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People before technology – the number one rule in Digital Transformation

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You could be forgiven for thinking that technology is the most important factor in any Digital Transformation. But, as our considerable experience of guiding clients through Digital Transformations tells us, people are actually the most important factor.

What is Digital Transformation?

Digital Transformation (DT) is the change associated with carefully managed smart integration of digital technologies, processes and competencies across all levels and functions of a business. 

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Digital Transformation is vital for preparing your business for future success – Image source: Forbes

Why is there so much talk of Digital Transformation?

A Digital Transformation will fundamentally change the way that a company operates and delivers value to its customers, challenging and disrupting the ‘this is the way we’ve always done things’ attitude fatal to any business preparing itself for the future.[1]

It’s understandable, then, that CEOs and business leaders should be making Digital Transformation an absolute priority for their organisations. Particularly when the pace of technology and the change it can bring about is now so fast.

But did you know that 70 percent of Digital Transformations fail?[2]

Put people first – not technology

What’s the number one reason that Digital Transformations fail? 


Or, more to the point, the failure of leadership teams to bring people with them along the Digital Transformation journey. 

The inability to communicate Digital Transformation to the people in your organisation effectively and constantly get them to recognise the benefits of the changes they’re expected to be a part of could mean that your Digital Transformation never gets off the ground.

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Any Digital Transformation that puts technology before people is doomed to fail – Image source: Techradar

Too many people blame technology as the issue when their respective Digital Transformations fail, but they were actually doomed from the start because they’d put technology ahead of people. [4]

It’s a problem we see so often when talking to businesses and assessing why their Digital Transformations haven’t worked out how they wanted – or expected – them to.

Changing mindsets

Change isn’t something you can force on people. You can try, but – unless you want a company full of unhappy people that will run for the exit at the first possible opportunity – you will fail. 

Digital Transformation – which is all about change (changes in technology, in tools, in processes, in meetings, in markets you want to reach, in approaches) – isn’t something you can force on your teams, either. If you attempt to, you run the risk of losing the talent that you saw as having a great future role to play in the future success of your company.

So, how do you go about introducing potential change? You need to win hearts and minds. And to gradually influence your staff to change their mindsets – both collectively and individually – and ultimately buy into what it is you’re all trying to achieve together.

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Changing the mindsets of your people and encouraging them to see the benefits in what you’re trying to achieve together is crucial to a successful Digital Transformation – Image source: Harvard Business Review

One very famous study – ‘Managerial Influence in the Implementation of New Technology’ [5] – found that employees take note when senior leaders enthusiastically communicate goals and announce bold initiatives for achieving them. 

It’s key to get your people to understand very early on in the piece why the change brought about by a Digital Transformation will benefit them and the company as a whole.[6]

Inspiration alone isn’t enough

OK, so you’ve inspired your employees by showing them a vision of the future where everything works smoothly, the company is outperforming its competitors by miles and everyone is happy.

You’ve invested in what you believe to be the very best technology in the business. You’ve got specialist teams coming in to run scrum and introduce new processes that you’re sure that your employees will prefer to all those old methodologies.

Wow, look at all these new ways we have of collecting data and using it to delight our customers with new or improved products and services.

But do you see the problem here?

You’ve introduced shiny new tools, new technologies, new processes, new ways of doing things without consulting your people first. You’ve not let them help you to understand how things really work on the ground, and why some of the things you’ve introduced will not be fit-for-purpose. And, because of that, your Digital Transformation – despite your best intentions – will very likely fall down.

At the outset of your Digital Transformation journey, make sure you consult your people, listen to them, and understand their concerns. Only then will your company be properly prepared to plan a successful Digital Transformation.

In conclusion – H.O.W. to upskill for the future

Now you understand why people – and not technology – are the most important element in any Digital Transformation. But do you have enough knowledge within your company to successfully implement your Digital Transformation? 

At eBusiness Institute, we want to equip each function of your organisation with the skills to fly solo through the Digital Transformation. 

Our H.O.W. Capability Building programs rely on a fundamental motto: it’s not just what they learn, but H.O.W. they learn it. That’s why we systematically offer our corporate clients the option of an initial assessment of the existing capabilities of their teams before tailoring a program that specifically addresses their needs.

Please contact us if you’d like to learn more about how we can upskill your teams and organisation.

This article was written and created by the eBusiness Institute team.

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We want to equip each function of your organisation with the practical skills and learnings required to succeed in a fast-changing world. 

Our Capability Building programs rely on a fundamental motto: it’s not just what they learn, but H.O.W. they learn it. 

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