Digital transformation: 3 simple strategies to get yours moving forward

Is your organization stuck in its transformation initiative? Consider these three truths to get your people on a path to progress
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We talk a lot about a technology-driven economy, but technology does not solve problems –people do. Technological investments depend on people.

For organizations trying to make a digital transformation, it can feel like people are stuck. Even when shifting to a digital environment is necessary for teams to function, there can be reluctance, hesitation, and in some cases, difficulty adapting to new kinds of communications and behaviors.

Change doesn’t happen overnight. The key to success is the ability to adopt and use new forms of technology. And that means your organization and your people need to overcome a common hurdle: the belief that technology alone will solve all problems. Author and professor Gerald Kane describes overlooking the importance of people in digital transformation as “the technology fallacy.”

[ Also read Digital transformation: 3 ways a culture of innovation can drive your strategy.]

In a digital transformation, people matter. Here are three simple strategies to overcome the technology fallacy and get your organization and your people on board:

1. Transformation is a holistic redesign

Digital transformation is the use of technology to strategically redesign the work of an organization. But when people believe that digital transformation simply entails the purchase of a new software or platform to manage a portion or all their business, they’re missing the point. Digital transformation involves a holistic redesign of the business around a solution. Processes and roles will also shift, but it is better to design a solution around realistic ideas than to pay for a system and expect it to solve problems without people.

2. Factor in the workforce

Even the most robust platforms today require significant process changes to achieve a successful implementation. This simple difference in perspective immediately reveals the importance of people in digital transformation. There is simply no way to realize the value of a digital transformation without bringing people along for the journey.

[ Discover how priorities are changing. Get the Harvard Business Review Analytic Services report: Maintaining momentum on digital transformation. ] 

3. People are the bottom line

As Kane points out, “Your people who will fuel – or thwart – your digital transformation.” In a survey of some 16,000 respondents, he found that far less than half (44 percent) were ready.

When organizations deploy new solutions, they expect a return. The return is never realized when people fail to adopt. So in this sense, the solution is never the technology. The solution is how people leverage technology to work differently.

To enable a fully digital world, people need to adopt and embrace technology. Some digital transformations will be slow, as many organizations saw during the pandemic as they shifted operations, communications, and functions to digital platforms.

The full value of true digital transformation will succeed only with a complete understanding of the human side of the equation. This is better for all organizations because, as the Great Resignation is teaching many leaders, people are our greatest asset. We must make sure they help define our digital future.

[Where is your team's digital transformation work stalling? Get the eBook: What's slowing down your Digital Transformation? 8 questions to ask.]

Dr. Victoria M. Grady is the President of PivotPoint. She directs the MSM Graduate Program, is on the faculty of George Mason University, and is a research consultant at Dixon Hughes Goodman (DHG).
Patrick McCreesh, Ph.D. is the Managing Principal of Simatree, a strategy, analytics, and technology consultancy. He leads teams through digital transformations and has developed analytics programs across the public sector and Fortune 500 clients.