After the digital transformation is underway, everyone eyes the new metrics, and pats each other on the back. The consultants go home. The cloud vendors issue their promises to keep things up and running. Executives and thought leaders put together slides and data for articles and presentations.
All looks good. But what will the workplace itself look like, once the first wave of digital transformation has made its mark? After all, we need to be able to visualize the end-goal before we can believe this coming revolution is real.
There’s no question tons of money is being and will be poured into digital transformation activities—or reasonable facsimiles thereof. IDC recently predicted that by 2020, 60 percent of all enterprises will have fully articulated an organization-wide “digital platform strategy” and will be in the process of implementing that strategy. By the end of next year, digital transformation spending will reach $1.7 trillion worldwide, a 42 percent increase from 2017. There will be revenues, lots of revenues as well—IDC also predicts that by the end of next year, all digitally transformed organizations will generate at least 45% of their revenue from digital business models.
Businesses are all in, but what does this mean for the way we work? We’re not going to keep doing the same things, through the same processes, if there’s a new platform in town. What will things really look like? Will workplaces become sullen, with everyone busy tending to systems and software that are supposed to be doing the heavy lifting of the organization? Or will digital jazz things up with new possibilities and new energy?
Digital transformation isn’t just about plopping in new technologies and forcing (I mean, persuading) employees to follow new processes. Too many organizations will attempt to throw new technology on top of their creaky, calcified ways of doing business and expect miracles. It doesn’t work that way.
Dan North, a well-known speaker, author and consultant on all things change-related, took a look at the ways we will be working in a post-transformation workplace, observing that the most successful transformations he has witnessed are those that are lead with enthusiasm, energy and compelling vision.
Digital success comes from dedicated individuals taking “the time and effort bringing people on the journey with them,” North explains. Inspired leaders “create and nurture a groundswell of enthusiasm; they engage, challenge, educate and support the middle and senior managers whose world is being turned on its head; they gain the executive sponsorship and investment to carry the whole thing forwards; they use external help because they know they can’t do it all themselves. And they do all this without recourse to canned methods or certification Ponzi schemes.”
North makes the following observations about life on the other side—or what it’s supposed to look like—after digital transformation successfully occurs:
A dramatically increased positive energy level: What you want on the other side of digital transformation, North states, is to be able to “walk into the office and there is a tangible difference in the energy and interactions between people, where the commercial and management stakeholders are as excited and invested as the technology stakeholders, where everyone agrees on the metrics that matter and those metrics are trending in the right direction, where the people involved are proud to be part of the change, and where those outside are eager to get involved.”
Fewer departmental lines, more connectedness with others across the enterprise: Say goodbye to silos and compartmentalization by department. In the digital transformation era, “the organization is seen as an interconnected system where all departments are value-generating, either directly contributing to the final product or indirectly,” says North. Ideally, you won’t be working to please your department head—you will be working to please your customers.
Fewer “projects,” more product delivery: Again, in the successful digitally transformed organization, all emphasis is on delivery to the customer.
Fewer 12-month plans, more continuous adaptation: Things are changing too rapidly to commit to annual plans and budgets – digital organizations will be more nimble than that. In a post-transformation enterprise, “financial planning happens more frequently, typically using a rolling one year plan reviewed quarterly,” North says.
Fewer blame games, more learning: There actually is no post-digital transformation, as it is a journey that will continue for the life of the organization. In the process, North says, the organization needs to reach a point in which it “is responding quickly and effectively to external and internal feedback, behaving like a genuine learning organization.”