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Technology is transforming society at an ever-increasing speed. Failure to react now, Dr Jim Hamill argues, could spell the end for organisations who can’t keep up.

Technology is transforming society at an ever-increasing speed. Failure to react now, Dr Jim Hamill argues, could spell the end for organisations who can’t keep up.

In a constantly connected society, the way we communicate, consume and relate to each other is fundamentally changing. From the purchasing decisions we make, to our redefined expectations of the nature of work, these advances have major implications.

In industry and public sector alike, technology is the greatest opportunity for reinvention since the industrial revolution.

Research from Harvard confirms businesses who embrace digital transformation outperform those who lag behind on a number of financial measures. Yet many leaders still struggle to understand how they should adapt to gain a competitive advantage.

As with any organisational change, success requires robust leadership. It must be planned, and strategic. It must be aligned with wider organisational goals, and it cannot happen without people on board. Technology can be a key enabler of change, but if it fails to engage and work for your staff, customers, suppliers and other stakeholders, your efforts will fall flat.

Here are my five keys to leading digital transformation.

1. Understand your terrain

Draw up a list of the main disruptive technologies impacting your industry, now and in the future. Understand the opportunities and threats they pose to your organisation.

Model how great their impact will be and for how long, and consider how your competitors are responding. Who is leading the change in your industry? What can you learn from them?

Find the gap between where you need to be and where you are.

2. Set your sights

Establish your digital vision and strategy. How will your operating model change in response to disruption?

Consider what you want to achieve, your KPIs, targets and how you plan to measure success.

Commit to how these activities will be prioritised and resourced.  Agree on the plan with the highest level of the organisation, implement and review.

3. Look outside-in

Too many organisations are carried away with the latest shiny innovations, without thinking of it as a tool to fundamentally transform to better meet the needs of customers and partners.

Look at your customer journey. How do you use these new tools to support sales, marketing and PR?

Think about how you analyse social media and real time customer engagement data. Are you doing enough to gain actionable insights?

4. Embed it

Making technology the core of your operations, rather than an add-on, can streamline internal systems and processes, improve efficiency and reduce costs. Delivering a more agile, data-driven organisation.

Consider how it can mitigate and remove productivity bottlenecks and frustrations. How well is your organisation using new communication systems to support collaboration, internally and externally, and reduce the burden of excessive email?

Is data still solely the domain of your IT department, or is it available to and presented in a way all colleagues can value and understand it?

5. Lead digital 

What’s standing in your way? It is likely to be resistance from within. Work out who your digital leaders are, and how they can be quipped to drive change, engage and support colleagues to adapt.

Create your change story. Why are you doing this and why should it matter to your people? Review your project management and governance to ensure they’re fit for purpose.


Dr Jim Hamill is Director of Future Digital Leaders. He supports organisations to drive technological transformation. He will deliver the Digital Leadership Masterclass at University of Edinburgh Business School on 4 and 5 October 2018.

Image source: @Pixabay