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Myths of Digital Transformation: Digital Tools and Software are the Keys to Successful Digital Transformation

Endre Jarraux Walls

EVP, Chief Operations & Technology Officer, Customers Bank

Pop quiz: What is an essential element of any digital transformation project?

You may think the obvious answer is the technology – fair thought given the word digital is baked into what we’re discussing. The right answer: Your people. To be more specific, your people, and the culture of your organization.

Some of the most admired companies boast an internal culture that gets them attention from prospective employees and the media alike. CB Insights, a New York-based machine learning company, credits its culture as a significant driver of the business’ success. The firm built its culture based on learning. CB provides opportunities for employees to develop new skills to further their education and grow within the organization. This has led to increased internal collaborations, which enable team members to learn about new business practices, different departments or special projects. Are cross-functional collaborations, continual learning and digital goals incentivized as part of your core culture?

International Data Corporation projects businesses will spend approximately $2 trillion in 2022 on digital transformations. That’s a lot of initiatives! With so many different goals and objectives, implementing a successful digital transformation will rely heavily on employee buy-in. As leaders, a central aspect of any transformation project will be to establish digital-first thinking into our company cultures. Yes, the technology and solutions we implement will need to be high quality and fit seamlessly within our business functions, but without employee support and adoption, we won’t get far.

The CTO of Clearbridge Mobile highlighted many digital transformation projects fail because of a lack of motivation or understanding from employees. IT Pro Portal reiterates that the success or failure of a digital transformation depends primarily on whether employees support the initiative. Think about that for a moment. Without the employees’ support, they will revert to the old tried and true procedures and processes, and the investment in new technologies and increased capabilities will be for naught.

Digital transformation changes how departments operate and how services are delivered to provide better customer experiences. For traditional industries like banking, successfully integrating new capabilities requires a massive cultural shift, one that affects all team members making it vital to start the process with them. This can seem like an enormous undertaking, but simple approaches to people management and education sharing can actually make this an exciting undertaking company-wide:

Build Interest and Excitement– Meet with individual departments to explain how the digital transformation will enhance manual procedures and, ultimately, enable better customer experiences. Make the meetings interactive. Discuss concerns, questions and opportunities for additional adoption of the new technologies.

Establish Digital Champions – Appointing a champion for each department further helps increase team member engagement. That individual can also serve to identify and communicate departmental challenges to you before they create more significant integration issues.

Create a Learning Coach Program – There is a lot of research that demonstrates the importance of employee training programs to a business and the employee, as well as how they factor into job satisfaction and retention. Additionally, from a business perspective, it is vital all team members know how to use the new technology. And from the team member’s perspective, being identified as a learning coach can provide important recognition and responsibility.

When it comes to digital transformation, there are many moving parts and priorities that may differ between industries. I do, however, believe there are several universal truths, and unfortunately pitfalls, that businesses in every sector need to keep in mind. I hope that by focusing on several of the issues which can be overlooked – such as the importance of automation, thoroughly understanding the entire business and the role culture and team members play – I have provided you with several nuggets you can infuse into your digital transformation plans. Our world is continually evolving, especially regarding technological developments, but I expect these foundational rules of thumb will remain true, even after we’ve cracked the code on flying cars.