Daniel Ball, business development director, Wax Digital reveals industry’s thoughts on digital transformation garnered for their recent survey

The pace of product introduction and adoption is undoubtedly speeding up. Harnessing electricity took around 30 years to reach a ten per cent adoption rate. For the telephone, it took around 25 years. Fast forward to the 20th century and it took around five years or for mobile phones to penetrate around half of the total available market. It is a similar sort of figure for tablet adoption, which went from 0 to 50 per cent adoption in a little under five years.

A consequence of technology being introduced to the populous at breakneck pace, is that it is fundamentally recalibrating elements of our society. Notable examples in the entertainment industry include music, film and video games no longer being distributed as physical objects. Instead, these types of content are delivered digitally over the internet – disrupting the delivery mechanism for entertainment.

It is a similar proposition for eProcurement technology. Before the cloud really took off, implementations of procurement software involved on-premise, standalone packages that were costly and time-consuming to implement. While it is clear to see the benefits of digital transformation, it’s come with challenges and issues which are often overlooked because of the perceived value of change.

Perhaps the most significant challenge posed by rapid development and implementation of technology is ensuring that people have the necessary skills and knowledge to successfully take advantage of it. Unfortunately, according to the Centre for Economics and Business Research, 12 per cent of the UK population will lack basic digital literacy by 2028 – which equates to seven million people. The study goes onto the state that the UK will miss out on £21.8 billion of economic benefits associated with a digitally literate society.

Finally, by investing in improving the standards of digital skills, businesses could be set to gain around £1.5 billion in benefits as productivity increases.

It is imperative that businesses take heed of these statistics to ensure that they upskill, train and nurture staff to prepare them for the next generation of technology, to ensure staff can operate to the maximum of their capabilities. Our study, The State of Digital Transformation – where we surveyed 200 HR, finance, IT and procurement professionals – certainly supports this hypothesis.
How digital transformation has changed the workplace.

In our survey, we accumulated data from non-digital natives, aged between 45-70 to understand how they felt about digital transformation in their respective organisations. 85 per cent of those surveyed in our study indicate that their role has changed because of technology, with IT and finance professionals indicating they have experienced the most changes in their day to day business.

While technology has brought significant changes, the training and development required to make the transition over to new ways of working has not been up to scratch. 52 per cent of participants in the study claimed they hadn’t received enough training to understand how to best utilise new technology.

Despite insufficient training, office workers can clearly understand the value technology brings businesses, as 73 per cent of those surveyed claim that digital transformation has made them more efficient. In addition, 70 per cent think digital transformation has made their business more effective.

Crucially, 52 per cent of respondents stated that they did not feel they received enough training as part of their company’s digital rollout, while an additional 35 per cent said that help and insight from an expert would have improved their business’ digital changes.

How to foster culture change brought about by digital transformation
Digital transformation requires changing the culture of your organisation to be effective. It is not simply a case of implementing new technology and letting staff get on with it. Indeed, it requires a wholesale recalibration of how your organisation operates, as well as an inclusive strategy to help everyone get the training, support and understanding of how your organisation intends to use technology.

We take a similar sort of approach when implementing our eProcurement software. In a project with CEVA Logistics, an international logistics firm with over 56,000 staff, our project management team held workshops, integration sessions and numerous web calls to embed a procurement-centric culture within the organisation. These sessions were not just isolated to procurement and finance-related stakeholders; indeed, they spanned a range of departments, further encouraging a holistic procurement-first mentality in the business.

The five key tactics you should use to embed digital technology in your organisation include:
Embracing transparency: building a culture within your organisation whereby everybody is aware of the impact digital technology has on the business, including sales, productivity and fundamentally, the bottom line. This illustrates clearly to everybody in the organisation what the benefits to the business are, in a range of metrics that are relatable. You can deliver this information via digital tools such as email, Microsoft Teams channels or even hold a monthly stand-up on a departmental basis, allowing information to disseminated and questions to be asked.

The point is to establish clear lines of communication between those that are to be affected by the changes your organisation plans to make and those that are making the decisions themselves. By doing this, you’ll empower your staff to participate in the digital transformation of your organisation in an authentic and inclusive way.

Get people working together: breaking down silos and building bonds is imperative for any successful digital transformation project. Get your people to work closely with one another to encourage a productive culture and mindset.

Start by encouraging teams to communicate with one another. For instance, in a B2B organisation, sales and marketing functions should be closely aligned, so institute regular meetings and ways to share information and resources. This will help both teams reach their goals, objectives and ultimately, ensure that messaging for clients is consistent.

Frontline customer service teams should work closely with IT support, to help them understand what improvements need to be made to systems or processes to deliver the best possible customer experience.

Finally, procurement and finance can work closer with eProcurement technology to help finance professionals clearly define what procurement professionals can spend, or perhaps need to cut to meet profit margins for the year.

Build comprehensive training packages: training is imperative to foster a digital transformation culture within your organisation. Our survey indicates that not enough is being done to help people understand and make use of new technology.

Start by creating a comprehensive learning and development programme, designed to accommodate multiple levels of expertise. You can do this by assessing staff needs and requirements on a role by role basis. Once you have established this, you can start deconstructing what staff exactly need in order make best use of new technology.

Consider the way you intend to deliver training. Usually, big show and tell sessions save time and cash, but don’t help staff understand the intricacies of how to properly use a brand new piece of software. Instead, consider providing a range of onboarding resources, including written, video and one-to-one training workshops to help your staff adapt to the new software and to teach them how digital technology will add value to their role.

Another benefit of designing a video-driven approach on a learning management system is that staff can accumulate knowledge as and when they need it and repeat it when necessary.

Establish an innovation culture: utilise your biggest asset – your staff – to drive innovation in your organisation. Try to tease this out by setting up idea-generating competitions or creating a policy for dedicated time for your teams to generate innovative ideas.

Being innovative is something that more and more organisations are doing. Google for instance, has an innovation policy, whereby time is dedicated to creating new ideas, processes or products to improve Google’s market position.

Innovation is imperative for a culture change to happen in your organisation. It encourages your staff to think differently and deliberately think of new things in order to remain competitive However, creating an innovative culture isn’t something that is going to happen overnight. You are going to need to work at it in order to completely embed this idea within your organisation.

Appoint a dedicated digital transformation officer – our research indicated that 35 per cent of workers felt that they would benefit from a digital transformation expert to steer and guide the process. We would certainly agree with that, as any successful project has someone at the helm, who intimately understands why and how you are doing what you’re doing.

Decide whether you appoint somebody internally, or externally. There are pros and cons to both, with someone from outside the business likely to be more objective than somebody from within. However, someone who has been with your organisation for a while will naturally understand more about your business and fit into the role quicker.

You will also want to make sure that anybody you appoint has a natural affinity for tech, but understands that it is a tool, not a solution in itself.

Digital transformation is a journey for everyone
Digital transformation continues to be important for businesses to evolve and grow. Technology has the power to set employees free, maximising productivity and efficiency gains. However, it should not be used a barrier for those that do not quite understand it or do not have the skills for it.

To ensure technology is democratised for all in your organisation, spend time reviewing your existing digital transformation process and objectively assess whether it is transparent, has enough training and whether it has the necessary leadership to help embed it within your organisation.