Company culture plays an integral part in the transition towards digital. Source: Shutterstock

The role of talent in the journey towards digital

BUSINESSES everywhere are on a digital transformation journey, and although everyone is at aspiring for different things, it seems as though process significantly changes how they operate and deliver value to customers.

In order to succeed, however, it’s not just investments and leadership that organizations need — it’s an organization-wide endeavor, which means everyone must walk and make progress together.

Essentially, to drive digital transformation projects, organizations need a cultural change that ensures people are afraid to challenge the status quo, experiment, or fail.

The shift in the role of IT

In the past couple of years, there has been a fundamental shift in the role of IT. Instead of CEOs wanting their IT talent to focus on building software or running IT for cost savings and operations, they’re embracing IT as the primary driver of business innovation.

As such, companies are rethinking how IT impacts all business areas in each day-to-day experience.

But despite IT playing a vital role in driving the digital transformation strategy, the job of implementing and adapting the new changes that come falls on everyone in the company. For this very reason, digital transformation is a people problem.

Helping all employees adapt to the culture shock that rapid change brings is just as vital as the technology that businesses use to get there.

Developing a culture that embraces change

Let’s take AirAsia, for example. It’s a fast-growing Asian enterprise that is leveraging digital to scale its business faster than any of its competitors. For them, talent should be (and is) an integral part of the digital transformation journey.

The airline has been making strong efforts in digital innovation, particularly in its use of data, AI and ML in various areas such as predictive maintenance, operations management, customer service, and so on.

AirAsia Deputy Group CEO Aireen Omar recently met with Tech Wire Asia at the Google Cloud Summit in Kuala Lumpur and explained how the company is truly focused on changing the mindset and culture internally.

One of the ways in which the company does this is by crowdsourcing ideas from internal and external stakeholders.

“We have tech companies come in and present to see how this can be incorporated in day-to-day activities whether this is robotics, emotional AI and so-forth just to open up their minds,” explained Omar.

According to the recently appointed deputy CEO, there is usually resistance to new technologies as employees grow comfortable with old processes — not because they’re better, but because they’re familiar and don’t need them to unlearn and re-learn.

“It’s about us trying to build a plan and program to ensure this smooth transition to digital,” she explained.

“A lot of hard work is involved — dedicated teams ensure that the transition is carried out in such a way that helps the whole company embrace it — often by re-organizing functions and departments from within.”

When adopting digital technologies and changing operations, many companies will have to re-think their traditional ways of working, driving a re-organization of IT and tech departments.

“You will probably have to be more agile, there will probably be more business intelligence and data scientists in each department. The way you do marketing will have to change as well,” said Omar.

For businesses like AirAsia that are scaling a new digital fabric within the organization, ensuring that people are part of the change and embedded in the new systems and processes is critical to success.