A Year of Accelerated Digital Transformation: Lessons Learned from the Pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has expedited digital transformation across many industries. According to a survey conducted by Deloitte and Fortune magazine, 77% of CEOs reported that the crisis sped up their companies’ digital transformation plans.
But what did we learn from our experiences over the last year? This was the topic of a fascinating discussion at the recent Maryland Technology Council’s 2021 Digital Transformation Virtual Summit.
We heard from a panel of experts, including our own Dorothy Kookaby, Dovel’s Senior Principal Human Resources Business Partner, about where organizations are focusing their efforts, the importance of bringing people along on that journey, and measuring the success of digital transformation.
Unpacking digital transformation – forget about the technology
If you’re unclear on what the term digital transformation means, you’re not alone. It’s a conversation many organizations struggle to have. Yet here we are, a year into a period in which only those companies who learned to harness its power have thrived.
Part of the challenge that organizations have when thinking about digital transformation is they focus on technology, not what technology enables. “The act of transforming is reinventing how stakeholders use technology to power decisions…and how we deliver services to customers,” said Brian Price, CEO and co-Founder at cloudtamer.io.
But, as Kookaby noted: “Digital transformation can seem like it’s powered by rocket fuel.” Given the velocity of adoption in the past year, many organizations are seeking affirmation they’re “doing digital transformation” correctly. Here, a consistent recommendation emerged: start small, iterate, and don’t overlook people.
“Focus on areas where you’ll gain immediate payback,” said Kookaby. Forget about the technology; instead, focus on problems and challenges you can improve.
Wolf Ruzicka, chairman of EastBanc Technologies, agreed: “Start somewhere close to the heart of your mission. Focus on an MVP or killer feature you can complete in a few months. The risk of getting it wrong might be high, but it doesn’t endanger the entire organization. Then, invoke this change and take steps in line with your comfort levels.”
Bring people along for the journey
While technology enables digital transformation, the panel all agreed that it’s people who bring it together.
“Make sure that your employees and stakeholders are informed, educated, and involved in that path of transformation from the beginning,” said Kookaby. “Start small and drum up excitement.”
Kookaby shared an example of how Dovel did just that. “To improve employee experiences and offset our busy HR team’s workload, we developed an HR chatbot named ‘Heidi.’ The bot’s initial use case was to support career advancement by connecting employees with job opportunities within the company,” said Kookaby. “Building on this early success, we evolved Heidi to include self-service capabilities that answered common questions that employees have about PTO accrual, pay dates, and so on.”
In addition to creating excitement around transformation, Heidi proved the many different use cases for the technology – an important lever for engagement in further transformation.
“Show how [the technology] impacts the end user,” said Price. “Whether it’s helping them to make decisions, do their jobs better, or enrich their lives.”
Digital transformation is not an episode, it’s a process
From an IT perspective, the panelists concurred that the pandemic was the event that forced organizations to be agile and to use technology to continue to transform.
The Cloud, for instance, is an empowering technology that made rapid transformation possible, particularly around remote work. “Remote work was a foreign concept for us,” said Kookaby. She noted the federal contracting space Dovel operates in traditionally perpetuated a myth that “real” work could only be done in a traditional environment. “Yet we debunked that myth and continue to pivot to ensure that our customers and employees don’t miss a beat.”
In short, the digital transformation that began during the pandemic must continue in the months and years ahead. As Ruzicka put it: “Digital transformation is not an episode, it’s a process.”
Measuring the success of digital transformation
How do you measure digital transformation? The panel closed the session with important pointers for all stakeholders.
“Just like any investment, organizations must demonstrate the efficiencies realized,” said Price. “Have new markets been reached? What decisions have you been able to make? What about time savings? Capture those success stories.”
Attrition is also now a critical measure of success. As Kookaby explained. “The support, tools, resources, and communication we gave our employees during the pandemic resulted in a reduction in staff turnover, and that speaks volumes.”
Ruzicka agreed. “This is the metric to report. Digital transformation has the potential to be so disruptive, that we must measure our success not in terms of revenue growth or profits, but only in terms of employee turnover,” he said. “It’s all about people and how we bring them along on this journey. That’s what we should care about.”
The entire session – Innovation for the New Normal: The Acceleration of Digital Transformation in 2020 – is now available to view on demand.