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The Human Elements Connecting your Digital Business

Summary: A great Digital Business cannot sustain itself when it relies on one or two key people that have all the magic; it is a connected, engaged team of people that come together, with a shared vision , to deliver results.

Earlier articles in this series have described the Five Components of a Great Digital Business, and laid out the foundational premise – that a digital business will only succeed when it knows how to connect with people. We’ve defined the five components, but have we connected the dots to our original premise? Where is the humanity that drives our decisions and actions, and differentiates our results?

Knowledge

First, let’s think about systems and processes – the core of the first three components (Operations, Customers, Products). Obviously, there is a critical human element that executes your current internal process. How dependent are you on those key employees, the critical few that are the only ones who understand how everything works together? How many of your customer connections are based solely on the relationships of your business development team? How much of your product development roadmap is based on that one engineer who knows, really lives, in the minutiae of the operational parameters of your product?

Your current systems and processes – running internal operations, connecting with your customers, and differentiating your products and services – are highly dependent on people to make things work. And people, as we are often told, are the most expensive components of your P&L.

But let’s not make that same illogical leap that so many do; an effective digital world is not free from humans. You should not assume that information and technology can or should replace the human element – these capabilities should exist to augment the people in the loop. Let’s automate the rote portions of our work, capture past history and best practices so we don’t make the same mistakes twice, and allow us to scale by making expertise easier to pass along.

All five components have pools of knowledge that are trapped in people’s minds, on their desks, and in their eMail in-box. And your successful Digital Transformation will liberate this trapped knowledge, multiplying its impact for creating value and enabling people – your Teams, your customers, your stakeholders – to deliver on their expectations. The result: your Teams can quickly pivot to higher value tasks, more important customers, and more profitable products.

Skills

Think about the skills required to make these digital dreams a reality. When we look in depth at the Data component, we will see that the focus must be on enabling value by building a team with the right set of skills. A Digital Transformation brings new techniques that must be mastered – just like a new machine tool in the shop, a new communication method to reach customers, or a new method for analyzing the information flooding our inboxes, our senses, and our attention every day.

Some of these skills are new – just like the enabling technology that makes change and disruption possible. Other skills are maturing – updated requirements based on changes in the appetites of our markets and customers. And there is an amazing shortfall of available, skilled labor in areas that are well established, even “legacy” – but have proven, over the years, to be incredibly tough to train and retain. Increased demand for digital skills has tightened the supply even further – and filling these gaps becomes a familiar task and a critical expectation for aspiring digital organizations.

All five components call out for specific, valuable, and varied skills to deliver on your opportunities. A training and development process that values skills, and encourages growth, will enable your Digital Business to scale as fast as the technology.

Values and Culture

When we talk about the importance of Teams – the people in your organization that perform the Operations that power your business, that connect and engage directly with your Customers, and that build and support the Products and Services that your company delivers – it brings all of these elements together. A great Digital Business cannot sustain itself when it relies on one or two key people that have all the magic; it is a connected, engaged team of people that come together, with a shared vision , to deliver results.

A significant element of how your team comes together will be a consistent set of Values and a clearly defined culture. Values represent who we are and how we intend to behave – with our team, our customers, and our community. And Culture acts as the adaptive glue that binds us together, setting the expectations, including all voices, and embracing the diversity that will carry us through opportunities, challenges, and change.

The teams (Operations, Sales & Marketing, Product Development, etc.) that deliver individual components of your Digital Business will bring uniquely applied Values and different takes on Culture; your Digital Transformation must be mindful of this, and work effectively to blend the different groups into a harmonious whole.

# 2 October, 2018

This Post Has One Comment
  1. “Let’s automate the rote portions of our work, capture past history and best practices so we don’t make the same mistakes twice, and allow us to scale by making expertise easier to pass along.” Well said.

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James MacLennan

... is the Managing Partner at Maker Turtle LLC, a digital consultancy focused on creating value in ways that align with your strategy and drive engagement with employees, customers, and stakeholders. He is an active creator, providing thought leadership through on-line & print publications, and public speaking / keynotes.