Insights: How to build a people-centric digital company
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Insights: How to build a people-centric digital company

Insights: How to build a people-centric digital company

People-centric digitisation is a virtuous circle that flows from stakeholder collaboration to staff engagement to tangible benefits for customers

Gulf Business
Insights: How to build a people-centric digital company by David Boast - General Manager - MENA at Endava - lowres

The word “transformation” evokes images of the caterpillar and the butterfly – an organisational metamorphosis from slow-paced to agile and awe-inspiring. When we embark on our digitisation journeys, we imagine a game-changing project that will create a business that is orders of magnitude more agile. But the years-ago hype of digital transformation has been replaced with a gnawing sense of stakeholders asking over and over: “Are we there yet?” Today, digital transformation has become that thing we do so that we are not left behind in a digital economy.

A recent Endava report revealed that two in three (67 per cent) businesses now consider themselves digital-first enterprises. They are investing time and money so they can engage with customers more effectively or streamline internal operations. But this research also showed more than half  (54 per cent) of Middle East organisations reported wasted digital investments.

The reason for this may simply be a misalignment of priorities. Of all the reasons cited for getting into digital transformation in the first place, only 42 per cent said they were trying to improve the employee experience (productivity, satisfaction, and retention). Failing to leverage the human advantage sets a business up for a fall. So, let’s look at three ways to remedy this.

01. KPIs that fit

To deploy technology in the hope that it will fix employees’ daily issues is to put the cart before the horse. Just as you would approach customer engagement by trying to empathise with customers first (by observation, push polls, social listening, or feedback), companies must consult employees to learn their pain points and design a transformation process that can deliver genuinely useful digital tools into their hands.

Every stakeholder should be part of the process so KPIs can reflect the concerns, biases, and comfort levels of everyone who may be impacted by the change. Timelines should be realistic, and expectations should be aired and managed. Goals should be mutual and clearly understood by all. But most importantly, all this should be subject to change.

People-centric transformation should happen in carefully designed steps. That way lessons can be learned, and the direction of the programme can be adjusted. In the longer journey, we should look for acceleration rather than transformation. Define what success looks like for each step and judge outcomes accordingly.

The needs of each user should be baked into the design of each step and the overall programme. A glance at history will show us the progress we have made from the days when coders and sysadmins occupied different spaces. We then saw the emergence of DevOps followed by DevSecOps. Today, we have DevSecFinOps. These formal, multi-disciplined approaches are attempts to pre-empt interdepartmental conflict over the results of digitisation.

02. Upskilling for all

If you are after human-centricity, then professional development should be top of mind. Digitisation has many forms, and each business is different. However, it is difficult to envisage a digital solution that does not require human talent for at least part of its operation. Upskilling can be part of the programme from the beginning. Continuous learning — note, not just once a year — allows people to be part of the solution. Remember, these are the same people who have already shared their pain points. You can now empower them by letting them learn new skills that will support the operation of enabling technology, which demonstrates that the tech is not there to replace them but to augment them.

IDC tells us that more than half (56 per cent) of organisations anticipate negative revenue impact from skills shortages. People-centric transformation resolves this through upskilling. A list of skills deficiencies and strategies to address them should be part of every digitisation step.

Popular targets for adoption – “FOMO tech” if you like – simply cannot be rolled out in isolation. Retraining will be critical in reaping their full potential, especially when it comes to AI, which brings with it an array of issues, from responsible utilisation to compliance.

03. A partner to share the load

We follow a model of shared success and investment in digitisation outcomes. For the reasons laid out here, we believe that an organisation cannot realistically meet all the demands their digital-business ambitions place on them. At least, not without help. They must weigh so many market pressures and anticipate future headwinds. Economic downturns and inflation may be confined to Europe and the Americas for now, but that could change. And the competition for talent is always present. It makes sense, therefore, to look to the regional partner ecosystem.

External technology partners can support a visionary enterprise as it digitises. They are independent, knowledgeable, and bring alternative approaches that can accelerate digital transformation initiatives. Partners augment and assist, plugging skills and resource gaps. They empower organisations to achieve lift-off and meet goals. The end benefits are widely known – optimised processes, reduced costs, and increased revenues.

Advantages of people-centric digitisation

People-centric digitisation is a virtuous circle that flows from stakeholder collaboration to staff engagement to tangible benefits for customers. The digital innovator takes what customers tell them and returns to collaborative huddles, and so on. Benefits accrue to the entire supply chain. In an all-encompassing transformation such as this, it would be impractical to leave out any stakeholder, from the most senior to the most junior. Frontline employees are closer to the gears of business. They see them turn and they see them stick.

The importance of their buy-in cannot be overstated. Their engagement, likewise.  Every business in the region is in a constant struggle to attract the best talent. At the same time, each of these enterprises is under pressure to digitally transform so they can bring greater value to customers. People-centric transformation is a way of addressing both concerns – involving every employee, including those that have the greatest customer contact, to ensure your people are part of the solution.

Empowered employees ensure the benefits of technology investments propagate their way through the value chain and reach customers. Then, and only then, will your organisation be the butterfly you aspire it to be.

The writer is the general manager, Endava Middle East.

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