What do a butterfly and the emission of water vapour have in common? At first sight nothing, except that both are the results of a transformation, the latter of a certain quantity of water, the former of a caterpillar. Nobody would usually compare both, since the nature of these transformations, the context in which they take place, their initial conditions and their internal mechanisms are totally different. Yet, against all odds, this is typically the kind of confusion organisations make when dealing with their digital transformation.
Digital transformation and change management
It’s time to give up on the assumption according to which technology, supported by what we pompously call “change management”, is supposed to drive transformation through the introduction of new practices. More often than not, “change management”, in that case, is a mere glorified mix of communication (more or less inspired) and training (more or less eye-opening). A living proof of this new era is the recent name change of the Enterprise 2.0 Summit, one of the most prominent conference in Europe, dedicated to digital enterprise transformation, into Digital Enterprise Summit. This change is the logical outcome of the growing awareness among organisers of the need to consider collaborative practices not as an end per se, but as a key element of digitalisation, a process involving business, processes, delivery, and even organisational structures.
Digital transformation is everybody’s business
Another important sign that shows that digital transformation is definitely everyone’s business, is the October 27th-28th 2015 HR Tech Congress. This conference was previously held in Amsterdam (this year it will be taking place in Paris) and is dedicated to digital transformation from a Human Resources point of view. This is a significant event. It also serves the purpose of demonstrating that HR departments, previously known to resist change, are now moving ahead. If you can’t beat them, join them. The event will most probably attract 4,000+ human resource managers and professionals.
At the same time, an increasing number of organisations are appointing, or have already appointed, a Chief Digital Officer. A new role which stresses the growing need to transform all business channels whose aim is to interact with customers. It is yet unclear, however, whether businesses are moving ahead because of the fact that their customers are hyper connected and putting pressure on them in order to modernise or because of an internal urge to rethink the way they work. Too often, businesses rush to apply off-the-shelf solutions, as if technology were making it useless to adapt to both industry and business context.
Digital transformation, no longer an option but no need to rush things out
The fact that, as Gerard Mestrallet, CEO of Engie group, recently stated, digital is no longer an option, but a must-have, shouldn’t be an excuse for jumping headlong into the implementation of trendy technologies or practices. When it comes to digital transformation, one size fits all does not apply.
Businesses tend to grow organically, and they develop their own business culture overtime, based on human interactions, and good practices (which can sometimes be rather hard to trace) and informal skills-based networks which tend to ignore standard hierarchical structures.
Each business must get to grips with its own version of digital transformation, one that looks like no other and is underpinned by human creativity rather than technological fads. That’s the truth behind digital transformation, a radical one which must be implemented by dint of hard work, by choosing one’s path and involving all parties, in order to avoid setbacks.