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Success through change is about people first, technology second.

Technology is playing a greater role in all of our lives. And while I should acknowledge my obvious biassing as I work for a company like Spark, it's clear technology is playing an increasingly important role for NZ organisations.

On this basis, it would seemingly make a lot of sense for me to line up a long list of technology options for you to pursue. Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things, Data Insight and Virtual Reality are all starting to show a meaningful impact on the way many organisations operate.

It's not the technology engaging with your customers. It's not selling your services or interpreting data in order to make the right decisions.

Success doesn’t come from technology. Success comes from the people using the technology.Here’s a great example from the private sector - according to HBR 70% of businesses digital transformations do not reach their goals.

Don’t get distracted by the use of the ‘transformation’ cliche - this applies to any organisation looking to implement new technology.

“Contrary to popular belief, digital transformation is less about technology and more about people. You can pretty much buy any technology, but your ability to adapt to an even more digital future depends on developing the next generation of skills, closing the gap between talent supply and demand, and future-proofing your own and others’ potential.”

The article recommends a few ways for how we can prepare for this, which I’ve summarised below along with a few of my own thoughts:

Put people first:

Any decisions to invest in technology need to go hand-in-hand with investing in people who are skilled at using the technology - or have the ability and willingness to learn. In order to succeed it’s critical to have the right people, with the right skills, in the right roles. After all, even the most brilliant innovation is irrelevant if we are not skilled enough to apply it.

For example, SAP realised they needed to enable their own people to learn new skill sets, as well as adapt their old ones, in order to prepare for their businesses future, and provided them with the tools and time to do so.

Focus on soft skills:

With technology changing at such a rapid pace, the focus needs to be on employees soft skills, rather than hard skills. While employees may be highly skilled in one area, it can be impossible to anticipate the skills required for the next wave of technology. This is why hiring for soft skills becomes critical - that is, investing in those that are adaptable, curious and flexible to begin with, so they are ready to embrace change and continuously learn.

Drive change from the top:

When it comes to any period of organisational change (let alone digital transformation) you cannot expect significant changes to occur unless it’s driven from the top down. In fact, the leading factor in determining the effectiveness of a company’s transformation is typically the CEO and their mindset, values, integrity, and above all, competence. Needless to say, everything in business can be copied except for talent - so investing in top talent will give you the most value, and impact. Take Domino’s for example- when they began looking at their digital transformation strategy, they knew it was vital that everyone from the Board of Directors to the CEO was on board. By making sure that the vision was understood and supported from everyone at the top, they ensured they got the most value from their transformation.

If you can’t fail fast, make sure you succeed slowly:

It can be argued that in order to adapt to a constantly changing and rapidly disrupted environment, organisations need to operate at an increasing pace. The term coined by the Silicon Valley start-up scene,‘fail fast, fail often’ focuses on just this. It’s the idea of being open to failure as long as you can ensure that you’re learning from mistakes as you adjust, reset and then redo if necessary. But, if you can’t fail fast enough - for example, if your company or team culture isn’t designed for this way of working, then you need to be sure your longer-term strategies are on track to slowly succeed instead.

Business agility is people-led - then technology-supported. Once you get the right people, in the right roles, it becomes less of a question of where you’re headed, and instead how far you can go.

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