The biggest obstacle to transformation isn’t lack of skills

Agata Nowakowska explains why successful digital transformation needs a wider cultural change, not just extra competencies

Effective enterprise digital transformation is one of the keys to long-term organisational success. Digital transformation will help organisations stay competitive, keep their customers happy, improve efficiency and is likely to increase employee retention. 

But while many companies have digital transformation strategies in place (92 per cent, according to research by the Daisy Group), most are finding it hard to make these strategies a reality. This is where HR departments can help. The act of digitally transforming might come down to the IT department, ensuring digital transformation is accepted and integrated into company culture is the duty of HR. The IT skills gap has been touted as the main obstacle to digital transformation, but there are a few other significant challenges:

Risk-averse culture

A recent Deloitte survey found that many companies are not making the necessary cultural changes needed to take full advantage of their digital potential. These organisations are risk averse in a time when taking risks is the most direct path to innovation.

Cultural change starts with people. This means providing the workforce with a better understanding of relevant digital era technologies, concepts, competencies and practices. Companies that succeed in digital business develop human talent that has the critical blend of technology and business competencies. Many people are naturally averse to change, but success is about ensuring people are ready for the change that comes with any transformation project. It is learning that will help to shift their mindsets to engage with new technologies and processes, and master the new skills they need going forward. Simply replacing traditional training methods and streamlining processes with digital learning is not enough. L&D has to think about the bigger picture of business performance and engagement, as well as efficiency and cost.

Lack of clarity

Digital transformation has become a buzzword, a broad-stroke term to describe a huge number of varying initiatives. HR must work with the board and IT to define its company’s digital transformation journey, and what is needed to get on that road.

Inadequate cross-departmental collaboration

Organisational silos are one of the biggest obstructions to digital transformation efforts. Without a dialogue between departments, it can be not only impossible to establish a digital transformation strategy but once started, the initiative will likely fall at the first hurdle, as every department is not on the same page. Digital transformation strategies need to be enterprise-wide. HR can play a fundamental role in starting this cross-departmental conversation; they need to get executives on board, identify potential synergies across functional silos and foster a culture where openness and collaboration are encouraged.

Ultimately, although solving the skills gap does play a huge role in the current digital deficit, digital transformation will only be truly successful if the above issues are conquered. Through collaboration, a clear plan and a cultural drive towards digital transformation, companies will find that their digital transformation journeys are much easier.  

Agata Nowakowska is AVP of Skillsoft