Digital Transformation – Transforming Everything but Business Change?

Oh the (virtual) ink that’s been expended on what we think of as Digital Transformation over the past 20 years!  Understandably, given fast-paced and ever-morphing technology, what Digital Transformation means has changed over time too.

It’s been about extending the enterprise; connecting the customer; streamlining supply chains; collaborating with colleagues; reliance on robotics; and now much more.  And we are in the midst of a genuine deep, far-reaching, change in the nature of our organisations, our work, and of society itself, driven by digital technologies (and enabled by advances in infrastructure such as battery life and connectivity).

Business change needs to change

Afiniti is a specialist Business Change consultancy: we make change stick.  We’re not technologists, though inevitably we deal with technology and the change consequences it brings every day.  So, really, we’re not very interested in digital technologies per se.  What does excite us are the changes and possibilities these technologies bring and, more especially, the ways in which Business Change approaches might need to change in response.  And that’s where it gets interesting – because there’s precious little ink (virtual or other) being spent on that topic.  To us that seems anathema: if (as we believe is the case) the tide of changes being brought by digital transformation are of a different nature and scale than previous ripples of change, then surely Business Change itself has to change?

Afiniti thinks Business Change approaches do need to change, and in a series of articles, for which this is the introduction, we’re going to explore some of those changes, unpacking how we’re seeing them benefit our clients as they embrace digital transformation.

We’ll look at:

  • the importance of shifting from a ‘technology-enabled’ mindset to a ‘culture change’ mindset and how the timing of Business Change interventions changes if they are to be effective;
  • why empathy, getting inside the impact on different roles and communities, is critical for effective long-lasting adoption – and flowing from that how we need to work with highly validated environments, not just expect one ‘change size’ to fit all;
  • why and how change adoption increasingly has to be ‘pulled’, not ‘pushed’; and
  • how the adoption of methodologies of the moment (perhaps Agile) may actually get in the way of working effectively with people as they grapple with change.

In a final blog we’ll pull all of the above together into some key lessons, offering a ‘must do’ Business Change toolbox for Digital Transformation.

Ahead of that, maybe it’s useful to highlight some of the characteristics of Digital Transformation change that have led us to change how we do what we do.  There are many ways of looking at this, but we’d highlight the ways in which Digital Transformation can shrink space and time – where people physically are really does matter less and less, and cycle times can go through step change reductions. Digital Transformation enables ‘Martini ways of interacting’: battery technology, mobile devices, mobile bandwidth mean that we can now connect any time, any place, anywhere at the touch of a button.  And it’s the digital technologies that make possible a move from sequential to simultaneous ways of working together.

Digital Transformation brings smaller, more frequent changes (rather than occasional large big-bang changes) that together add up to paradigm shifts, catching us unawares.

Crucially, it offers options rather than demanding change in how we do what we do; and in so doing, Digital Transformation brings smaller, more frequent changes (rather than occasional large big-bang changes) that together add up to paradigm shifts, catching us unawares.

In summary, we think this is different; we think it matters; and we think it makes Business Change more, not less, critical.  But it does demand different ways of effecting Business Change.

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