Digital transformation of office - Change management

One of the interesting question I came across recently in a survey was “Considering the age profile of executives where a 50% of executives are above 44, will full digital transformation have hurdles?” The survey was on Digital transformation of workplace. It makes me wonder, is it really difficult for enterprises with median age of employees in 40+ zone to undergo a digital transformation?

I work at a place where operating SAP (our ERP software) is a herculean task for many of the employees. Not only for those in 40+ age category, but even for the 20 - 30 year olds who are well conversant with computers, smart phones, and technology otherwise. What makes operating the systems difficult for those, who are otherwise not afraid of IT? unfamiliarity?

The organization is going through a change right now. A lot of established procedures are being replaced with newer alternatives. The transformation we are discussing about is not introducing J.A.R.V.I.S, but rather petite like moving from hard copies to soft copy, or using social network for office communication, or dashboards for real time data, or online health monitoring(IOT? not so bad!) of machines. If the changes are simple, why would usability or user friendliness still be a matter of concern? As mentioned in the question, the target audience is in a higher age bracket.

Being a public sector undertaking (PSU), the office still insists on paper copies in many areas, especially financial documents. We still send inter office memos on paper, rather than an email. We have not started using cool communication tools like flock or slack. Recently, a lot of digital initiatives were taken by the company which saved paper by replacing with PDFs or similar. Traditional practices are being replaced with modern alternatives, but we are still in the transformation phase.

Dr. John Kotter’s 8 step process on change management is an interesting read on the implementing a new system or a concept. Managing the change process is viewed differently by different authors. But one common feature across all blogs / papers / articles is training. Any new process or method or approach or system takes time to get accustomed to. Training, if used effectively can speed up the process.

Think of the time when you bought smart phone for your parents, who are so used to feature phones. I have no doubts you received more than a dozen calls on how to change the wallpaper or a missing contact. Eventually they will get used to it. The process behind getting used to it, is in fact training, even though informal. In an organization also, a similar approach is required. Someone need to tell the staff that they need not type something in MS word, take a print of it, sign it, scan it, and send across as a mail attachment - Instead, they can send it as the mail itself. So is the case with every other change, especially in a digital transformation.

Let it be ERP, or things you use more commonly like MS excel, training, if done effectively, can be helpful in implementing any change and making best use of it. As Bill gates said, “The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.” Enable everyone to make best use of the technology, so that they can contribute to the organization.

You can read a few interesting blogs here:

  1. Don’t Fear Technology In Finance, Embrace It
  2. Magnify the Efficiency, Not the Inefficiency
  3. New Technology and Old Users

PS: I take pride in myself when people approach me to get things done in ERP. But it took me considerable amount of effort and help from experts in the domain and hours of browsing on SAP community network to learn whatever I know. Training matters!