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You Won't Be Transformed Through Digital Transformation Alone: A leadership Perspective For many, digital transformation is the individual aspect in a team sport that can save the game.

By Lester Lam

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Photo by Marvin Meyer on Unsplash

Think about the many team sports we all love to watch, discuss, and argue over. Often, however, we fixate on certain individuals who seem to change the game on its head on their own, capturing the spotlight through their skill. It can be a Steph Curry, an Aaron Rodgers, or a Lionel Messi. The classic examples of Michael Jordan, Babe Ruth, and so many more show that this is a habit we have had for a very long time.

How does this relate to digital transformation? Well, stakeholders across levels in all industries, especially primary decision-makers, see digital transformation in much the same light. For many, digital transformation is the individual aspect in a team sport that can save the game. The streamlining and updating of tools and systems and the implementation of new-age tools are all appealing to high-level stakeholders. But the deeper level of investment, buy-in, and change that digital transformation needs are often overlooked.

It is no wonder that this common misconception of digital transformation as the cure to all business ills exists. We cannot expect to wave this magic wand and gain a 10X growth in the business. In essence, digital transformation goes beyond the digital and spans across the interpersonal, vocational, and cultural aspects of the business. This doesn't mean that it isn't central to elevating business operations, but it certainly isn't the lone ranger we have found it to be until now.

What's in a name?

The obsession with digital transformation may lie with the name itself. The first part of the term, "digital", is very much the present and future of business as we know it. However, not every relevant aspect of a business can be magically enhanced by technology alone, with factors like culture and buy-in coming to the forefront.

Through "transformation", the second part of this term, we usually perceive a sense of immediate change, and a sea change at that. That is not only false, but it is also damaging to the initiative itself. According to some recent reports, the risk of failure in digital transformation can be anywhere from 70% to 95%. Such initiatives try taking on more than they can handle and, although admirable from an ambitious viewpoint, their failure isn't surprising.

Transformations are gradual, process-driven, and often lead to an evolution that an organization chooses to absorb over time. Meaningful results will take time, which automatically inhibits the intentions and objectives of several enterprises.

Going beyond technology

When we pause and consider the many factors that go into making a digital transformation initiative successful, we'll find several areas other than technology that need serious change. They include:

  • Organizational alignment- Perhaps the most common factor in ensuring digital transformation success is pan-organization alignment of all stakeholders. Such initiatives span across multiple teams like IT, sales and marketing, business development, and more. The leadership needs to ensure that maintaining adherence to such initiatives is convenient and possible on a day-to-day basis.
  • Cultural mindset- The organizational culture itself is closely tied to the overall alignment to the digital transformation initiative. There needs to be an overall willingness on the part of all employees and executives to use new tools, adopt agile processes, and change ways of working to suit to rapid delivery. One way to bring about such a change is incentivization in the form of gamifying tasks and even tool usage, which can reap significant benefits.
  • Short- and long-term gain- Some IT executives dive headfirst into installing new digital tools to get immediate change. Small, short-term wins are important but the more we prioritize them, the more we jeopardize long-term gain. Short-term wins often lead to complacency and an unwillingness to update larger, monolithic, legacy systems in the organization. There can be a buildup of technical debt too, which creates bigger problems later.
  • Hiring processes- By 2025, around 149 million new digital jobs will be potentially available in sectors like cybersecurity, AI/ML, and data analysis. The pandemic also accelerated digital transformation for the entire world, where two years' worth of digital transformation happened in just two months. As part of HCLTech's Investor Day 2022, Anand Birje, President of Digital Business Services, discussed how hiring is shifting its focus from "years of experience" to "proficiency" to keep up with the highly dynamic world of technology. Therefore, the human resources (HR) function across organizations needs alignment to these emerging job requirements.

A need for connectivity and investment

To get concrete, sustainable benefits in operations, digital transformation needs to be accompanied by proactive investment and pan-enterprise connectivity.

For the former, which lies in the tangible side of digital transformation, there needs to be a willingness from the top to invest in processes and people. Only with the requisite buy-in can an organization's stakeholders be convinced of any sizeable investment, which can upgrade all personnel with the new systems and processes in place.

For the latter, the onus is on C-suite executives to create a business with zero silos. The aim here is that the business will be able to unify its own objectives with the needs of its customers and employees through robust processes. Such connectivity lies in the intangible side of digital transformation, and as such, makes its implementation more nuanced rather than straightforward.

Digital transformation is, therefore, multi-layered. It can be the primary driver of change in your organization, but it cannot do that alone. We have talked about Michael Jordan, but think of the Showtime Los Angeles Lakers from 1979 to 1991 who dazzled the NBA with their mesmerizing run-and-gun style of play. This was made possible not by one star but by a team of gifted individuals working together to be more than the sum of their parts. Similarly, through a collaborative, shared vision, meaningful digital transformation needs many elements working together. As such, it will set your organization apart and provide you with long-term, meaningful success.

To know how HCLTech can help with digitally transforming your organization, click here.

Lester Lam is Executive Vice President and Global Leader of Consulting, HCLTech. In his role, Lester leads HCLTech’s digital consulting business spanning the Americas, Europe, and APAC. With nearly 30 years in the business transformation and management consulting industries, Lester believes in helping global enterprises adopt the characteristics of digitally native companies to not just “do” digital but to become digital at the core. At HCLTech, Lester is leading the expansion of digital consulting core capabilities across business transformation, strategy and process consulting, experience strategy and design, organizational design and change, and agile transformation.

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