential danger of threatening the underlying commercial rational of any business; it’s P&L. However, the financial cost of employing contractors and temporary staff on a long term basis for a critical task such as digitisation is only the visible part of the problem. The invisible part, which may have the greatest impact on an organisation’s long-term well-being is the intangible, and seldom measured, cost of loss of ‘knowledge capital’ that is incurred by employing transient workforce.

The answer to the question of “How does an organisation join the digital revolution?” is complex but what is certain is the central role of the people in the successful delivery of digitisation. The winning organisations of tomorrow will be those who’d put enablement and raising the capability of their permanent members of staff as one of the highest priority items on their organisational strategy road map and provide financial and cultural support for delivering that strategy. Planned and organised training of people is the only way to succeed as an organisation in the race for digitisation.