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How to Lead Digital Transformation From the Top

Digital transformation is unavoidable in the face of demanding change. When it comes to the evolution of technology, many businesses feel a responsibility and burden to keep up with the trends in order to simply survive the volatile market, however, we need to view digitisation in the light of opportunity. Technology makes way for your company to improve the efficiency of processes, systems and communication, likely in all departments of your organisation. 

Before I talk about the role leaders have in digital transformation as a process, we need to address the evident need for a shift in the mindset of leaders to become proactive in seeking digital gaps and growth opportunities. Too many businesses wait for systems to fail before they seek out ways to improve their processes. What does this practically look like? Keep reading…

Digital Challenges We Are Currently Facing 

A lack of basic skills knowledge

Speaking from my experience in the training and development sector, the vast majority of organisations have employees on various levels who lack skills with basic digital tools such as Excel Spreadsheet or Microsoft PowerPoint. This gap can have an extreme negative impact on productivity. 

Here’s an example of what I mean… I assisted an organisation with an upskilling session working with a broad audience of their administrators, and while working with one of these employees, recognised that there was a significant gap that needed to be bridged. While explaining various simple Excel formulas to the team that could be applied to their systems, I discovered that a task they were routinely performing on a monthly basis for the last seven years, was taking them up to four days to complete. With a simple Excel formula, I was able to complete this same task in 30 seconds. 

There is an unseen lack of productivity that originates from a lower digital literacy of tools used in common day practice, that have an oversized impact on business performance. The problem is that more often than not, companies aren’t aware of where the gaps in their processes are. Because they aren’t often seen from an executive level, the organisation is unaware of the impact that the lack of digital skills in unseen departments has on business. It takes proactivity from leaders to reach out to skills development facilitators and assess any potential gaps that need to be bridged in order to get the most efficiency from your team. 

A lack of understanding of tools

On the other end of the spectrum, people who understand how to use the relevant tools, often have a lack of understanding of what’s driving its results. Here’s an example of what I mean…

A company has business intelligence software that is able to automatically generate various sales reporting numbers. Employees have come to trust this advanced software and simply copy and paste the outcomes into their monthly reports. However, what’s missing is a fundamental understanding of how that number is constructed. The risk here is that the leaders above them will likely make decisions based on these numbers, without understanding the factors used to calculate them. In this case, a skills development team should work closely with the employees to help them better understand these tools and their processes. 

The Key Components of Digitalisation 

It’s critical that we understand what technological components are going to move businesses towards a digital age. This includes:

  • Mass automation and discerning between what should and should not be automated.
  • Understanding digital tools in a broad sense, and what the underlying structure is that allows the software to work. 
  • Understanding how these tools can be applied to your environment. 

We’ve found that the best way to enforce these components is by using a digital transformation tool as a learning experience platform. The tool is utilised as a social network platform – something that most people are familiar with – and makes it possible for employees to experience shared learning where everyone contributes their personal knowledge, skills and learnings with one another. Together, employees collectively communicate through this platform to solve problems that they individually would not have been able to overcome. This highlights the overall truth that collaboration, in this digital world, can be the solution to a spectrum of problems. 

A Leader’s Role in Digital Transformation

Your role is to understand what transformation is needed. For instance, is it a transformation to encourage a new business model or product? Is it transformation to improve operational processes? Is it to encourage knowledge sharing? Or simply to increase leads and sales? The overarching principle remains the same – that the leader has to get onto the platform and utilise it on a regular basis. My personal opinion is that the best way to lead is by example. 

When assessing what factors determine the level of involvement a leader has in digital transformation, you must ask the question: To what degree is the transformation vital for the continued growth of the company in the future? If the answer is that it is critical – for example transforming to offer a new product or service – the leader should work closely with the organisation from the conceptualisation stage. 

Why Leaders Should Continue to Initiate Strategy, Innovation and Growth in Organisations With High Digital Literacy

Simply put, you might be tech savvy for today, but that doesn’t mean that you’ll be tech savvy for tomorrow. To stay in-tune with digital trends, it’s crucial that you have some form of education platform or system that allows employees to learn in a continuous fashion, whether that be online or face-to-face. 

To add to that, my advice would be to schedule a review of your learning content pathways every 18 months to 2 years to ensure that you are renewing content based on changing trends.

My final thought is to challenge you to ask yourself whether your business truly is where it should be in terms of digital literacy, or whether you simply perceive yourselves in that light. Is it possible that only 30% of your employees are where they need to be, and the other 70% battle with simple tools such as Excel? This often happens in organisations where the top-level employees are kept in-line with digital trends, but the employees on the ground aren’t getting the attention they need to continually improve their digital skills and in-turn, the business’ productivity. 

I’m certain you’ve heard it many times before, but the simple truth is that it’s better to be proactive than reactive. Partnering with Summit is a proactive decision. We make a point of working closely with businesses to ensure you have the right skills necessary for digital transformation and close any gaps that are preventing you from reaching your full potential as an organisation. Let’s chat about how we can use our L&D team to get your business ready to thrive in the future!