Transformation and all that

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

As we discuss and talk about digital transformation, it becomes apparent very quickly that digital transformation is not about digital causing transformation. It’s not as though if you invest in digital and online technologies that therefore you will be (magically) transformed.

When discussed digital transformation, it is probably best explored as transformation which is enabled by digital technologies.

I have written before about this, two years ago I published a blog post, called Thinking about digital transformation which I used to discuss and reflect on my then thinking about digital transformation.

Well, I have been thinking about what we understand mean by digital transformation and in some discussions, I have been using different kinds of explanations to explore what I see and understand digital transformation is.

In the post I draw out that merely making something digital, doesn’t mean you have transformation. The example I used was about the authorisation of leave.

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When you start to think about this digitalised process, using a bespoke system, over spreadsheets or pieces of paper, you may think of this as transformative. However, when you did deeper, there is still that same old authorisation process there.

I concluded…

The digitalisation of the HR system only becomes transformative when you actually look at and transform the processes and the thinking behind those processes. You need to transform the process; the digital HR system enables that transformation. Simply digitalising your HR system results in less benefits than if you transform the organisation and use digital technologies to support that process of transformation.

Here we are two years later and re-reading the blog post, much of what I wrote still stands up. In some cases the technology has moved forward already.

I wrote…

Now looking further forward, could you use artificial intelligence (AI) to learn from leave request, rejections and authorisations to have a better idea of when there are potential pinch points…

There was this Gartner article on AI in HR which was published last year.

AI will have an effect on the work conducted by the HR function, across the employee life cycle. This impact includes HR operations and service delivery, recruiting, learning and development, and talent management.  In a first step, AI will lead to new sets of employee expectations about how employees interact with HR and HR technologies. Over time, this shift will lead to rethinking the purpose and structure of individual HR roles and teams.

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I also mentioned the cultural challenges that existed.

When I first started asking this question a few years back, I was quite surprised by the resistance to the idea of a system or an individual self-authorising leave, and it got to the point where often the discussion would just fall down. Culturally people (okay managers) were struggling with the concept that they no longer had the power to authorise leave or not.

These are still very much here. I recently attended UUK’s Survive or thrive? Grasping the financial sustainability challenge event and the cultural challenges were echoed there as well.

We need to apply all the innovation, creativity and business acumen across the sector and beyond and grasp the nettle to find solutions to the big questions.

In one session it was clear that the technological or digital solutions were there already, what was holding back the transformation was the cultural and people issues.

In the past we may have wanted to transform, but we didn’t have the necessary tools to make that happen. Today we have the tools, the question is, do we have the will?

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