What’s more important in a business digitalisation project: Getting the project right, or getting it finished?

5 min read | Dirk Hahn | Article | Leadership Department & Organisation General

What's more important in a digitalisation project?

Learn about what is really important to digitalisation: getting it right or getting it done? Dirk Hahn, the CEO and Strategic Director of Hays Germany tells us more.

Digitalisation in business: Key insights

Digital transformation is essential for business success. But does a desire to get it right the first time mean you’re being left behind?

The pressure to digitalise the customer journey is well and truly on. You might plan to use predictive analytics to anticipate behaviours or deploy AI-driven chatbots to provide a service. As a business leader, you need to implement a change.

But this isn’t a simple plan. A digitalisation project is a major reworking of your business processes. You will need to invest time, money and people into providing a user experience that can compete in a digital age.

There are potential hurdles to digitalisation in business:

  • Are you afraid that you’re not equipped to implement this change seamlessly?
  • Are you scared of not getting it perfect first-time round?
  • Are you looking at ever more pressing time constraints, a lack of skilled employees, or both?

These concerns are valid and common. But how can you overcome them?

Digitalisation in business: Background

I understand digitalisation hesitancy – to an extent.

On the one hand, if you’re going to invest precious resources into making a digital change to the business, you want to make sure you get this right. Otherwise, how else can you justify the cost and keep your industry reputation intact?

But, on the other hand, if you wait too long to get up to speed, will you lag behind your more innovative competitors? Might you lose your industry standing altogether?

The world is changing faster than you might think. Remember: it’s not the businesses that take time to get things right that thrive. It’s the businesses that are willing to take a chance on failure – even when time and budget are tight.

How can your business take a chance on digitalisation?

Changing your culture to change your business

Microsoft CEO, Sataya Nadella, describes the best work cultures as having “a growth mindset”, something he sees as essential to Microsoft’s own digital transformation. It’s an approach that’s changed the way the company works, leaving employees as collaborators rather than competitors.

This mindset breeds new ideas. It’s about a willingness to risk failure and realising it’s a way to learn new things. Perhaps, most importantly, it’s being prepared to listen and learn from everyone in the team and across the entire organisation.

Such a shift in company culture and operations will inevitably result in mistakes. You will need to redefine failure and encourage your staff to be less risk-averse.

Involve your staff in your project. If employees feel part of the digital transformation process, they will understand that things won’t be perfect from the start. Instead, they’re driving an iterative cycle that will refine both tools and processes throughout the programme – even if the journey is a little rough at times.

Digitalisation is about everyone

To deliver change successfully, teams must be kept informed. You need to show them what you’re going to do, how you’ll go about it, and why you’re doing it.

Good communication is at the heart of delivering a user-focused set of changes. Users should become part of the change process. Not only will you get new, and often unexpected, insights, but you’ll also help manage expectations more effectively.

Communication isn’t just top-down either; it is a two-way street. You’ll need to be open to ideas (and questions) from everyone involved in the process.

This flexible approach has had significant industry uptake. “Maintaining a truly diverse environment is an effective way of connecting to an equally diverse client base,” says Mike Corbat, CEO of Citigroup.

Living with a growth mindset

A digitalisation project in business is complex. If it’s to be successful, you need to shift focus from your large-scale overall goals to smaller-scale projects.

So don’t be afraid to alter processes that aren’t working. But, if the change doesn’t lead to an improvement, you’ll need to be ready to rethink your approach.

Trial and error are crucial to delivering effective digital transformation. By adopting modern development processes and bringing agile skills to your organisation, you can quickly respond to, and learn from, problems.

As you build prototypes and evaluate hypotheses, you’re learning about your business’s processes. You’ll also gain a better understanding of what your business does, how it does it, and the ways it fits in with a modern customer-centric way of working.

Building the right skills to deliver a digital transformation

The skills you need to build a modern digital business might not all be inside your organisation. The technologies involved are often new and come with steep learning curves. To get started, you might bring in new staff or hire specialist contractors while you build your team.

As Steve Weston, our CIO, points out, “Contractors can help you fill this gap. They will have experience across multiple digital transformation projects for different companies and industries. Not only is this of huge benefit to your projects, but also to your existing teams.”

Focusing on the process is essential to the success of business alterations on this scale. Digital transformation is a huge opportunity for businesses that want to update and expand their business processes – but it might not be the time to digitise everything.

Instead, analyse processes as you start to work with them. As Aaron Levie, CEO at Box, says, “Adding software to a broken process doesn’t make you digital. The biggest challenge is reimagining the process, not writing software.”

Digitalisation in business: Next steps for your business

Digital transformation requires agility and the ability to recover when you stumble and fall (which you will). Olympic gymnasts don’t get it right the first time. Businesses don’t either.

By practising the new skills you’ve acquired, your business can move on from its mistakes. Only then will you deliver the digital services your users and customers demand.

About this author

After receiving the degree of Diplom-Kaufmann (graduate in Business Administration), Dirk Hahn began his career with Hays in 1997. Initially working as a department head, Dirk progressed to Divisional Manager and then Director of Sales.

In January 2008, Dirk was appointed Chief Operating Officer and joined the Management Board of Hays AG. Before he was appointed as CEO of Hays AG in January 2020, he was responsible for the Engineering, Construction & Property, Life Sciences and Healthcare sales specialisms in Hays Germany.

Dirk has since managed the company’s recruitment management division and subsidiaries in Switzerland and Austria. Additionally, since 2017 he has been a member of the Hays Global Management Board.

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