The second question we suggested during our 3/10 #HITsm twitter chat was one that’s on everyone’s mind: What do you think is important for a successful Digital Transformation (DX) project? Technology, people, or other ‘non-digital’ elements? The overwhelming consensus was “people,” and yet as the discussion evolved, there turned out to be much more to it than that. We’ve compiled some caveats about not just sourcing the right talent, but getting out of its way.
One issue our own Murray Izenwasser raised during the chat is that, according to McKinsey, 70% of projects fall short, and 70% of the primary causes of those failures are people-centered. How is that possible, when so many of the participants on our chat agreed that people are the foundation of any successful DX project? Let’s unpack that statistic a little bit.
While people are, indeed, the key to driving DX, interactions between people can take down even the most dedicated change agent. Attempts at transformation can be hindered by hidden conflicts within an organization, which come to the forefront during shake-ups. There’s also often a disconnect between what C-Suite leaders say they want, and what behavior is praised and empowered from day-to-day. As you can see, these are all people problems at their core.
Process problems are another big hindrance that ends up derailing the “people” at the heart of DX. While digital strategy is a viable step on the path to transformation, when we commit the half-measure of digitizing poor processes, the results speak for themselves. We also need to avoid the trap of standing on the shoulders of other organizations, mimicking what has worked for them. Each company has its own unique challenges and needs, and our processes and outcomes should adapt accordingly, with the goal of keeping our specific customers at the center.
Poor culture is the parent of poor process. Culture can subvert your best hiring practices, as new employees who come in with the attitudes and skillsets you want are gradually assimilated into the exact culture you’re trying to change. Lasting cultural transformation requires a concerted effort that transcends any one individual, and it needs to start at the top. C-Suite leadership has to be focused on DX, and then that culture has to trickle down.
We hear and use the phrase “a cycle of continuous improvement” a lot, but what does it really mean? It means putting workflows in place that don’t result in individual change agents who function in isolation as “armies of one.”
It means an ongoing cycle of support and training, rather than a one-time burst with no follow-through.
Innovation and DX need to be people’s primary focus– it can’t be a second job, so to speak. This doesn’t mean you should maintain existing employees in their assigned roles and hire personnel specifically to handle transformation tasks– that’s usually untenable. But all too often, we expect great things from our employees, then keep them under the hood solving day-to-day problems that are caused by the continuation of legacy workflows and culture. We need to wake up to how much time we spend unintentionally interfering with our digital changemakers. That has to stop.
Strategic vision matters. But you don’t have to be a start-up to effect change.
It can seem they’re holding all the cards. After all, they don’t have existing baggage of legacy systems and attitudes. But, as one participant in our chat pointed out, established organizations have something disruptors don’t: customers! This gives you a measure of security and an abundance of data that can drive your decision making as you take on DX projects.
Our takeaway? Yes, people are at the core of successful Digital Transformation projects. And this is why process and culture matter so much. By attending to these aspects of our organizations, we’re actually safeguarding our people, and setting them up for success.
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