Digital transformation starts with people

Jez Babarczy
Tech Thinking

It seems like everywhere I go, I hear something about digital transformation. Not a day goes by that I don’t hear terms like collisions, disruption, micro validations, decentralization, autonomous, AI, and on, and on — all words that could mean everything, or nothing at all.

The digital revolution is already here and technology is advancing at a pace that the is unprecedented — and it’s not slowing down. But no secret there. You already knew that. Access to data, ability to scale and hyper-personalization are all things that any company needs to succeed. So yes, the ability to learn quickly and adapt, to move quickly and evolve, to solve problems quickly and innovate in this digital age will define which businesses live and die in the next 10 years.

But all of this tech isn’t synonymous with innovation and doesn’t necessarily guarantee digital transformation. Innovation is pushed forward by getting the right minds around the table and focusing it on what matters most: people.

Why do you care about digital?

The ongoing applications of new tech for any company is sort of a non-negotiable. But to stay ahead, to be a digital and agile company, to make leaps and strides and hurdle over cliffs, you have to have the right team.

For an organization to dive into (and emerge from) digital transformation successfully, you have to really take a hard look at how and why you work.

Don’t look at technology to solve your problems. Find ways for people to use tech successfully. Technology doesn’t just arise and suddenly make your company more efficient, more profitable, more creative. It’s a tool that can help your team to develop new business models, learn faster, think bigger and escape the confines of a traditional, slow mindset.

People first

Digital transformation typically leads with an agile workflow, an ability to move quickly and take risks. All important things, of course. Companies need to be able to bring in, capture and delight customers. But the ability to delight is dependent on the ingenuity of your team — the people who fight to see a customer happy, the people who use tech to surprise and solve concerns, note wins and find holes.

Your company culture has to put people first.

Are you looking for a diverse set of perspectives? People first. Are you hoping to attract the best talent from across the world? People first. Are you looking to use technology in ways that customers have only dreamed? People first. Are you trying to be the industry leader? People first.

Commit for the long-term

To think ahead and to have an agile mindset isn’t easy. It’s also not a box that you can check and move on. It’s an ongoing, drawn-out process, a way of life that drives how and why a team makes decisions. You’ll need to continuously communicate those values to your team.

If you want your team to support a digital transformation mindset, then it’s important to make sure that they feel empowered to do so. What gaps exist in your organization’s skill-set? It might be worth hiring for a gap or prioritizing extended learning and professional development to ensure that you’re always learning. Invest in your people so they can invest in your company.

Oh, and values first

The reason you start something is to make a mark, change the world, leave a legacy, or do an incredible thing. So — why do you exist? What are you trying to achieve? What do you stand for? What would the world be missing if it weren’t for you? Does your team know this?

NUU has gotten bigger. As we’ve grown from three dudes taking up (all of the) available space in a living room to more than 30 people — in two offices across two countries — with droopy plants and espresso machines and a sound system, we’ve taken a step back to think about how we can keep being ourselves, even as our team doubles and triples and quintuples.

Values align our work with deeper meaning. They inform our thoughts, words and actions. They help us to grow and develop and be better than we used to be. When our team uses our values to make decisions, we make a deliberate choice to focus on what is important to us.

And when values are shared as a family, as a team — as NUU — they build internal cohesion in a group. And that’s a beautiful thing.

A culture that’s future-focused is essential. A friend of mine, Raul Troyo’s grandfather used to say: “I don’t know how to get there; but—groso modo—I am heading that way.”

Digital transformation is not a phase. It’s an ongoing process and a hope for your future that needs to be shared. But if you’re headed towards the future with the right team, you’re doing better than most people.

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