Digital transformation continues to be a hot topic in organisations, particularly as we start to (potentially) emerge from the covid pandemic. Remote working practices that were once seen as unusual and unproductive by some managers, have become the norm. And the discussion about what will become the 'new normal' is gathering pace, with extreme views on either side. There is no doubt that there is a divide - those who can and cannot work remotely, those who can and cannot manage remote workers effectively and those who feel that the social interaction and support network of a physical office is key to high performance.
I'm no futurist, so do not suggest I can tell you how this will all play out, but I can offer my thoughts about how to make a digital future work more effectively for workers and leaders alike.
My overwhelming view of remote working is that it is a positive change that should be embraced. Remote working can create more diverse, more inclusive teams and facilitate greater productivity. However, in order to achieve this, remote working implementation needs to be done correctly. Which leads us to digital transformation.
Huge swathes of the service economy have already made the shift to digital operations. Those who haven't made the transition have fallen by the wayside (Blockbuster Video anyone?). But, to be successful, digital transformation requires more than moving existing paper-based and face-to-face processes online. Digital transformation requires a holistic change to an organisation. Change initiatives focus on People, Process and Technology; with technology coming last for a reason.
All change - particularly digital transformation - needs to use technology as part of the solution rather than the answer. If an initiative is driven by the technology, it is doomed to fail. The world is littered with examples of inflexible IT that might deliver what was defined, but most definitely does not deliver what is required (or even needed).
The early days of the UK government shift to digital operations had some (appalling) examples of poor customer service made worse by going online. This was often because (at least in the early days) 'going digital' was seen as taking what already existed in a paper-based world and moving it online.
Thankfully, the world has moved on, and digital transformation can and is being created driven by strong use cases and agile development processes. A great case study is Open Banking. Initiated by regulators as a way of increasing customer choice and competition in financial services, this programme has created a new ecosystem of large and small organisations collaborating to create excellent customer journeys and experience. Their research into customer wants and needs that culminated in the Customer Experience Guidelines is a masterclass in how to use technology to take solutions further than ever imagined.
Learning from Open Banking, the key principles that led the specifications and associated guidance were that digital transformation should:
Optimise the user/customer experience
Drive operational efficiency
Although technology is at the heart of the Open Banking service (it is after all essentially a set of API specifications to enable digital payments and data analysis), the driver was the 'use cases' - what were the problems that Open Banking was aiming to solve? Working collaboratively across many organisations, with many areas of expertise and interest has created a sustainable and repeatable offering that is now being considered for areas such as pensions, financial advice and energy providers. This is true digital transformation - driven by people, enabled by technology.
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