Wrong assumptions in digital transformation : my Social Business Forum Presentation

Digital Transformation was one of the major topic of the latest Social Business Forum in Milan in early July.

It was also the topic of the presentation I gave. Here’s the idea that led to the speech.

We see more and more businesses starting such initiatives and, most of times, the have the following discourse :

1°) It’s a major stake and we know it is.

2°) We need to move forward

3°) Knowing that, we need to do this and this.

That’s often where things start to go wrong. Businesses rely on assumptions that appear to be often wrong, what is one more evidence of the gap between what businesses think and the reality on the field. It make them take wrong ways, execute action plans that will, at best, miss their target and, at worse, be counterproductive.

So here are the main points of my presentation.

1°) We moved from enterprise 2.0 to social business and now to digital transformation. The first was focused on internal collaboration, the second integrated the internal/external continuum, the third is the understanding that nothing can be done without changing culture, behaviors, mindsets. So I start with the assumption that digital transformation = social business + HR.

2°) Digital transformation is what must be done before starting any business transformation initiative. It’s the common framework that will help to transform the way business gets done. If HR won’t change the way businesses operates, they have to build the environment that will make this transformation possible. It’s what will make that business models will be thought and designed in a new way, that work will change etc. It depends on cultural factors, talents to hire or develop. There’s no surprise if HR departments that take the lead on digital transformation take it from an acculturation perspective.

Then come the list of the most common wrong assumptions that make businesses get and in the way they design and deliver their transformation plan.

3°) It’s a matter of software and devices. No : culture is what slows transformation down, not technology. Technology is, by the way, much ahead of what businesses are really capable of doing with it.

An employee is a customer who steps into the office

4°) Our employees are hopeless in digital. I won’t elaborate a lote because there’s a specific post coming on this matter. What you have to know is that businesses must transform under the pressure of customers who have become digital, social, mobile and employees are nothing but customers stepping into the workplace. If they behave differently there are chances the problem is not at their level.

5°) The solution is training. Training only accounts for 10% of what we learn so it’s much more efficient and profitable to focus on the 90% left. Moreover digital is not something one learns through theory but through experience. Have you been trained to use Google, Facebook or your iPad ? Digital acculturation is an ongoing process, an immersive dynamic that happens between peers. Hence the need to realize that employees are not that hopeless and to capitalize on the nuggets that exist in the organization to trigger the move. An internal example will always be better than a case from another company even is brilliantly staged by an expert consultant. We need to create the mindset that will help everybody to learn and increase one’s awareness continuously.

And, please, be serious. Digital changes every day. Design a training program and once you’ve finished to train your 50 or 100K employees you’ll realize that it costed a lot of money for less than 1/2 day per employee, took one year and was outdated before being delivered. Better have a look at what’s happening at

6°) It’s internal OR external. No : it’s both at the same time. If HR start to take care of the inside and marketing of the outside, no one will aim in the same direction and the risk of going nowhere or get stuck in internal fights is high. Everybody owns a part of the customer experience and that what leads us to my last point. All the more so employees won’t give customers what they did not receive from their company, in terms of attention, attitudes and behaviors. That’s called the symetry of attentions. If the customer is in the driver’s seat, the right behaviors are built internally.

7°) It’s a reserved area. No if matter HR or anyone else is leading.Customers don’t value a product or service but an experience and everybody contributes to  a part of the experience. So we need the major corporate functions to think and act concertedly. But what the latest IBM CxO survey shows (and that’s not a surprise) is that top performing organizations have a high level of collaboration at the C-Level, what is not the case in most organizations. The first silos to be broken are at the top of the organization if we want to break the at the bottom.

That’s all. The list could have been longer but time was limited.


Bertrand DUPERRINhttps://www.duperrin.com/english
Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler
Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler

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