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Digital transformation is increasingly becoming a major concern for many C-Suite executives. It is too big of a deal that companies have been taking extensive actions in the last five years in an attempt to be digitally transformed, either due to market shift or as a response to competitive threats. But how is digital transformation, otherwise known as DX, not solely about technology?

Despite several organizations putting their time, money and energy into this ambition, recent researches suggest that the success rate for these digital transformation efforts still stay low. Companies are starting to see value and “ROI” of digital transformation as well as its effects on businesses but investing in technology without taking into consideration how to make it profitable for the business is a futile attempt. In fact, Harvard Business Review claims that there was a total of $1.3 trillion spent on digital transformation in 2018 and $900 billion of that went to waste. The process of digital transformation is difficult and success in this department is hard to achieve.

Contrary to popular belief, digital transformation is neither about the mere adoption of technologies into a company’s framework nor the implementation of Artificial Intelligence, although both are not totally off the mark. As exclusively defined by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and a consulting firm together, digital transformation is “the use of technology to radically improve performance or reach of enterprises.” However, this definition and most others out there have failed to acknowledge the human aspect of this transformation: people, the backbone of any business, which includes both talent and customers.

At its core, a successful digital transformation that produces targeted ROI is a fusion of technology, talent and change management. Simply put, it is less about top of the range technology solutions and more about enhanced experience for the employees and the customers, as well as the openness to new tools, approaches and changes. In the words of Jean-Claude Viollier, an Executive Vice President at Capgemini, “This is what digital transformation should be. It is about changing the whole buying experience, so it is better for employees and customers. Digital transformation needs to deliver agility and new areas of growth, but it is also about creating new experiences that no one has had before. If you approach this primarily as using new technologies, you will not realize the real potential of the opportunity.” Unfortunately, a good number of business leaders are still incapable of directing their companies towards the road to digital transformation, despite their belief that it is indeed of utmost necessity.

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These are three things to consider in order to pull off a positive digital transformation outcome:

1. People

  • Talent

It goes without saying that it is important to put people first throughout the company’s digitization plans. Invest in talent early and often. Training, reskilling and upskilling employees so they can be better prepared and equipped for change is a crucial part of the digital transformation process. Company owners or business leaders alone cannot build an organization. It’s the employees along with their digital-savvy leaders who make it successful. Thus, hiring leaders who are competent to use technology and promote learning within the workforce is key. On the other hand, employee resistance to change is a threat to any organization’s prosperity. This brings us to what authors Becky Frankiewicz and Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic emphasize: “that the hiring process and talent retention strategy should prioritize fostering a culture that discovers and builds up employees with a wealth of soft skills.”

  • Customers

Digital transformation translates into being committed to good customer experience using a digital-first approach; and to create these great, customized experiences for them, it means that, first, you should be responsive and present in places they occupy. Second, should be able to deliver personalized interactions with them using AI and Big Data to determine their habits, needs, buy history, pain points and expectations; and, last, be able to serve them with convenience through their preferred channel (phone, email, chat, chatbots, social media, messaging apps). Taking a customer-centered approach guarantees being ahead of the game. Consider starting your digital transformation journey with a sharp focus on improved customer engagement to secure the business’s increased ROI and bettered operational efficiency.

2. Change Management

Part of the entire DX process is embracing changes across the organization and acknowledging the fact that the digital landscape is continually changing and evolving. Change management is where preparing, equipping and supporting people in the organization takes place so they can adopt to change seamlessly.

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With this being a crucial part of the transformation, companies must overcome certain barriers that endanger its success, such as weak communication, resistance to change, unwillingness to support and participate in the initiative, concerns on digital fulfillment, etc.

Ouriel Lancry, a partner at Bain & Company, states that “Digital transformations are still business transformations. They must drive real value for the customer and improved outcomes for the business—not merely install technology for technology’s sake. These transformations typically result in shifts in the customer experience, digitalization of products and services, the emergence of new economic models, and advances in operations. While digital transformations are obviously about technology, technology often turns out to be relatively easy to get right… success really depends on organization and culture.”

3. Digital Adoption

By definition, “digital adoption is a change and learning mechanism that allows individuals to a) understand the potential of digital resources, b) accept and utilize such resources to achieve their goals, and c) leverage each technology to the fullest to drive innovation and optimize processes.” -Userlane (

When employees in an organization are comfortable and empowered to use digital tools provided to them, their digital transformation efforts can be expected to succeed. Some of the most commonly declared advantages of digital adoption include:

  • Increased efficiency and productivity
  • Improved customer value
  • Customer retention
  • Empowered and valuable employees
  • Fewer and minor human errors

And some more…

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In summation, talent and technology will always go hand in hand. Between them are change management and digital adoption that serve as the engine that enables digital transformation. Businesses in today’s world will not only want to survive but also thrive, thus they must fully embrace digital transformation. In a nutshell, the pandemic is proof that a good digital experience gives just as much value as in-person engagement.

“Digital transformation is less of a digital problem than it is a transformation problem. It’s a leadership problem for envisioning and driving change.”

Dr. George Westerman, Principal Research Scientist, J-WEL Workforce Learning and Senior Lecturer, MIT Sloan School of Management