The ability of new technology to improve business performance is almost infinite, or so the marketing hype that surrounds many solutions would have you believe. While there’s no denying that digitisation is transforming how products and services are delivered, this needs to go hand-in-hand with careful planning around talent, leadership and organisational design.
David Grounds, Relationship Manager at Criticaleye, comments: “The challenge of digitisation in most large organisations is not a technical one. Rather, the difficulty lies in bringing about a cultural shift so that people embrace entirely new ways of working."
Experts from the Criticaleye Community share their insights and tips on where you need to focus if you’re to ensure that investment in technology isn’t wasted.
The leadership teams within corporates are under pressure to rediscover the art of innovation. This requires a different mindset, as it needs to be understood that the price of experimentation is that some ideas will fail.
“It is going to be necessary in an agile, forward-looking business, to reward failure and this will be difficult in a corporate environment,” says Martin Molloy, Partner and AI and Automation Expert at PA Consulting Group. However, he adds that “the cost of failure today is astronomically lower than it used to be due to the open source nature of technology; this allows businesses to create pods of short, sharp activity that are able to prove quickly whether or not something will work".
It is notoriously difficult to quantify employee performance in the context of innovation, as it necessitates designing new metrics that measure the effort involved in a project, rather than "just the outcomes". He notes that this could prove to be an opportunity for HR, as it has "the potential to drive this agenda and to provide a new way of measuring performance and managing people".
Rethink Organisational Design
“A rigid hierarchical system will stop people across the company from accessing skills and they will prevent the right conversations from taking place,” Martin comments . “Flat structures need to be established as a replacement to hierarchies.”
Of course, technology can greatly improve cross-team collaboration, but harder decisions need to be made in regards to removing siloes within a business. "A diverse team of people, with different skills and experiences and backgrounds, is required in many organisations. This means that hierarchies need to be broken down in order for businesses to become more innovative," he adds.
The HR function can play an important role in ensuring that a business is outward looking, explains Devyani Vaishampayan, founder of the HR Tech Partnership and former HR specialist at companies including G4S, Rolls-Royce and Citigroup.
“When employing people in the digital age, companies should be looking at the skills that are emerging in areas outside of the business. It is a mistake to construct a hiring policy based only on current internal needs. Instead, companies need to anticipate what skills they will need for the business in the future.”
HR should also help with a communication plan once new technology has been introduced. “Staff need to know why new tech is crucial to the continued success of the business and what the consequences are of not using it,” comments Alastair Lechler, Director at BIE Executive.
“HR can play a key role in terms of driving the change agenda. Many organisations are considering how to embrace new technology, and embarking on digital transformation. It is imperative to be clear on the desired outcomes, and what will be required by, and the impact on, your employees.”
Build Skills and Capability
Although it may be seem basic, many companies make the mistake of not giving due attention to training. Liam McGrath, Group Chief Operating Officer at Equiniti, says: “It’s not so much about resistance. I just think that we’re not particularly good sometimes as companies in terms of deploying technological change.”
He is optimistic about the broader benefits on offer of digitisation, but notes that the business community must “take the responsibility to train people, otherwise there is the risk that we will end up with unemployment”.
Martin adds: “You are going to have to change the things that your people can do much more rapidly than in the past. The speed of change and the way we attract and identify talent is going to be fundamentally revolutionised in the next few years.”
Expanding on this point, he adds: "Bringing in new technology alone will not change a business and equip it well for the future, internal processes and policies have to adapt too. Ultimately, it’s the combination of leadership and culture that will make something successful."
By Robert Leeming, Editor, Criticaleye
By Robert Leeming, Editor, Criticaleye
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