Non-digital experts: your digital transformation needs you!

Digitisation – like it or hate it?

When you hear the words “digitisation” or “digital transformation” does it warm the cockles of your heart or make your blood run cold?  Putting aside the “+isation” suffix which is enough to bring a lot of people out in hives, how do you feel about “digital”? 

Digital transformation – it’s about computers right?

At a Non-Executive Director networking event earlier this week, I attended a workshop (virtual of course) on digital transformation. The cumulative business acumen in the virtual room was off the scale – this was an impressive bunch of folk with years of experience in global corporates, experienced directors, industry and functional experts.  So, it was salutary to hear their caution around the topic, the general reaction from anyone other than the digital experts being “well I’m not a digital expert so I’m really not certain how well I’m going to be able to contribute”.   

What was going on there?  These people know business and are no fools – why were they backing away from discussing a critical business issue? 

To put it simply: digital transformation is a scary term. What do we actually mean by digital?   Don’t you need to be a digital expert to understand the issues and to get involved in digital transformation? 

Were I to say to this group of people, “I’d like you to join a discussion about how we make supply chain in this business run smoother?” or “I’d like to talk about how we better serve the customer”, they’d be there with bells on. 

Fight, flight, surrender

The term digital transformation can cause a fight or flight response in the non-digital expert or often a third response: surrender – discounting their own expertise and common business sense “well it doesn’t seem right to me, but I’m not the digital expert” .

Not so long ago, a client in a leading global corporate came to me with a big dilemma, his boss, the head of customer experience, had asked him to lead on a significant digitisation project, he’d found a paper on the internet and believed they should follow that model, it was tried and tested so that removed the need for any form of design stage surely – let’s go straight to implementation!  He’d clearly taken leave of his senses and thankfully, we were able to nip this idea in the bud. 

A plea to you non-digital experts

So here’s a plea from someone who’s very much at home in the world of digital transformation – non digital experts, your digital transformation needs you! 

  • Digital transformation is all about business improvement and better serving the customer, the starting point should be a business opportunity or problem not the technological solution 
  • Digitisation doesn’t mean digitising everything, but rather, understanding where digital is accepted or even preferred, where digital improves, how best to implement it, mitigating against any perceived barriers and importantly, maintaining or even enhancing more traditional, analog/human interactions where these really make a difference
  • To do this well, we need to understand the business context, operational constraints, channel and customer needs – we need a team of cross-functional experts, not just digital experts 
  • Of course we also need to understand what digital can deliver – which is where the digital experts come in
  • The digital experts need your input and should value it, they should be keen to make their solutions accessible to decision makers and not blind you with computer science 

In short, they (the digital experts) can’t do it without you and you can’t do it without them, so please don’t fight it, don’t back off, get stuck in! 

There are some great papers on digital transformation here if that’s your kind of thing or if you’d prefer, please get in contact and let’s talk.