5 things business leaders can do right now to speed digital transformation

A research firm found that reskilling workers was one of the most important things a company could do to keep up in the current market.

The pace of innovation in 2019 has made it difficult for most companies to keep up with competitors and its customers. In its new global report on growth in the digital age, digital research firm Prophet gave some helpful tips to companies grappling with change.
 
"We intend this research to be a fresh perspective and for the diagnostic to help you identify a clearer path to a cultural transformation that drives growth," Prophet researchers Tyler Durham, Tony Fross and Helen Rosethorn wrote.
 
"But this is a difficult task ahead and it will benefit from great minds working on it together. Visions and plans may change, but without some guardrails you have a recipe for confusion and chaos."
 
Prophet spoke to 400 employees and 50 executives at companies in the US, China, UK and Germany. The companies came from a variety of industries, including manufacturing, technology, and retail.
 
Julian Weber, Head of Retail for Shell, said in the survey that the "change coming from digital is so fundamental that we have to question everything we have in the organization."
 
When trying to change a company's structure or ethos, Prophet suggested creating core principles that provided a base for shorter, more nimble transformation initiatives.
 
"Digital transformation roadmaps generally focus on a two to three-year rolling timeline. Re-skilling emerged as the most important of our fundamental levers – putting talent strategy at the heart of effective transformation today. While it is often necessary to hire in digital skills to accelerate transformation, no one can replace the majority of their workforce and succeed," they wrote.
 
"Empowerment is the key term here. These activities involve giving employees the freedom to experience and ultimately adopt new ways of working. This could be through greenlighting skunkworks projects or simply creating collaborative spaces in offices."
 
SEE: IT leader's guide to deep learning (Tech Pro Research)
 
Prophet's research showed that helping employees change was difficult, especially as new, unfamiliar technology emerges on a daily basis and trends shift by the hour. Companies should devote leaders to this task and keep them linked to senior management as changes occur.
 
"What is needed is true collaboration — linked to pace and agility — across business units and functions. Such collaboration isn't easy to achieve, it comes with pain and some demanding trade-offs. And that's why incentive programs built to motivate this mission-critical behavior are so important," they said.
 
Their next tip was true collaboration that saw employees of all level working together to move the company forward.

"The best ideas don't necessarily come from the most senior people in the room, but rather from those on the front lines who are working with customers all day. So it's about how do we include this person in the process... they're at the coal face and can tell you what's possible and what's not." said Donna Miller, European HR Director for Enterprise Holdings in the survey.

Prophet added that companies should create measurements and ways to quantify how successful change initiatives are. Without measurements it will be difficult to keep people accountable and track whether your organization is truly keeping with the times and maximizing its potential.

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