Digital Transformation is Failing. Why?
“A key reason why true mobile working isn’t being implemented is because of management culture. The case for mobile working has been proven; it is the people who are the biggest barriers.”- 2017 Deloitte Human Capital Trends report
The way we work , it seems, is no longer working.
What we’ve long suspected — that organisations are failing to maintain pace with technological advancements — is now evidenced.
It wasn’t meant to be like this.
We were promised that digital would revolutionise the workplace. Although the use of mobile devices is practically ubiquitous, true mobile working is not growing at the rate predicted.
- Despite huge advancements in video messaging and conferencing workers still spend a year of their lives in physical meetings. If you’re employed in the public sector it’s worse — with nearly 2 years clocked up for every worker.
- Commuting to work — far from being a thing of the past — is actually increasing. The number of people with a 2 hour commute has risen 72% in the last decade.
- We spend about 60% of our time on email, a crude technology from the 1970’s. The UK’s biggest employer, the National Health Service, hasn’t even got that far and still sends pieces of paper to contact patients.
As the 2017 Public Sector Mobile Working Report makes clear — our leadership is certainly in question. There’s a lack of strong pioneering leaders prepared to take the plunge and spearhead change.
The UK is a now a high-employment, low-productivity economy lagging behind almost all of its peers. Yet despite this and with an obvious skills deficit , seven out of ten people say they receive no basic digital training from their employers.
With such a huge gap in business potential — this appears to be a dereliction of duty by leaders. What’s the reason?
The diagram shows that individuals are relatively quick and adept at adopting new innovations.
However, whilst you and I may adapt to technology relatively rapidly, businesses and organisations move at a much slower pace.
If it is people who are the biggest barriers — why do we behave differently in a work context compared to our home lives?
The argument — so it goes — is that this may be a generational thing. That those currently at management level weren’t brought up in the digital era and may have an innate fear of technology.
To me this assumption that a new breed of younger savvier digital natives are going to usurp the incumbent dinosaurs is a dangerous one. It’s casual ageism for a start — I know people in their 70’s who can code, and people in their 20’s who can’t tweet.
More importantly though — it lets business leaders off the hook.
What if there’s a deeper problem here , what if it’s the way we work that is impeding progress?
What if work no longer works?
The practices of corporate planning, organisational structure, job profiles, performance indicators, and management were developed in the industrial age. It could be that some, or all, of these are wholly inconsistent with the behaviours required in a digital age.
It is these legacy practices that any business transformation programme should be addressing. Too often they focus on the digital tools themselves which are largely irrelevant.
Anyone can introduce a new IT system- but as digital organisational models emerge, it’s leadership that needs change.
We are at a crossroads — at the intersection of paths towards a new digital economy or an adherence to the traditional world of work.
Being a leader in the digital era means casting aside old strategic frameworks, processes, relationships and values. It also means being brave and bold enough to step into the fray: challenging every aspect of tradition.
Digital transformation isn’t really anything to do with digital tools.
It’s about redefining the concept of work itself.
Originally published at paulitaylor.com on March 19, 2017.