Transforming the digital workplace is about evolution, not revolution
The following is a guest article from Scott McDonald, founding partner and managing director of Modus.
We’re experiencing a digital revolution. Digital innovation continues to grow at neck-breaking speed in virtually every aspect of life today. Except for maybe in businesses.
Rather than a revolution, for the majority of organizations it’s an evolution that seems to be under way when it comes to digital transformation. The process is one that’s slow and accretive, not fast and comprehensive.
This is evidenced by some telling data from the Organization in the Digital Age report, a global survey released last October that tracks how technology is incorporated into the workplace. For example:
- Only 10% of the 300-plus research participants say digital transformation is happening fast in their organization, while half say it’s slow.
- Just 33% report that top-level managers "understand and support digital initiatives."
- Less than 50% of participants said their organization had a "compelling vision" for digital transformation.
- And only 11% say their organization’s online processes are simple, while most say they are complicated.
Adopting digital advances in response to needs, organizations grow more adept at managing digital change; as they do so, they become better at identifying and instituting further changes.
For decision makers, the key to maximizing the benefit of this process is understanding the intertwined relationship between digital transformation and organizational development.
We see from the findings that it’s not only in organizations’ increased digital capabilities that transformation is occurring, but in the effects those expanded capabilities have on vital structures, processes and relationships. If the first wave of digital workplaces was about digitizing everything possible, succeeding waves are gradually making those assets easier to use, consumer-like, and valuable.
Digital communications tools, for example, are empowering higher degrees of autonomy; internal crowdsourcing platforms are paving the way for new approaches to ideation; and online training is making learning in the workplace a practical reality.
Those who prioritize ruthlessly, place smaller but smarter bets and don’t over-extend themselves see the most success.
The deeper lesson here is that while 10 years ago digital transformation was about technologies, systems and frameworks, today it’s about behavior, strategy and modality. Digital can no longer be understood as a tool, or set of tools, for an organization to use but as the ways an organization sees, understands, creates and interacts with the environment in which it operates.
And without real organizational growth, digital transformation done for its own sake produces little more than complicated and ill-defined guidelines, processes, systems — exactly the kinds of things that corrode trust, reduce autonomy and hamper the creation of lean, agile and fluid organizations.
Answering that difficult question of keeping pace with digital change requires an ability to look at an organization and see it as an organic whole — one that’s made up of people and that works for the benefit of people.
Internalizing this, we see the ideal we’re aiming toward is using digital modalities to create an "organism" perfectly suited to its environment. It may be an ideal we’ll forever be reaching for but with that endpoint as our vision we’ll not only know the direction we’re heading but the kind of path we want to take to get there.