It’s a strategic focus in any organization: The Digital Transformation. But it’s a struggle. How come this proves to be so difficult? In this article three main mistakes and three challenges to get it right.

Mistake number one: A Chief Digital Officer

One of the ways organizations try to ensure progress is to appoint a Chief Digital Officer. Someone with a lot of power, at a high level in the organization, to make it happen. But how can one person – surely with a team – bring the organisation in the right position, when a Digital Transformation impacts everyone. Yes… everyone in the organization. And everything. The transformation should not be the responsibility of one person or team. But it should be a shared responsibility throughout the organisation.

Mistake number two: Tech is just a tactic

I have said it before, and I will say it again, and again, until you get it. Tech is just a tactic. A huge problem with the approach of a Digital Transformation is to focus on the tech. With having the tech in place nothing will change. I guess tech is a tangible thing and thus easy to focus on. Also the phrase Digital Transformation implies that it’s all about digital stuff. But don’t be fooled. Tech is an enabler. It’s part of the transformation. But it’s not the hard part…

Mistake number three: Outsource the approach

As many organizations struggle to understand what is required, they get a consultancy firm on board to help them out. This firms sets up a team, and then – with military precision & high pressure on timelines – the organization is taken through a step-by-step transformation. But as soon as the consultants leave the premises, the transformation bounces back to where you started. Or worse .. leaves you in chaos, because the organization doesn’t own the process. You left that to the consultants…

These are just three big things I see. So how to quit the struggle and start doing things that work. Here are some key points.

Challenge number one: Understand what it’s about

It’s so obvious, it’s often forgotten. Get to understand what it’s about. Truly understand what a Digital Transformation is about, and why it is necessary. Digital technology offers many opportunities. But it’s not a free ride. You have to get on board, or you will be out of business.

Basically this is the story: you digitize anything that is possible, to free up the people to do the great stuff.

People should not compete with computers. If we try to be as good as a computer, we will be defeated. The clue is that we – as humans – have unique qualities which a computer does not have. We have the power to link the head with the heart. To truly connect with people. Do things from guts, instead of ratio. That’s were innovation comes from. Digital Transformation means that you free up the human potential in your organization to do what computers cannot do. That’s where your competitive advantage is. So it’s not about understanding the bits & bytes, but about the difference and complementary way of working with artificial and human intelligence. Get the big picture. And then you will see how you can go from a to b to c. Also keep in mind that for every organization the path will be different, because the starting point is different.

Challenge number two: Love processes 

I know that most people hate processes. And then there are the very few who love them. People who are so passionate about fitting work that happens within an organization into tight processes. I’m sure you can recollect one or two colleagues who fit this description. These colleagues should be your best friends! In order to digitize what can be digitized, first it needs to be identified, standardized, with a clear process and then the step to digitization can be made.

Doing all the work in the way we want, is not the way forward. Now I realize that this will put a lot of people off. Most of us don’t want to be told how to do our work. We want to decide for ourselves. But try and look at it differently. Standardizing and digitizing our work, means that we free ourselves from the dreary stuff and get time to do where we can make a difference. The work that can not be digitized. The part where we add value!

Challenge number three: It’s all about people

Reading challenge number one and two, I hope you already got the main message. It’s not about tech, it’s about people. First: to help the people in the organization to understand the bigger picture. To see the challenge, but more important the potential of where we are heading. Second: to help people to reshape work. To shift work that can be digitized, by standardizing and digitizing. And make the people who love processes your heroes. You need to work together on this big thing to make the shift. And third: know your people and their potential. Help them to further develop themselves to really add value in the area’s where a human touch is essential.

If we are to have a happy future where we fully use the potential of artificial intelligence (anything a computer can do) we need to understand our own potential. Human potential is your biggest asset. That is where you should invest. To make it grow and make it stand out!

Note: In my articles I share my personal insights, based on what I see and experience. Feel free to disagree and share your views. Dialogue is much more interesting than taking things as they are.