Business Professionals Sound Off on Digital Transformation

Business Professionals Sound Off on Digital Transformation

Business Professionals Sound Off on Digital Transformation

The Fast Track has examined business technology advances like digital transformation and citizen development from the perspective of the CIO and other tech leaders. But what are employees – inside and outside of IT – thinking and doing?

Digital transformation is a transformation because it affects everyone within the organization from the c-suite on down. But at this point in time, is it more of a theory – something that organizations aspire to – or a reality? A group of recent studies provide insight into the degree to which non-IT employees desire and are helping to move the needle.

Age Discrepancies Are Real

To start, Capgemini Consulting conducted a 2016 joint research study with the MIT Center for Digital Business. The partners interviewed over 150 executives across a broad range of industry sectors and geographies. Not surprisingly, the research found that younger workers today have greater familiarity with digital tools and ways of working than their more tenured counterparts.

The Capgemini consulting executives highlighted a growing gap between older and younger workers in their expectations and work habits around technology. Where older employees face a learning curve, millennial workers are often underwhelmed by the digital tools available to them.

One executive commented: “these people coming into the company, mid 20s, late 20s, even early 30s, they do everything electronically.  They say:  ‘Come on, I know the company is over 100 years old, but our information and IT capabilities don’t have to match the age of the company!’”

Along the same lines, according to the Dell Future Workforce Study, which was conducted in 2016 by Penn Schoen Berland, nearly half of American millennials (42 percent) said they’d likely quit a job if workplace tech didn’t meet their standards – nearly 4X as many as baby boomers (14 percent). Eighty-one percent of millennials reported the technology available influences their decision to take a new position compared to 53 percent of baby boomers.

Sixty-two percent of millennials said remote teams and better communication technology will make face to face communication obsolete compared to 48 percent of Gen X-ers and 32 percent of baby boomers. And nearly 3 in 4 American millennials (72 percent) said it’s likely they will be working in a smart office using the Internet of Things in the next five years – compared to 52 percent of Gen X-ers and 35 percent of baby boomers. Finally, 68 percent of millennial workers anticipated using AR/VR products in their professional life (compared to 55 percent of Gen X-ers and 42 percent of baby boomers), and 70 percent of millennial workers agreed that their jobs could be made easier with the assistance of AI (compared to 49 percent of Gen X-ers and 34 percent of baby boomers).

Adoption Remains A Barrier

Some of the executives Capgemini Consulting and MIT interviewed reported success in using platforms such as enterprise social networks or collaboration tools, but others highlighted challenges. Given the investment made in these systems, lack of adoption is a serious concern. One respondent stated: “We’ve spent an awful lot of money on technology, but I still see people working in the old way.”

On the user side, executives reported a lack of understanding and unclear business value as major issues. A leader in the food service industry explained: “I think people are apprehensive about new technologies. They don’t understand them and there is a fear of the unknown. They don’t fully understand how they’re going to drive business outcomes.”

Many of Capgemini’s respondents recognized that new digital tools, automation of business processes, and an increasing role of data in decision-making can increase transparency in an organization. But, as conversations move online and information is more freely available, they also witnessed resistance from management employees.

Managers may view these trends as a threat to their autonomy or influence. Explaining sales managers’ reactions to the introduction of a real-time reporting platform, one Capgemini executive commented: “That kind of transparency, they’re not used to, so there’s an initial push back.”

Differing Views On Progress

When it comes to how quickly organizations are making full transformations, again we see that CIO attitudes differ from other employee populations. For instance, in the Capgemini Consulting and MIT research, 82 percent of digital professionals said their organizations were investing properly in digital skills (compared to only 40 percent of other employees).

Furthermore, 82 percent of what Capgemini/MIT called the “digerati” agreed that their organizations are promoting the necessary cultural changes for digital transformation, but rank-and-file employees were far less confident – only 38 percent agreed with this statement.

QuickBase, Inc. also surveyed 300 IT and operational decision-makers in the U.S. on the topic of digital transformation progress – with similar findings.

According to our 2016 report, there is often a disconnect between how IT views an organization’s digital transformation progress and how the rest of the organization views it. For instance, 70 percent of c-suite respondents said they are either “ahead” or “way ahead” of other organizations, while just 30 percent of other employees shared the same view.

A majority (84 percent) of the QuickBase respondents agreed that for digital transformation efforts to succeed, employees need to be more involved, and even start using solutions on their own through BYOD or citizen development tools. Eighty-four percent of respondents agreed that it is important for employees to build their own solutions to ensure process excellence.

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But is this actually happening? Based on the QuickBase study, it’s not occurring as much as it could or should. Two-thirds of respondents said their IT application development teams are developing apps targeted to digital transformation, while only 23 percent said non-IT staff are doing so. What’s the holdup? Respondents commented that the unavailability of IT staff is often a major barrier to digital transformation success. Non-IT folks are capable of taking the reins, but not without some guidance first.

Despite conflicting views on progress, nearly all of QuickBase’s c-level respondents (97 percet) indicated that digital transformation is a top priority for their organizations, and a smaller majority of regular managers (68 percent) agreed with them.

Marketing As An Exception?

Digital transformation thought leader Brian Solis undertook an interesting experiment when he questioned 500 executives about who owns digital transformation efforts. His 2016 report, Six Stages of Digital Transformation revealed that ownership unequivocally resides with the chief marketing officer or CMO (34 percent). This probably comes as a bit of a shock to CIO/CTOs who have traditionally led technology roadmaps. In fact, the CIO/CTO followed in a distant third place at 19 percent.

Why are marketers undertaking digital transformation more quickly than everyone else? Solis suggested it’s because they are leading the charge in technology investments to upgrade and build touch points that lead connected customers along a more productive journey. And customer experience has become a major strategic priority for organizations that wish to remain competitive.

Marketing isn’t acting in a bubble, either. Solis’ research with mature companies demonstrated that the greatest digital transformation progress occurs when marketing, IT, and other functional groups work together – banding around customer experience to fix business fundamentals, remove friction, and introduce new value propositions.

What does the average employee in your organization know about digital transformation? To what degree has total transformation penetrated your company? Are transformation efforts still being led mostly by IT, or have other groups moved forward on their own?

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