By Tim Griggs
After reading “COVID-19: the new and unwanted member of the C-Suite” on this blog, it struck me that this is part of a broader challenge that many knowledge-based organisations will now face. That is, the excellent and proactive way in which many have reacted to the sudden change in circumstances, which may result in them perceiving that this is the end point of their digital transformation journey. But I don’t agree. Remote working enforced by this crisis does not equal a digitally transformed enterprise, but there’s a chance many will believe it does.
It’s absolutely reasonable to suggest that this enforced home working has had a transformative effect on the way in which most of us work, and much of that has been enabled by the rapid deployment of new(ish) technologies (Zoom, Teams, Jamboards, Miro etc.) but technology is only one part of the transformation that many organisations need to embrace. These newer ways of working are indeed a cornerstone of a digitally enabled enterprise, but does deploying new tools alone represent the successful implementation of a digital transformation strategy?
A well-considered digital transformation strategy caters not only for the deployment of new technologies but is wide ranging and touches every corner of the enterprise, and in some cases may represent superlative change to the status quo. To do this, it needs to cater for people and cultural change, and in particular the enablement of innovation practice. It needs to support the rapid development of new ideas into new products and services and new commercial models. It also needs to enable rapid decision-making and foster the newer skills needed to transform the organisation. Ultimately it must deliver an organisation that is fit for the future, and one that is sufficiently evolved that it differentiates itself from the competition.
The ability to work and communicate remotely is a key piece of that puzzle, but it is not the whole picture. If organisations are able to use this unique opportunity to test new ideas that contribute to their digital goals, then this could indeed turn out to be a truly significant transformation event. But if and when we go back to the office and resume our previous working practices – albeit at safer distances apart – we’ll have missed an opportunity to accelerate digital transformation.
Now is the time to try new things and be open to ideas that previously may have been dismissed as too difficult or not in line with corporate (or other) strategies. At my own organisation, we put our culture of collaboration and treating people fairly above anything else, but this has been significantly challenged by the crisis. We have had to quickly adapt to a new remote model, and that face to face collaboration that we value so highly has become suddenly unavailable to us. But we have found a way, the world has kept spinning and now our thoughts are turning to new and transformative approaches to delivering our work.
Perhaps the type of products, services and projects that we deliver can be re-imagined using teams of people across borders, time zones, skills and grades in a way that wasn’t believed feasible before COVID-19. We might decide to realise value in a different way, train our staff in new things, embrace new skills or even consider breaking some of our most sacred rules now that our eyes have been opened to the art of the possible. We talk fairly frequently about being ‘more pirate’ about how we work and not being afraid to challenge the things that have gotten us to where we are today. They have stood us in good stead for many years and made us successful, but this is a unique opportunity to try new things, to be more pirate and to use this as a catalyst for genuine change in the work we do and how we do it. Digital transformation should touch every corner of the enterprise and that has to be far more than simply embracing remote working tools.