Digital Transformation

The Human Element of the Digital Transformation

shutterstock_210974194Technology is affording us the ability to do more with less every single day. In fact, as consumers, we’re able to do more with less, every single day, from anywhere.  In an highly electronic world, e-commerce companies are harkening us back to the old “Name That Tune” game show, priding themselves on how few clicks it will take us to complete transactions for goods and services from anywhere at any time.

Such is the root of the Digital Transformation, a term that is gripping not just IT sectors but the e-commerce world as we know it. Trends analyst Altimeter defines digital transformation as “the realignment of, or new investment in, technology and business models to more effectively engage digital customers at every touch point in the customer experience life cycle.” This has led companies to rethink and reengineer their approach to mobile technology, cloud storage, customer personalization, and more.  The importance of IT and Marketing leadership working together has never been more important.

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This sounds amazing, and frankly, it is (we’ve come a long way since my first Palm Pilot III in 1997!).  As technical as it is, though, there is a huge human element to digital transformations.  The end customer is the obvious focus here, as he or she must be aware of any new offering, buying channel, or service that a digital company may create.

However, the group that gets overlooked most often are the e-commerce company’s internal employees who must support these new offerings.  The marketing execs may create awesome new ways of reaching their customers, and the IT execs may build ground breaking technology to engage consumers, but if the internal structures and employees aren’t ready and prepared to support the new models, the resulting train wreck will put the company in a position far worse than if nothing had been changed at all.  In these days where customer loyalty is fickle because options abound, can you afford to not be able to efficiently fulfill orders or provide first class customer service?

Have you seen the commercial where the family creates an internet company in the garage and simply can’t keep up when orders start pouring in?  That may be an oversimplified example for Fortune 100 or even Fortunate 5000 companies, but the reality is that an unprepared workforce and inadequate internal structures can cause the best ideas to grind the organization to a painful halt.

The moral to the story is that it’s absolutely critical to have a focus on your internal organization when introducing digital transformation activities in the organization.  You’re asking employees to think, act and perform differently, and that doesn’t happen on its own.  You even may change reporting and/or compensation structures.  None of these changes are small and should not be underestimated.  Change is hard, and human nature’s natural tendency is to resist change.

Frankly, the people side of the digital transformation is not nearly as sexy as a slick new mobile app or even a beautiful new high definition website, but having your employees bought in, aware, and trained, or said another way, ready, willing and able to support the new environment, may be the difference between initiative success and failure, and in a worst case scenario, between company life or death.

About the Author

David is the General Manager for Perficient's Organizational Change Management practice, part of the Strategic Advisors Team. He has over twenty years of consulting experience and resides in Charlotte, North Carolina. Be sure to also check out David’s personal blog. It focuses on collaboratively building the breadth and depth of our collective change management knowledge based on insights and experiences shared to help one another grow.

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