What no one will tell you about digital transformation

January 2019, artícle published originally in Spanish in El Periódico de Catalunya

What no one will tell you about digital transformation

Since 2013, interest in the concept of “digital transformation” hasn’t stopped growing. In fact, through Google trends (a sort of ranking that provides information on the number of queries regarding a specific topic on this search engine) we’ve found that currently this topic is at an all-time high. It seems that everyone wants to digitally transform themselves or, at the very least, no one wants to stay behind while others take off. (I can picture more than one CEO furtively searching the web in their office after hearing the concept in a work meeting and having no idea what it meant).

Of what little is said, or nothing at all, is that the biggest challenge for the organizations immersed in this process is not technology, innovative disruptions or new client behaviors. The main challenge is adapting their culture, mentality, and the skills of the professionals that make up their teams to “the new”, that is to say get used to working “digitally”. There’s a difference between acting digital and being digital.

Every company should try to find its digital DNA to understand what it means to be digital within its own organization. In other words, every company, in its own context (that is the key), should define its digital essence. For example, it will not be the same for a very international industrial SME as for a large service corporation focused only on two markets.

There is much talk about the company’s transformation but little of the transformation that people have to go through in this process of change. Where do people stand in this process? What opportunities and risks does it entail?

And in this debate we quickly arrive at ground zero, the heart of the issue, the battle of battles of this discussion, the thing that will lead to success or failure: the digital skills of the professionals. Surprisingly, this issue is often overlooked when in fact a company’s transformation to be competitive in the 21st century depends on it. We will continue to need people in order to change, evolve, and innovate… ultimately to transform the way we do things, until we get replaced by some kind of machine or algorithm (which is still a few decades away). Therefore, it is necessary to determine criteria that help professionals in organizations know which skills they should develop in order to contribute to this journey. The difficulty lies in the fact that these are not standard skills (it’s not learning A or B), but rather they are related to the context in which a particular company or professional develop.

There is much talk about the company’s transformation but little of the transformation that people have to go through in this process of change. What does digital transformation mean for professionals? Where do people stand in this process? What opportunities and risks does it entail? Identifying the causes of stress, anxiety or difficulty and those that mean development and happiness for professionals (from the board of directors to employees) is, without a doubt, the biggest issue behind this monumental challenge and the one no one will tell you about when discussing digital transformation.