Why human understanding is the key to successful digital transformation
According to research by McKinsey & Company, across a range of industries, 70% of digital transformations are perceived to fail. Whilst success rates inevitably vary depending on factors like the organisation size, and sector – it’s smaller, more tech-savvy businesses who reported the most success.
However, a finely tuned digital strategy is fast becoming the competitive differentiator for organisations of every size in a variety of industries, from manufacturing to finance. Doing nothing is simply not an option. So how can larger, more traditional organisations become more agile and stay competitive by leveraging the potential of digital technology?
The answer? People. One of the key blockers to a successful transformation is the misconception that technology alone can solve your challenges. The truth is, you might have the latest and greatest tech, but it’s only as good as the people who use it day-to-day.
The human side of digital transformation
WorkPoint partner, Me’ning, creates digital business solutions which value human understanding alongside the technology itself. They also have deep knowledge around how these two elements can combine to create a positive business impact.
For many organisations, the global pandemic has changed their ways of working, and those changes look set to stay as they continue to realise the business benefits of more flexible and fluid working arrangements. In the light of this global event, there’s been a cultural shift towards remote working, with more and more companies seeking to future-proof themselves via digital working and cloud-based solutions.
Me’ning’s Human Understanding Consultant and Techno-Anthropologist, Linette Trige Petersen, provides us with key insights into the game-changing potential of human understanding in the context of digital transformation.
What is techno-anthropology?
Techno-anthropology looks at digital transformation from the human perspective. As society finds evermore technological solutions to its challenges, techno-anthropology examines the relationship between technology and humans in order to help users become more active participants in the inception of new ways of working within businesses and other types of organisations.
It helps us to understand how people are impacted by technological change in terms of their experiences and activities. And by improving human understanding, it can help smooth the process of digital transformation and increase buy-in from employees.
Why is human understanding so important?
Human understanding is essential for the successful implementation of any digital solution. That’s because new technology needs buy-in from the top-down, and from the bottom up. If people don’t have an understanding of how to use it and why it’s important, they’ll be more resistant to change.
To ensure a strategic digitisation program is successful, it’s important to consider how to implement the solution in a way that will work best for the people in your company. That requires a focus on your frontline workforce and managers, their challenges, their problems, and where they see themselves in the future.
For generations, work has typically involved workers commuting to a place of work, performing their duties, and then returning home. Particularly for older age groups, it’s important to understand how they work and what work means to them.
Older people need to be valued for their experience and expertise. They need to see and know why it’s important for them. For some, digital working can be confusing, and they might perceive that their jobs are being replaced by technology. It can also feel more challenging for them to move toward a digital world.
Human understanding looks at it another way. It encourages workers to consider the question: what’s in it for me? Me’ning recommends talking with each employee (where logistically possible) to discuss how the changes will benefit them and why the changes are important for their role within the business.
Two of the key benefits of digitisation in any organisation are the automation of routine tasks, and time savings, which both allow employees to focus on more meaningful work.
Some companies aren’t aware of the importance of human understanding to digital transformation. We know the business gains, and we know how an emphasis on the human aspect helps them to do this.
Digital transformation also needs buy-in across different levels, from the CIO to the IT Manager and Project Managers. Done well, this means people want to stay working with you, and it also makes your business more attractive to new employees.
A key consideration is to ensure that human understanding is closely aligned with your software stack. This makes it relevant and familiar for employees in their day-to-day ways of working, in activities such as document handling and case management.
Ultimately, digital transformation requires a well-handled ‘Day One’ with effective communication of information and training in the lead-in to implementation. This can be as simple as ensuring that everyone is aware of the what, how, and why.
This groundwork will save time and money in the long run.
Tips for digital transformation with human understanding
It can be easy to overlook the human side of digital technology implementation. Depending on the company, some leaders will be aware that they need employees to be on onboard with digital transformation in order for it to work. On the other hand, some companies see an amazing technical solution without realising the human understanding required for successful deployment.
Here are some top tips for making it a success:
- Have employees take an active role in the change process. Encourage them and listen to them to create a more positive vibe around the project.
- Take the ‘superuser’ and ‘ambassador’ approach. Ambassador's field concerns from co-workers whilst communicating and advocating for change.
- Managers are the front-runners, and they need to be part of it to drive change forward and lead by example. They need to live it too.
- Focus on the value to your organisation. Human understanding leads to employee retention and a more loyal, and productive workforce.
- Automation is not replacing jobs. It’s taking away repetitive work and freeing up time for more meaningful tasks.
In the first instance, some companies might not see the potential return on investment from human understanding. They might not realise its benefits of human understanding, its importance for every employee, or the part it plays in the success of digital transformation.
The bottom line? It’s not just about bringing in the best technology. Technology doesn’t solve challenges on its own. For that, you need people. And human understanding.