The ugly Truth of Digital Transformation

When opening my social media tabs every morning, my self-made bubble provides a lot of creepy information on Digital Transformation. As a positive thinking programmer, consultant and blogger, I made it my mission to explain technology and provide helpful information – even when it brings less clicks than a buzzword driven headline and a fancy middle finger pic. But such clickbaiting content leaves most end-users with more questions than answers. In my opinion, everyone should get the chance to become a well educated ambassador for the Digital Transformation. So we can use the benefits of a digital world together. Even if it is hard work for non-tech employees and managers to learn new digital skills and understand future technology. Digital Transformation means first of all life long learning and (self) development – in various fields.


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Pic: 77SG, Adobe Stock


Digital Skills & Digital Culture

The journey from an old established pen and paper (in worst case) company to a business, that is still competitive in a digital world, does not start in the IT department. Much more important for a successful Digital Transformation is the management board. No worries, no one will ask them to set up complex hybrid infrastructures. But someone in that circle must be a driver for change and inspire management colleagues as well as all other employees.

Looking at my clients, a lack of knowledge regarding (future) technologies and already available infrastructure and software products, leads to a kind of helplessness when it comes to the questions how their own company might look like in 10 years, which staff they need to hire now and what digital tools their clients consider as part of a normal sales or service contact in the future.

Only a leader who understands the importance of continous (self) improvement, will understand how important it is to educate every single employee, so they don’t need to be afraid to loose their jobs to machines, but can take part in the change process. There must be some space in the work schedule for media and data competence training, it security workshops and tech education. Also, a digital culture needs an open discussion on future technologies and their social impact.

Infrastructure & Security

Surprisingly, for most companies the digital journey – consciously or unconsciously – begins in the marketing department. Due to the easy to understand process of lead-generation and sales, no one can question the cost-benefit calculation of (even a bad) online marketing campaign. But a lot of people forget, that also marketing tools run on the same infrastructure as all other business relevant systems. It’s the same network, you just add some software and tools.

The increasing use of digital tools by non-tech employees, makes it more and more important, to have a working IT Security and Data Protection approach in place – from the first day on. While I see that more and more budget holders agree to spend more money for digital marketing tools, I still do not see a trend to spend enough money for the underlying infrastructure and IT Security training for all employees.

Read on: Respect the Hackers! Or: Why we all should care more about IT Security

Data Conditions

Additional to problems and incompatibilities because of an old IT Infrastructure (old = older than 3-5 years), every established business also has to deal with legacy code and legacy data. Most corporate data bases are filled with distorted data, that causes errors in daily use and leads to a high number of non-tech workarounds. So the first and hardest question when starting a Digital Revolution must be: “Do we need all of this anymore?”

Once managers and employees have reached a certain digital skill level, they will easily identify which data (sources) help them to do their job and which ones just waste time, money and storage space. Also from a data protection perspective: It’s much more valuable to have a constant contact to a client, what includes the ability to ask him for more (up to date) date when needed, than send out whole surveys most people do not even answer. Better offer a convenient contact point than maintain a poluted data base!

Cost and Time Efficient Projects

Most IT projects have one big problem from the start: Employees do not get extra time in their schedule to participate and no time to really understand the outcome of the project. So most IT projects in small or even big companies are an unlikely must. However, in the end such a project will affect the daily working routine of everyone. Something that is again a big show stopper for a lot of people. So how can you make the best out of it?

  1. There is no need to invent the whole thing on your own – there are a lot of IaaS and SaaS solutions on the market yet. And if there is not 100% perfect one, find the 90% perfect one and ask the developer to modify it for you. Both, big corporates and Startups do that, even if it is not officially offered on their websites.
  2. The goal is to make money with that tool and get correct data, never forget that. Explain to your employees, why this tool is needed. Ask them to participate from the start, keep them updated and give them time to make friends with a new solution.
  3. Keep it short, simple and as cheap as possible. Don’t start an unflexible long-term project, while technology moves on and your solution is in danger to be outdated from the first day in use!

Hard Work & Life Long Learning

Digital Transformation is nothing you do in your coffee break, or something that might be a cool digital project for some interns. For most managers, not having learned anything totally new within the last 20 or 30 years, it is hard work not just to learn how to use new technologies, but also to get a feeling for the social changes and the new spirit of following generations who grew up with new technologies.

As technical evolution goes on and accelerates, it’s more and more important for us humans to accept that learning does not end with your last day in school, at your traineeship or at the university. It is an ongoing process we should never quit. Learn something new every day, in best case something that has to do with the social or the technical side of Digital Transformation – and you will have no problems to be an ambassador for change within your company!

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