16 July 2020
By Andy Downs – firstname.lastname@example.org
From a workplace perspective, the pandemic is, and continues to be, a catalyst for digital transformation at scale. To meet changing customer needs, businesses around the world have had to transform toward digital-first offerings. The financial services industry, in particular, has felt the urgency to drive digital innovation during the crisis, as one-third of customers, and especially young consumers, will increase their use of online and mobile banking services, like check deposits and P2P payments. This demand will only grow the longer the crisis lasts.
However, a different and equally vital customer segment is just as eager for digital offerings: your employees. More than two-thirds of organisations believe that their workplaces will change as a result of the pandemic; a staggering 87% believe that the crisis will speed the change up. As businesses continue to explore customer-facing technologies, digital transformation must also bring about engaging experiences for your staff.
The current moment presents a significant opportunity to wholly transform the way you serve customers and your employees, and it’s important to get it right. In this post, I share four considerations to guide your digital transformation in a safe and sustainable way, from creating a culture of change to striking a balance between agility and security.
1) Create a culture of change
Does this sound familiar?
While we’d like to find a better way of doing things, we don’t really feel any need to invest in better technology because we’ve always done it this way, we’ve spent a lot of resources on it, and it seems to be working okay for everyone.
As a technology leader, this can be a common, but difficult thing to hear. As you’re likely aware, a key roadblock of employee workplace transformation is that teams grow accustomed to outdated or inefficient technologies and processes. Often, these outdated processes are so entrenched within an organisation that technology workarounds become a standard part of the employee onboarding or training programme, which further limits the prospect of change.
The best way to counter the challenge of, “it’s what we know” or “we’ve invested so much into this already”, is to create a culture of change across the organisation. While leadership has a critical role here, it’s also the technology team that is often tasked with establishing a culture of innovation when it comes to evaluating technologies and driving digital workplace initiatives.
Digital transformation calls for more than just updating technology or redesigning processes. To drive investment in digital transformation, first build the willingness to change. This includes a mindset shift from “what’s worked before” to “what could work” or “where could this take us?” When an organisation is primed for change, you’ll have greater success to embed sustainable and scalable new technologies and ways of working.
What happens when a business isn’t primed for change? Deloitte provides an example of a financial services organisation that sought to adopt a robotic process automation, but was met with a culture wary of change. Because of this, the bot needed to carry out the automation process couldn’t be deployed for a full year after the initial implementation.
To some extent, technology and change can be a bit of a chicken-and-egg scenario: what comes first? While a culture of change is critical to successful transformation, the right technology can also be a catalyst. According to one survey, nearly 40% of workers believe that investment in worker empowerment via technology would enable the business to change and to do so faster.
Just as you make decisions based on KPIs and business goals, any workplace transformation must align with the needs and behaviours of your employees. If not, you risk low adoption and hindered or splintered progress, in which some teams may adopt new tools, but not others. And that can be a risky scenario for many reasons. Be collaborative and take a comprehensive, holistic approach to transformation to best shift the culture and help employees understand, embrace, and advance the transformation.
2) Break free from silos
Instituting a culture of change is critical to any workplace transformation. But how does a technology team tackle this complex goal? The reality is, your team can’t do it alone, and that’s a good thing. To drive change in your organisation requires collaboration not just from the top down, but also across business units. In other words, the second consideration for workplace transformation is to break down silos.
Communication and collaboration are key on two fronts. The first relates to information gathering and decision making. Insights from individuals or units will help your technology team understand how — and why – certain tools are used. This is especially true in “shadow IT” environments in which people have configured or created their own processes for getting work done. This information is vital to highlight gaps and opportunities so that you can select new tools that will actually be used. This information will also help you understand the impact that new technology will have on entrenched processes. The second reason why communication and collaboration are important is for buy-in. When teams can clearly link transformation to making their jobs easier, more secure, or more efficient, there is more likely to be greater long-term uptake.
By opening new lines of communication around a shared goal, technology teams (and the entire organisation) will be better positioned to provide or receive technology innovation toward better business outcomes, internally and externally.
3) Focus on flexibility and collaboration
While much remains unknown about the future post-pandemic world, one thing is certain: modern workplaces must offer the flexibility to work and collaborate from anywhere. This is the result not just of the recent and rapid transformation to work-from-home environments, but also in reaction to long-standing employee preferences and resilient planning against future disruptions.
Even before COVID-19, employees expected a seamless experience for the technology they use in their workday. Employees seek the flexibility to work where and how they want to work, and this trend will only grow following the now mandatory work-from-home rules for many workers.
Any digital workplace transformation you invest in must accommodate these collaboration and communication tools. The right tools can spur productivity and increase employee satisfaction, leading to better work and happier teams; according to one survey, more than 75% of employees said the right digital tools would lead to greater productivity; more than half said it would make them more successful in their roles.
Digital transformation must keep in mind these employee expectations and preferences in terms of how and where people work and how they prefer to communicate, access information, and collaborate. At a minimum, technology teams should include these collaboration tools as part of digital transformation, if you haven’t already. You’re likely to need more than one platform, including video conferencing tools, communication channels outside of email, and file-sharing platforms. For more, please see this guide to collaboration tools and how to stay connected yet compliant in a transforming workplace.
4) Strike the right balance between agility and security
While collaboration tools are critical, there’s a balance to be struck between flexibility and security. Popular collaboration tools enable communication, connection, and collaboration from home offices, but they also open up a new world of potential security and compliance risks. Your digital workplace transformation must strive for a collaborative, yet secure environment to overcome challenges like cybersecurity gaps, data sharing, and compliance. (For more, please see this previous post on some of the top security risks with digital transformation.) To strike the right balance, technology teams need to consider what’s most important to the organisation and continually evaluate and evolve technology and processes to serve these needs.
A recent survey suggests that over one third of respondents said their company was taking a “wait and see” approach to implementing new technology. At the same time, the International Data Corporation projects that organisations will spend £1.6 trillion digital transformation in 2022, driven partly by the proliferation of new technologies, but also in reaction to potential disruption from more tech-enabled competitors.
I argue that modern workplaces no longer have this luxury to “wait and see.” Amidst the pandemic a new and more resilient workplace emerges; organisations must act swiftly to invest in digital transformation to stay competitive and secure and to find and retain top talent.
At KA2, we’re here to help you redefine the workplace to improve the employee experience and achieve your desired business outcomes, and to do so in a secure and scalable way. Please get in touch with us today to discuss your unique organisation and business goals.