Taking a people-first approach

The key to human-led digital transformation

Donovan Justice
© Shutterstock / Jackie Niam

In this article, Donovan Justice, CEO & Co-Founder at Digital Detox, defines the core tenets of human-led digital transformation, namely starting small, building trust, and focusing on business goals rather than the tech.

Digital transformations can be difficult to execute and many fail for a variety of reasons. This might be a resistance to change, difficulty with adopting or integrating new solutions, aligning technology solutions with wider business goals, or even fear of temporary failure. However, many of these issues can be overcome by taking a people-first approach.

Start small

Often, digital transformation can involve doing away with legacy systems and data silos altogether, but this is rarely sustainable. If still functional, legacy systems can be incorporated into the digital transformation process and improved upon as necessary instead of being thrown away and replaced with near-identical modern offerings, then this should be encouraged. Similarly, updating internal software systems while implementing innovative new solutions can minimise unnecessary work.

Taking on digital transformation projects iteratively can often lead to greater long-term success. When comparing it to a meaningful long-term relationship, you wouldn’t get married on the first date, for instance – and this steady approach is one we take when undertaking our digital transformation initiatives for clients.

By assigning developers work that is initially more modest in scope and shorter in length, decision-makers can minimise the risk of overwhelming their teams before they have got to grips with the project at hand. This also allows developers to take risks and produce unique solutions, which can then be implemented into bigger parts of the process, building sustainably on the success of the initial project.

Build trust

Building trust with a business’ various stakeholders over time is often just as essential to the success of a digital transformation project as the development work itself. The reason so many projects fail is that they are not founded on adequate communication and strong relationships.

It is crucial that mutual trust is developed between a solution provider, and a client’s C-suite and IT team. This is key to laying the foundations for a quality partnership. Communication built on trust helps to ensure the IT team is supported in utilising the final product to its fullest extent, thus maximising product value.

Trust can result in a fruitful professional relationship, which sees the development team support a business on an ongoing basis, particularly as company needs shift. A C-suite should be able to rely on a set of developers, who not only have a deep understanding of their company’s technology but also the inner workings of the business itself.

SEE ALSO: Four Ways Bad Data Quality Can Wreck Your Business

Focus on business goals, rather than the tech

Successful digital transformation requires a focus on a company’s end business goals. After all, this is just as much a consultancy project as it is a technology one.

For decision-makers, the tech is often far from the most enticing feature of digital transformation. Instead, the C-suite usually seeks to understand the value that it is adding to the business. When developers are working towards an overarching vision for the company, it can be useful to treat the digital offering as a foundation for the business to achieve its key goals.

This can only be achieved through a high degree of communication between teams, where the transformation specialists can gain an extensive understanding of business goals, objectives, and priorities, which then shape the digital.

The key to success is to treat projects the way a start-up would, i.e. by starting small and working iteratively, rather than tying down clients into drawn-out contracts and projects with an overwhelming scope. That way, both developers and clients have the opportunity to learn from their mistakes as they move further into a project and can adapt if things are not working. Moreover, as the working relationship develops, this can lead to bigger projects and long-term partnerships.

Choose the right partner

Where human-led initiatives are concerned, decision-makers will benefit by partnering with highly adaptable teams, who have an intimate understanding of a business’ needs and can create more bespoke solutions to exceed demands in intuitive ways. Sophisticated digital transformation does not rely on throwing more people than necessary at a problem, as this can result in bloated or misguided development pipelines.

By starting small and working iteratively, developing healthy relationships based on trust, and building products that communicate a company’s vision to maximise commercial impact, developers can approach digital transformation in a people-first manner. Ultimately, keeping digital transformation initiatives human-led increases the likelihood of success and makes for effective business integration.


Donovan Justice

Donovan Justice is the CEO and Co-Founder of Digital Detox, a humanity-led digital product agency, specialising in design, full stack development, startup tech partnerships and digital transformation. With more than 15 years of technical experience as an interface, front-end and Javascript developer, Donovan is well-versed in leveraging the latest technology to best service humanity, sustainability, and growth.

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