• Herbert Lundström

The human element in our digitalization frenzy

Updated: Jun 8, 2018

Whatever business magazine or business organizations website you are studying, digitalization is today on the lips of every self-respected manager, management consultant and business scholar. Of course the term "digitalization" as such is cryptic, problematic and diverse. I stick her to the short version of Gartner’s IT glossary, claiming that “digitalization is the use of digital technologies to change business model and provide new revenue or value-producing opportunities; it is the process of moving to a digital business

However, there is no need to resist digitalized business solutions with every ounce of resisting power we can generate. We at Sprof are no antagonists of technological development us such. On the contrary. But, having been involved in some cases, it is astonishing to observe how often the human element is critically bypassed, when introducing new, digitalized elements in different business processes. This makes the going live phase quite traumatic.

Think before you act

So is Change Management history and unnecessary nibbling, when digitalization marches on? Well, many interesting reports and white papers covering this issue, are indicating that the truth is totally the opposite. When talking about shaping and going live with digital solutions, one critical key element has not and will not change. In my opinion one main reason digitalization initiatives struggles, is the lack of attention to the human element throughout the process. We think technology fixes the problems or and solely provides the platform for future success. Management thinks staff adjust and learn, sooner or later, and simply neglects the costs and frustration ahead.!

McKinsey published in January an interesting report called “Five trademarks of agile organizations”. It is written based on input from 50 experts from the digital, operations, marketing and organizations disciplines of the company. If I got it correctly, the report indicates that in order to make technology work you need to have the element of strategy, structure, process and people in good shape in order to maximize the outcome of your technological development efforts. Google the headline if you want to find and read the report.

First things first

So what to do when the human dimension is overlooked. Firstly, strategy, structure and process in proper shape. Without a clear picture what business processes or parts of them really needs digitalizing we might make technology the master, not the labourer? Digitalization is not a means for fixing strategy, structure and inefficient processes by itself. Don’t let the fascination of technology overwhelm you, i.e. don’t believe in hope, good luck or magic. If you in fact lack the culture of true customer orientation, do you really think a CRM implementation takes care of that for you? Or if you don’t have a communicative business environment, do you think any social collaboration or digital communication platform really will change that culture?

Pay attention to your people

Secondly, include the human element and evaluate consequences of that throughout the digitalization efforts. Staff personnel are key experts how things really work, and a major part of the staff feels pride and involvement when they can participate, influence and give valuable feedback as digitalization work proceeds. However, having the staff involved, you need change management competence. So acquiring the knowledge of the principles, procedures and pitfalls of change management is critical. You need to be equipped with necessary tools if people, often latently, starts resisting the outcome of the digitalization effort. Digitalization driven change most likes differs little, if at all, from any other business change you and your management introduce.

Simple, but not easy. If you have hundreds of staff members, only a few of them resisting can give you quite a headache with their resistance – a resistance often very sophisticated and difficult to identify.

At Sprof we’ll continue the discussion about this key topic in later blogs. Please comment and share your experience, as well!


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