Digital Transformation from the perspective of a CFO - Part 3


Digital Transformation (DX) is primarily a people thing, technology is second!

DX is not a one-off project, change needs to become a cultural norm. It's a commitment to embark on a DX journey, a bottomless fuel tank of continual change, the route unknown, but the destination is categorically value creation. You need to be restless, and adopt a constant dissatisfaction with the status quo. If DX was approached as a one-off project, I would be sceptical of the success of such a project! 

Bite-sized chunks

Like all other investments, the numbers for DX must stack up, so the level of investment needs to be the right size for the company. Seek out, like a demented metal collector searching for Roman coins, the easiest and smallest step forward to unlock the next piece of the DX value creation jigsaw.

It is far better to try and take 10 little steps, than one big step. Incremental change and small regular improvements allow employees and customers to see things are changing, and to build momentum with no risky big bang that you could get wrong!

Lots of small steps fit better around the natural rhythm of a business - it is far easier to set aside the time for lots of small discrete projects, rather than one large one. Small incremental changes are easier to embrace from a cultural perspective - there's more motivation for everyone involved when they see progress and it provides a proof point - ROI executed, investment check point and then the next step.

Is RPA a wallpaper in disguise?

There is a lot of hype around robotics at the moment, it has become a race across some organisations to deploy Robotic Process Automation (RPA) solutions as part of their digital strategy. I would challenge, is this not like sticking wallpaper over the cracks in your house? You know you have movement, but cracks are appearing, after all, the house is old, and you desperately hope it is not subsidence, but you shove this wallpaper up, and hope you may get away with it!

Isn't the deployment of RPA an admission you have failed or know you will fail at DX? You know you can't persuade those beloved luddite humans to change their ways, so what the heck, let's get some bots to replicate those quirky human processes. But these bot guys aren't so needy and don't want a lunch break, flexible benefits, pensions etc. and you can capitalise the development costs, so even the EBITDA hungry CFO is happy!

Please don't misunderstand me, robots deployed in say manufacturing cars or to automate customer services is pure genius, but I am referring to RPAs in an administrative environment, where a good old fashioned systems development or a macro would deem the bots redundant!

Don't forget this is a people project

Research indicates that the success of DX is 80% about people, 20% about the technology. We are all complicated emotional beasts that can be a real challenge to manage at times, particularly when we have our whole rasion d'etre ripped up in front of our eyes by a seemingly un-empathetic DX project leader!

DX is like any other change project, you need to articulate the vision, sell it, and then engage the people, explaining what is in it for them and the role you expect them to play. The leader of the DX project needs to be charismatic to take people on this journey, and needs the full support of the CEO and wider board, or if not one of the rebellious humans will throw him or her under the proverbial "bus" driven by a bot at high speed!

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