Andrew Duncan at Infosys Consulting explains the importance of accounting for people and skills in any digital transformation initiative
When we talk about digital transformation, it is often in relation to technology. Indeed, during this period of instability and perceived lack of control, companies need an operating model with digital systems and processes at its core, designed to handle a future of uncertainty and unpredictability.
However, digitalisation is as much about people as it is about software or IT infrastructure. Now, more than ever, businesses are understanding that they might operate better, faster, and more adaptably in the future by nurturing their most important asset: their talent.
In the next decade, we will see a seismic shift in the way leaders hire, manage, and train their employees in order to drive sustainable business performance.
1. Democratisation of skills
It is undeniable that the pandemic has widened the skills gap, with a particular shortage of talent in technical areas. According to the World Economic Forum, technical skills are twice as likely to be associated with high-income occupations – while, at the same time, the global health crisis has inflicted a greater economic toll on those groups working in low income or at-risk jobs.
As we build the digital post-Covid world, businesses must look to democratise digital skills to help these individuals fully participate in the post-pandemic economy. In the same vein, organisations will look to skills-based hiring to reduce unconscious bias in the recruiting process, empowering leaders to make far more informed decisions about a candidate. AI can play a key role in helping HR leaders overcome human-bias in decision making, creating inclusive job descriptions, and reviewing them for gender-coded language.
2. Evolving role of the CDO
An increasing number of my client conversations are anchored around joint value propositions between business and IT, which are starting to operate as integrated teams and decision-makers in the strategic process. With digital transformation so much wider than just IT, the CTO or CIO is now first and foremost a digital, not a technology or IT, officer.
At this moment in time, the Chief Digital Officer (CDO) is in prime position to take the lead in driving digital innovation. However, it could be argued that the true measure of a CDO’s success is when the role becomes obsolete. By its very nature, a high-functioning and deeply digital company may not need a CDO.
In the next decade, as digital becomes fundamentally embedded within every facet of the organisation, more and more chief executives and board members will be coming from a technical background – and we will see the CDO role evolve into something different altogether.
3. Dynamic partner ecosystems
The pandemic exposed deep fragility in existing systems and demonstrated the importance of developing a network of partners to improve resiliency and adaptability for unforeseen circumstances. A dynamic, diverse ecosystem of platforms, capabilities and partners helps companies to not only respond to threats of disruption, but also fuels innovation.
In the new future, more companies will align capabilities and share resources in order to create new and innovative products and services, as well as accelerating speed to market. Partnership opportunities are even richer with the emergence of advanced analytics and real-time data, which can be combined to create solutions that meet the needs of the target audience – personalising products as never before and greatly improving customer experience.
4. High value work through intelligent automation
Reimagining the operating and service delivery models through the lens of intelligent automation and AI can undoubtedly reduce costs and increase business value, freeing up workers to focus on work of higher value.
We see can see this in the commercial banking industry. Commercial banks often struggle to extract the value from the vast repository of customer and transaction data to better understand their customers, generate rich analytics, and drive insights-led engagements. In fact, we’ve seen that relationship managers can spend less than 50% of their quality time interacting with clients.
Advancements in disruptive technologies, such as AI and machine learning, offer a very real opportunity to extract value from the data, freeing relationship managers to add significant value to their customer engagements.
Diversity, inclusion and equality
Practicing inclusive leadership in times of crisis has no doubt proved challenging in periods of uncertainty, with changing policies exacerbating inequalities in the workplace. However, businesses that put DI&E (diversity, inclusion, and equality) on the agenda will not only be better placed to support their employees but will also be more likely to drive impact through action.
Post-pandemic, we will continue to see executives implementing changes such as expanded remote, hybrid and flexible work, flexibility to move from full to part-time schedule, and adjustments to paid and unpaid leave policies. Organisations that seize this moment – and dedicate time, budget, and staff accordingly – will help continue the momentum towards a more equitable and just world.
In the new future, the focus must shift from how businesses can just use technology to improve their bottom line to how they can use technology to support and engage their people. In the end, digital transformation will not be a panacea or cure-all for anything. Rather, it’s a platform for leadership to build their organisations of the future – leading from the front and engaging all of their employees in the journey ahead, to shape that future ambition.
Andrew Duncan is Partner and UK CEO at Infosys Consulting.
Main image courtesy of iStockPhoto.com