The Digital Frontier

Posted by Anar Bata | 16-May-2018 17:46:35

The VMware Executive Exchange took place at the Courthouse Hotel, London, on 15 May 2018. The purpose of the event was to understand how to create exceptional employee and customer experiences, which will allow organisations to drive business growth and reach the ‘digital frontier.’

VMware aims to help customers become more agile, responsive and efficient by providing the necessary tools to support organisations in achieving their goals. 

The New Frontier

“Why transform?” some businesses ask. Change is unpopular, and is difficult. But it’s coming; even for those businesses reassured by their current profitability. By 2020 90% of consumer experience will rely on mobile interfaces, and by 2021 40% more employees will have flexible working hours, with many working remotely.

Processes currently in place won’t be prepared to handle these developments unless the foundations are laid now.

Businesses must undergo a ‘digital transformation’ to stay ahead and retain a competitive edge. But is transformation the best way to describe the torrent of new technological capabilities? Is it more accurate to view workplace changes as a “frontier” to be conquered? 

Approaching the Frontier

There are many planning decisions and economic concerns that need to be taken into account when transforming a business. Technology is often the focus of discussions around workplace transformations, but people and processes will inevitably undergo a shift when any new technology is introduced.

Implementing new digital tools should not be at the risk of the company’s overall success. A bank hoping to create a mobile banking app does not also want to destroy its traditional brick and mortar stores. A balance needs to be struck between accelerating changes to increase productivity and profits, whilst also maintaining stability for core processing functions.

Striking this balance will require understanding the outcomes that a company is aiming to achieve, as well as ensuring that the entire team is on board, from the word go. If there is no shared communication, one area of the organisation may start transforming too quickly, leaving other departments and organisational processes behind. Accelerating too quickly without considering other members of the organisation also increases the risk of oversights and mistakes.

Establishing a common ground for people, processes and technology will help organisations succeed in the digital age.

Conquering the Frontier

Understanding “how”, rather than what, or why, is the big step.

A recurring discussion point was translation issues in many organisations. There’s a tendency to approach an issue from either a strictly “business” or “IT” standpoint, whereas more a holistic view is required.

It’s common for employees outside the IT division to under-appreciate the productivity gains tech can bring; whereas IT may not understand the overarching business goals which are central to digital strategy.

Bridging this divide will require both a top-down and bottom-up strategy in regards to leadership and cultural changes.

C-level executives across the board, and not just those in IT, must focus on updating their current processes and procedures by investing in modern tools. This could range from investing in modern data centers and application portfolio management, to moving all data to a single, integrated cloud system.

Employees will also need to make adjustments to adapt to new technologies. Although it feels like technology is always present in our day-to-day lives, a lot of individuals do not understand the terminology, scale, and complexity, of workplace tech, and don’t feel comfortable asking for clarification.

The Cultural Frontier

A workplace culture, which encourages education and collaboration, will allow employees to feel more comfortable integrating digital instruments in their everyday tasks. A cultural shift that trains employees with the right skills and capabilities will allow them to take more responsibility and be more accountable, as they will have the necessary background knowledge to be efficient and mindful of security concerns.

Businesses, however, should be wary of too much innovation as it may lead to “change fatigue.” Organisations shouldn’t transform for the sake of transformation itself. Innovation’s main goal is to increase the amount of productive outcomes, and every new development should be adding value. Too many shifts, without any significant benefit, can exasperate employees and make them hesitant to support other additional changes.

Many participants mentioned a ‘digital divide’ between a business’ desire to innovate and IT’s ability to incorporate new technology. While top leadership must make the decision to invest in new technology, IT teams also need to shift their priorities to fall in line with the business’ need to constantly drive growth. Through better communication and education, IT can minimise this divide and be a true partner in innovation.

Future Frontiers

Conversations surrounding workplace transformation often point to fears of job losses and mass unemployment. Automation will change work. But the emergence of the ‘digital frontier’ does not make job roles obsolete, rather, it changes their function. Automation will remove the drudgery of most roles; humans are still necessary for value-adding contributions.

Whilst there’s no doubt that there will be an adjustment period, conquering this frontier will allow businesses to innovate and improve services for both the internal user and external consumer.

Topics: Research & Reports, Event reports

Written by Anar Bata

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