Digital transformation in action: 4 lessons for technology leaders

Is your organisation a digital business? As it stands, one in five business leaders say theirs is – four in five say theirs will be within three years. That’s a huge leap, and not all businesses are ready for the change.

The term ‘digital business’ raises an immediate and understandable association with technology. That is unavoidable. But, as research shows, at the heart of the challenge is a distinctly human factor: skills.

Almost half of these same business leaders feel a lack of digital skills is blocking their path to transformation. And yet, less than half have equipped themselves with a strategy for the development of skills in a digital world.

>See also: Digital transformation: how banks are cashing in

Financial services giant Barclays has shown that with the right approach a successful digital transformation is possible – and that technology leaders within businesses play a central role. There are four key lessons to be learned its their success.

1. Start small

Businesses often focus on the end result of digital transformation. Don’t fall into the same trap – start small. Barclays’ ‘Digital Eagles’ began as an internal brand for 21 bright and passionate front line staff.

These ambassadors were far from digital experts – and some had no digital skills at all. But their enthusiasm was fostered, and just 18 months later over 1,000 Barclays’ Eagles have been nurtured.

This growing community is a huge asset to the business, helping customers to embrace online banking services. The bank is charging ahead of its competitors and leading the way across sectors on all things digital.

2. Form alliances

This is a huge opportunity for CIOs and CTOs. The C-suite needs direction from those who understand the role technology – and the application of it – plays in their business.

Meanwhile, HR directors appreciate the value of relevant, digital skills – but many lack the expertise to roll out training themselves and ensure it is aligned with industry best practice that the technological needs of the business.

This need for digital direction is widespread. In fact, a recent HBR report highlighted the gap across business functions, from marketing to HR, between the need for digital skills and existing skillsets.

Unsurprisingly, the department with the smallest digital skills gap was IT. Meanwhile, half of the business leaders surveyed were looking to their CIO to learn more about digital trends.

The lesson here is clear: form alliances across key parts of the business, and demonstrate your own value by supporting the digital shift.

3. Make the most of a head start

Businesses are already blessed with a vital catalyst for change: employees are ready for it. In fact, over 80% of them acknowledge that digital technologies will transform the way they work in the next three years.

Over two-thirds are already proactively learning new digital skills to prepare for the change. This significantly boosts your chances of success.

As you begin to discover your digital enthusiasts, foster them and help them become digital champions. Reward the employees bold enough to put their newfound skills into action. Their enthusiasm will be infectious, and play a key role in successful digital transformation.

4. 10% understanding, 100% commitment

In any successful transformation programme, the business must be 100% committed. That part speaks for itself. Equally important, however, is recognising that digital education doesn’t mean turning the entire workforce into digital gurus.

Keeping up with constantly changing technology is a challenge, even for the most digital-savvy of employees – expecting that across the board is unrealistic and unproductive.

Focus on the 10%. Your primary goal should be making sure everyone has at least that 10% understanding of what’s going on and how things work – from boardroom to front line.

That 10% is enough to remove the technology fear factor, empower staff to factor technology into problem solving, and help the board dive into conversations they might have previously avoided.

This last part is critical, with less than a third of business leaders feeling well prepared when it comes to making changes in management practices to adapt to the digital ecosystem.

>See also: How Barclays is restoring banking trust with innovation

One thing is clear: businesses that don’t adapt to the digital shift risk being left behind. For the ones that do, their technology leaders will play an essential role.

This is a huge opportunity for CIOs and CTOs to step up, play a crucial role in future-proofing the organisation and put their technical knowledge to use.

Businesses blessed with these leaders will pave the way for digital excellence. In this new digital era, only the bold will survive.


Sourced from Emma Cerrone, founder and CEO, Freeformers

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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