18 June 2020

Pandemic pushes digital transformation to new phase.
BY Paul Prior

Paul Prior is an award-winning digital transformation strategist who recently joined Three as Head of Digital. He has worked with a wide range of companies, including Netflix, Alibaba, Uber and CitiBank, and has a track record of helping clients grow market share and revenue through digital transformation, business transformation data analytics and data compliance execution.

As businesses slowly start to reopen, it feels like a good time to take stock on what has happened and what key learnings Irish organisations can carry forward, not just from lockdown but from a decade’s worth of transformation projects, as they embark on journeys that have been accelerated by the pandemic. 

One good thing to come out what happened is a greater appreciation of people, whether it’s employees who rose to the challenge of home working or consumers who had no choice but to move online. The lesson that organisations have been slowest to learn over the last 10 years will now be taken a lot more seriously.

Digital transformation is about people not technology.

Historically we thought digital transformation was a technology change, but the pandemic has made it crystal clear that it’s much more about human beings. If what you do is aligned to basic needs of belonging, autonomy and relatedness – identified as fundamentals of human psychological – it will dictate an appropriate technology. And that’s the right way to do it – people before technology.

The trend towards no-code solutions that allow people who aren’t trained developers to create applications is a great example of how a technology environment is catching up with human needs. Similarly, the rapid adoption of conferencing tools during lockdown reminded us that there is nothing more fundamental in business than human interaction. Success comes when the tools are easy to deploy and intuitive to use.

Change the culture – one project at a time.

Post-Covid, there is a great opportunity to capture the spirit and focus that employees displayed during lockdown and embed it into what the organisation does next. Leaders either realise an organisation’s culture is an important part of digital transformation or projects fail. The way to change culture is one project at a time. Start by identifying a high performing team or business unit in your organisation that can work autonomously and make them the poster child for change. 

Leadership has to back the successes and make sure it cascades all the way through the organisation. The goal is to move from a siloed to horizontal business model, from decisions made in isolation to decisions made across the whole business. When you hear the same narrative from the boardroom to the receptionist, you know a company is on the right journey.

Change the culture – one person at a time.

Habits form in employees because the way they work has made them and the business successful. One of the hardest things to do as part of a business transformation programme, is to change behaviours to align with new strategies. This has suddenly become easier.

The pandemic has forced change upon people and they are more receptive to new ways of working, but fundamentals of change programmes still apply.

The lockdown and move to home working proved that people will willingly be brought on a journey if they understand the context of what is being asked of them.

Patience is needed to work out what customers want.

Shareholders want immediate gratification on investments but it’s not always possible, and a nervousness about what a company thinks its customers need can result in hurrying the wrong things to market. The pandemic has highlighted the need to provide some certainty in uncertain times, so look for solutions that stand the test of time, that are still aligned after three or five years to the reasons you made the changes in the first place.

Remember too that it’s an implicit not explicit journey, meaning customers don’t always know what they want, so you have to facilitate conversations with them to find out and adjust your strategy accordingly. Only then can you enter the explicit phase of actually delivering the product or service.

Measure and monitor to ensure continuous improvement.

A common challenge centres around productivity, resourcing and capacity. A team might be working really hard, but they might not be working smart. Data turns this from a subjective to objective discussion, and it’s why measurement and metrics are so important for successful change.

Digital transformation is about moving from silos operating independently to multiple channels becoming part of the same customer journey. Each channel should have its own metrics and measurements. Try and build dashboards around them to measure productivity and identify where there is spare capacity. This provides objective oversight and facilitates a process of continuous improvement.

Organisations must be agile to provide certainty in uncertain times.

By definition transformation isn’t a journey with an end, it’s a voyage of perpetual change. The pandemic has proved this and the need to be as agile as possible. You have to be able to respond to change on a quarter-by-quarter basis, because that’s how volatile the world has become. 

Procuring the right tools and technologies is a big part of the journey. Instead of different areas of the business making decisions in silos, they all have to come together and make digital decisions based on feasibility, commerciality, and desirability. Use a scoring mechanism to prioritise the list of projects and the vendors to make them happen. Put in place a trusted methodology that works for everyone and then trust the methodology; it’s the best way to ensure project success.

For more information about Three’s communications and collaboration solutions, visit here.

If you would like advice with setting up remote working in your organisation, call our Business Advice team on 1800 200 017 or