Originally published in Information Age.
Chris Labrey, MD of Econocom UK & Ireland, explores in Information Age why digital transformation has to start with the user
Digital transformation is one of the most used buzz phrases of the last few years. Businesses in all industries are looking to change their operations, make them more efficient, more cost-effective and more productive. The key thing to remember is that digital transformation as a concept means different things to different businesses. It’s, therefore, important to consider what it means for your business before embarking on the journey.
At the heart of it, digital transformation is all about using technology across the entire business to streamline processes, make staff more productive and improve the user experience. Whether that means moving systems to the cloud, updating end-user devices or increasing automation, it is an active change across the business that affects three main areas: your people, processes and technology.
In implementing changes, there are also barriers. Many of them are tied to the above three elements due to the fact that the transformation is often a cultural one; a complete mindset change by staff on how they actually work and what they work with. There are also other more tangible challenges like finding the budget to fund transformation, working around legacy infrastructure and the lack of in-house IT skills and expertise to support the change.
In a nutshell, however, the success of any change programme ultimately hinges on staff, not just during the onboarding process, but throughout the lifecycle of the technology as well.
Why is the user so important?
The end-user of any technology should be the focus and starting point for digital transformation initiatives. The simple fact is that while the technology will enable the business and drive it forward, it is your staff that is pushing the buttons, analyzing the data and making things work. Taking it down to the base level, as an example, your staff use a multitude of devices, such as laptops, smartphones and tablets. Whether that is in the office, on the move, or in a remote location, it’s vital this technology enables them to complete tasks, be flexible and gives them the right access to the company network and systems. If your workers are using technology that is cumbersome, difficult to use or too slow, their productivity and morale can suffer.
Looking at it from a wider angle, implementing new technology to achieve digital goals sometimes means new skills need to be taught to ensure users receive direction on how to get the best benefits out of the new technology. As a result, your staff need know what your goals are, how the technology will help achieve them, and the role they play in the transformation journey. Again, if they are just lumbered with new technology without being told why it’s important or how it contributes to making the business better, it is their work (and your bottom line) that is affected.
The same can be true when it comes to setting the technology up; if you don’t have the IT staff in-house to make this a reality, how can you be assured that the devices (regardless of what they are) are set up correctly? That they have the requisite security settings and access permissions? User experience is crucial here and if your staff members are unable to access what they need to make proper use of the devices, it can have a negative impact on your business.
Value of partnerships
It is here that using a technology partner can help; they already have an understanding of both the technology itself and the ways in which it affects the user. They also have the resources and skills to help you onboard your staff onto the new technology estate, making sure they realise the full benefit.
In fact, when trying to overcome perhaps the greatest challenge of digital transformation – cost – working with a technology partner can help you find an alternative approach to funding. Instead of investing capex in new technology and buying the hardware outright, many businesses are turning to subscription models. If you take this same approach to funding the technology aspect of transformation, you can ease the burden of capital expenditure and ensure you effectively future proof your business.
From a technology perspective, you can also be more agile and react to changing market conditions or requirements more quickly because you already have the means in place to fund your efforts. Moving beyond digital transformation, subscription models give you the flexibility to perform updates and upgrades immediately, instead of waiting for budget to be released.
As part of digital transformation initiatives or wider business operations, you need to do what’s right for your organisation at the right time. You can’t afford to delay changes because of limited budgets, especially when it comes to technology that ultimately supports your growth plans and helps you achieve your goals.
To transform successfully and realise the full benefits, you need buy-in from your most important asset – your staff. Whether you’re implementing a partial, staged or full-on digital transformation, it is vital that you begin with your users and put them at the heart of your change efforts. By taking this approach, you’re ensuring you’re transforming in a way that is right for both your business and your staff, and have a better chance of getting the ROI on your efforts.
Written by Chris Labrey, MD of Econocom UK & Ireland