The demand for digitization has never been higher than in 2020, especially considering the pandemic the world is in. Today’s digitization is happening at an ever-faster pace and there is significantly greater complexity in the digitization projects now than just a few years ago. Repeated research data shows time and time again that as many as 70% of all digital transformations fail. Why is it like that?
Since 2002, I have talked about the importance of understanding that digitalisation is about a cultural change and bringing the company’s employees on board the journey of change that is understandable. It is about putting the user and the customer at the centre. In other words, one must understand the complexity that lies in the actual digitization. In 2002, I was leading my first major national digital transformation project, with the responsibility of establishing a new digital collaboration platform for the National School Fruit Scheme. An administrative ordering and logistics system of fruit and vegetables for the country’s 600,000 primary school students, and the country’s 3250 primary schools as it was in 2002 and Bama’s 40 different logistics and hubs in Norway.
The requirements specification for the new digital IT system was also my Diploma thesis at BI in 2004. It was all about what work processes to digitize – and what work process not to digitize. The requirements specification was about what to standardize of business processes and what needed to be harmonized of all the national school fruit work processes. So how could a non-technologist write a requirements specification for a new digital collaboration system? Yes, because I have competence and interest in change and process management and an understanding of work processes. Before I wrote this requirements specification, I conducted study trips to a total of 100 primary schools throughout Norway, ranging from large to small schools. Talked to countless teachers, students, and parents. Study trips to Bama’s 40 logistics and distribution points in Norway, to understand the various interaction processes for distributing fruit and vegetables to the country’s primary schools. Secondly, we conducted interdisciplinary work and study groups, a total of 40 groups throughout Norway between the mentioned actors for how one could best create a technical solution with the user in the centre. We quickly saw that the current interaction was not harmonized with the suppliers’ work processes and contributed to extra workload. Thus, the work processes had to be harmonized both within the Norwegian Information Office for fruit and vegetables, at primary and lower secondary schools, finally at the fruit and vegetable suppliers. The requirements specifications helped to save the public primary school for 120,000 working hours during the semester, and increased the consumption of fruit and vegetables among the country’s students by 35%. In other words, this digital solution was a great success! The only reason this was possible is because the user was put in the centre, we managed the involvement of all the stakeholders we got on board this great national transformation. Through interdisciplinary collaboration across different sectors and public agencies, we were able to build a resilience that made the entire scheme much more flexible than before.
In 2008, I also headed the program office for Lindorff Accounting Group’s largest digital transformation in 20 years. Upgrading of a new ERP system, MS Axapta 2009. Which was a great success. Again, there was a focus on strategy, harmonization and standardization of work processes, the company’s intellectual capital (employees who had to be brought on board the journey of change) and technology as a tool.
Digitization focus and pace of change
It is important to understand that digitalisation is about the company’s business processes being designed to utilize today’s and tomorrow’s technology so that they support the company’s overall goal. If a company does not involve the employees in the digitization process, there is a great chance of failure. Therefore, one must bring on board the company’s employees through involvement.
The demand for increased efficiency, at a lower cost with a higher quality and better resource utilization is often a starting point for digitization projects. Time and time again, we see that most digitization projects fail. It is not uncommon for us to see that many managers believe that digitalisation is the goal and underestimate the human factor in the changes.
My mantra is that understanding strategy, business processes, involving the company’s intellectual capital (i.e., employees) and that technology is only a tool for achieving the company’s goal is essential for the success of digitalisation. This means that we must recognize and plan on the basis that digitalisation is ONLY a tool for achieving increased profit realization and thereby be able to achieve the company’s vision. We know that 70% of all digitization projects today fail because the assumed profit realization is not achieved. This is because both the complexity of change and the elasticity of change are not understood by those who lead the digitization work. The gain achieved by digitization is always dependent on the company being able to get the company’s employees on board on the journey. Today’s demands for increased efficiency mean that the companies are in constant and complex change, and it is not uncommon for users to be forgotten in the middle of it all.
No user adoption – no digital interaction transformation.
Digital solutions such as O365 and Teams can help change how the company’s employees interact. This can increase the profit realization for the company’s employees by spending less time on email administration, which does not free up productive time. BUT then you must get the company’s employees on board on this change journey.
Digital transformation is the new everyday life for both the public and private sector. Which often involves the introduction of new digital solutions to improve products and services, finally to simplify and improve work processes.
Digital transformation is not putting power on a manual form
The complexity of changes affects and challenge the current state work processes of a company. Therefore, it is important to understand that if one is to succeed with digitization, one must have competence in organizational development and change management related to planning and introduction of new technology through interdisciplinary collaboration across different subject areas.
As a digital transformation leader, I have primarily worked with the human aspect, finally with the important interplay between human beings, technology, and processes. Through a career of 18 years as a digital transformation leader, I have assisted companies in both the public, private and non-profit sector. I am more than ever convinced that for a company to succeed in a digital transformation journey, the company must understand the importance of and master change management as a subject. It all boils down to whether you succeed in getting the company’s employees on board to adjust and take ownership of new work processes. One must be able to understand how a work process affects the company’s employees in everyday life. To be able to adjust and change the various work and sub-processes in a company. Secondly, one must be able to understand the correlation between different parameters in a stakeholder analysis and a possible introduction plan. In other words, one must be able to understand and map the company’s work processes, communicate with the company’s employees about how a possible change will affect their everyday lives. Secondly, one must understand the importance of user involvement (user adoption) to succeed in a digital transformation. From my point of view, this is the only way to ensure a real profit realization by