How to accelerate digital transformation in your organisation

Leaders should encourage everyone to view digital transformation as an opportunity and an exercise in organisational empowerment, according to UNSW Business School's Dr Yenni Tim

So digital transformation is being put under the spotlight during this pandemic. In the space of a few weeks, we have seen small restaurants and cafes spin up online platforms to build new revenue streams, and large corporations accelerate the launch of the digital initiatives to support new working arrangements. So digital transformation might no longer be a good-to-have but a critical need for organisations to stay afloat.

It may be a silver lining of the pandemic that the value of digital transformation is being showcased and gaining wider recognition among employees. Nonetheless, during this acceleration, organisations should allow long-term goals to drive the process and focus on resilience and sustainability.

Many fear that digital transformation would make their existing capabilities obsolete. This is especially true in less digitally mature companies as they assume technology skills are the only skills that matter in the digital transformation journey.

It is also about the people and processes as well. Our research shows that, first of all, a successful digital transformation requires defining clear common goals. A clear understanding on what the organisation is trying to achieve through the transformation will not only help everyone to align, but also provide a perspective for everyone to understand their role in the process and where the technology sits.

Examine the goals, the organisation’s core beliefs and culture very closely before deciding on what technology to use and how to use them. Ultimately, what the organisation’s visions for the post-transformation future should be the drive for the transformation, not the technology.

For example, when we look at the Terracotta Warriors Museum, all initiatives that were part of the transformation, be it the facial recognition app that allows you to find your most look-alike warrior, or the VR and AR museum tour – are all meant to achieve one goal: to communicate the rich history of their cultural artefacts, and providing more opportunities for audiences today, to get to know the underground army that is guarding the first emperor of China.

The museum also did a great job in leveraging insiders for their digital transformation. Learning about best practices from external organisations is definitely useful. But staff who have a rich contextual understanding about what works and what doesn’t, are highly valuable in the process to align organisation’s core identity and culture with the new initiatives.

Leaders should encourage everyone to view digital transformation as an opportunity, not as a threat. It is not about having the old being swept away by the new. It is about empowerment: an exercise where everyone in the organisation plays a part in developing better ways to better deliver the company’s core value propositions.

For more information on the digital transformation of the Terracotta Warriors army as well as lessons in digital transformation for business leaders read Inside the digital transformation of China's Terracotta Warrior army or contact Dr Yenni Tim.


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