Friday, October 07, 2016

Digital Transformation inside Enterprise: Redefining the Future of Work

I recently presented in a Conference Board unConference event in Brussels. The theme of the event is the Futue of Digital Transformation and Innovation. I presented on the topic "How will the work change as we digitalise the workplace: new leadership, new work practices, new relationship?"

In this event, I am privileged to meet up with many thought leaders who understand how digital transformation is impacting on society, business, industry and innovation, and we all recognise it is a long and difficult journey to get it right, yet we all believe and are passionate to co-create a way forward. It was a thought provoking meeting, and I am grateful to be invited. 

See this infographic created by Conference Board which sums up the keynote sessions:

To me, digital transformation is not about automation, i.e. applying the same process to get work done faster using new technologies. Digital transformation is about how we achieve business objectives with a different / better model, made possible by the new technologies available. 

When looking at digital transformation inside enterprise, it is going to redefine employees experience at work. No longer limited by time and space, digital changes the foundation and engrained assumptions in terms of how work gets done:

- Talents can work anytime and anywhere in a personalised way. Space is no longer a constraint. Clock-in-clock-out is no longer the only way to demonstrate productivity. What if physical and digital space can extend, compliment and blend together?

- Talents can choose to get work done on personal or work devices and set preferences tailored made to individual needs. One-size-fit-all device and business application based on conformity to the lowest common denominator is no longer the only option. What if each talent can define his/her user experience at work?

- Talents can build relationship, connect, communicate and share ideas and knowledge across boundaries quickly and easily. The hierarchical management, top-down communication, silos team working is no longer the only management model. What if work can be organised around a peer-to-peer networked model?

Despite the opportunities on offer, change is hard. Redefine the rule of the game means people who manage the status quo, and the associated policies, processes, tools, incentive schemes to support the status quo are feeling the ground is shifting, resulting in unease and resistance to change. The journey is not easy, and when getting it right, the outcome is impactful and transformational. 

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Digital transformation with business purpose: Leadership 2.0 required at all levels

Talking about digital transformation. Does digital come first or the business need to transform come first? 

Very often, digital evangelists (including intrapreneurs) embrace everything digital and excitedly introduce them to their colleagues, only to find out that their colleagues "really didn't get it". Typical responses are:
- We have always done it this way and it works, why should we do it differently?
- Does this replace what we are doing today? Does this make me/my team more efficient, so we can do more with less time/resource? How do we measure success? 
- These new digital tools are too overwhelming, does that mean I have even more to don more updates, communications to read? I am already overloaded.
- They are for my kids, they are for digital savvy people, they find it very easy, but I think otherwise. I am not good with digital, I feel inadequately equipped to go digital yet. 

The challenge does not stop here. The next challenge is what is this "digital thing" suppose to transform? Could it be: 
- adding digital to what we currently do ("Let's digitalise the training materials so they become elearning modules". "Let's digitalise the marketing message, so it is now published as a blog on the website").
- using digital to achieve efficiency savings ("Let's go digital and do what we do faster. Instead of sending email to target audience, let's blast them with more messages via multiple social media channels.)

Who ultimately make the decision on digital transformation? I would say the business with a digital mindset (and if in the transition period when a company is building up the digital capabilities, business with input from the digital transformation team).

Why do I mean?

There is nothing wrong for the business setting efficiency and cost saving goals. In the past decades, machines and computers have enabled automation which allow us to do  repetitive calculations or reduce labour. Most leaders can visualise what to expect. This is good, but perhaps not good enough.

What if business leaders start to ask "what if" digital can enble my business to doing something differently, rather than doing the same thing faster or a little bit better? What if business leaders start asking what are the possibilities and opportunities to use digital to fundamentally choange how we work and how we conduct business. What if business leaders start to ask what would the future or work / future of business / future of government look like? 

Digital transformation requires a deep understanding of the business, why the company exist, and the value it aims to create for the customers. It also requires a mindset shift, ie to face up to the digital challenge (when one will never be able to catch up with new digital products being rolled out every day) and learn to swim in it and try things out even though we do not grow up with them. It requires the leaders to learn to feel comfortable when one do not know it all and that one can trial and fail fast, and keep moving on. In a highly networked world and when digital content are exchanged at the speed of light, digital transformation requires business leaders to create the capability for employees and partners to collaborate and work with one another when new issues or opportunities emerge.

This new ways of thinking and working, with clear business purpose and delivering value for customers in mind, require senior managers, experts, designers to let go of our ego and start to listen, learn from our younger persons, people with less experience and with different perspectives, and all employees at all levels need to learn to better listen and learn from one another as we explore new uncharted territories. 

I call this leadership 2.0, and digital transformation (whether it is enterprise 2.0, Web 2.0 or customer service 2.0 etc) needs leadership 2.0 at all levels. Every employees, at all levels, need to change and embrace change, as change become the new constant. We all need to learn to have an open mind, able to learn and unlearn, have genuine dialogue across hierarchy to get there.