7 ways to become a digital-first organisation

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Written by Bernard Marr on 31 August 2022 in Features
Features

Bernard Marr explores digital transformation, and offers tips to leaders who want their teams to embrace change

Digital transformation is reimagining business for the digital age and creating new business processes, customer experiences, and cultures to meet changing needs. This shift indicates a massive change in how companies deliver value to their customers.

In today’s world, every company is a digital company. Businesses that fail to recognise that technologies like AI, Web3, and the metaverse are transforming their industries will no longer be competitive and will simply be left behind. That’s why it’s critical that managers and HR leaders rally their teams to support digital transformation in their organisations.

Why digital transformation is a misnomer

The term digital transformation creates the impression of a one-off exercise that companies can check off their lists and immediately be back on track. That’s not the case at all. Our world is now digital-first, and companies must adapt to this new reality to stay competitive.

Technological innovation – including data science, AI, machine learning, 5G, 6G, blockchain, virtual and augmented reality, and so on – will only continue to accelerate. As a result, companies will need to continuously re-imagine what they do, how they operate, and how they deliver value to their customers in this new digital world.
 
Change can be scary for your team members, but it’s the lifeblood of progress and evolution

7 tips for adopting a digital first approach 
That said, here are some tips for helping teams adopt a digital-first approach.

1. Let teams contribute to the process
Companies shouldn’t be doing digital transformation to people – they should be working with team members to reach goals. Put people in the driver’s seat and let everyone (regardless of rank or role) contribute their thoughts and ideas to the process. Share the company's challenges and how technology is transforming the industry.
 
2. Communicate clearly
Your digital transformation strategy is your plan of action that describes how the business will reposition itself for the digital economy and improve processes across departments. Your leaders need to create a clear strategy for digital transformation and plan how your organisation will transform, then communicate that plan clearly to your entire team.
 
3. Improve digital literacy
To get on board for digital transformation, your team needs to be aware of today’s transformative technologies and their most significant impact on businesses. One of the best things your company can do is increase this awareness and cultivate digital literacy throughout your organisation. Digital literacy – having the digital skills necessary to learn, work, and navigate everyday life in our digital world – allows team members to navigate technologies easily and confidently. Everyone’s jobs are changing in the era of digital transformation, and daily tasks and communication will increasingly involve digital tools. Of course, not everyone needs to be an AI expert, but being comfortable around tech tools and developing the skills to work alongside them is critical.

4. Foster flexibility and adaptability
There’s no doubt about it: Digital transformation requires your team to be flexible. So, focus on creating a culture of adaptability where people are open to change. Your team can learn to become more adaptable and adjust to new conditions as they arise. Adaptable people:

Are open-minded about new ideas, other people’s points of view and experiences, and different cultures and values
See opportunities, not obstacles
Are curious and continuously want to learn new things
Tend to persevere and stick to things, even when the going gets tough.
 
5. Encourage people to embrace and celebrate change
Digital transformation also inherently involves change that is often rapid and extensive change. This change can be scary for your team members, but it’s the lifeblood of progress and evolution. Being able to not only embrace change, but to celebrate it, is critical to successful digital transformation. Dr. John Kotter’s methodology, The 8-Step Process for Leading Change, is an excellent example of how your organisation can approach change management and make people more comfortable with digital evolution.
 
6. Improve data literacy
Data is the fuel that powers the current revolution of new technologies and is the key to unlocking digital transformation. As a result, organisations of all kinds will need data-literate team members who can extract value from data. Data literacy is the basic ability to understand and use data and is one of the most important skills to cultivate for the workplace of the future. In a digital transformation context, data literacy means being able to:
 
Access the appropriate data required for transformation
Create, gather, and manage data to make sure it stays up to date
Keep data safe
Analyse and extract meaning from the data to uncover actionable business insights and opportunities
Question data and consider potential bias
Communicate insights about data to other team members and leaders.
 
7. Embrace a growth mindset
Whatever your age or role at the company, digital transformation allows us to learn and grow. Helping team members cultivate curiosity and adopt a growth mindset should be a priority for HR leaders and managers during digital transformation efforts. In her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, psychologist Carol Dweck coined the phrase “growth mindset.” Someone with a growth mindset believes they have the ability to improve throughout life and knows that success comes from constant learning and personal development. In contrast, a person with a fixed mindset believes they are limited by inherent abilities and character traits that cannot be improved or changed. The digital transformation process will require everyone on your team to grow, so celebrating learning and effort and reframing failures as opportunities can be great ways of getting employees to embrace a growth mindset.
 
Digital transformation is a long-term process

There’s no single way for companies to adopt the technologies that are needed for digital transformation, but getting team members on board for the process will go a long way toward smoothing the way for change so your company can create better experiences for your employees and your customers.
 
Bernard Marr is a futurist and thought leader in the fields of business and technology, with a passion for using technology for the good of humanity. His new book is Future Skills: The 20 Skills and Competencies Everyone Needs to Succeed in a Digital World 

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