digital transformation

Dell logo at the roof of the Dell office in Amsterdam Source: JPstock

‘People’ are the biggest enabler and also hindrance to digital transformation

  • 94% of business leaders surveyed in Malaysia regard their people as their greatest asset for their digital transformation journey, as opposed to Asia Pacific + Japan at 90%, and globally at 85%.
  • However, more than half Malaysian respondents believe their organizations underestimate the people’s requirements when planning transformation programs, lower than APJ’s 67% and global’s 67%.

Digital transformation is about change, but what is a leader to do when faced with ubiquitous resistance? Expecting workers, managers, and organizations as a whole to make significant changes in the way they work is often a big risk, because people are reluctant to change. However, there is no denying that breakthrough transformation happens at the intersection of people and technology. 

According to a recent Dell Technologies’ Breakthrough study, respondents from over 40 countries detail how after two years of accelerated digital transformation, business leaders are more aware than ever of the role that employees play in driving successful change. But what is more interesting is the fact that more than two-thirds of the 10,500 respondents believe their organizations underestimate how to engage with their people properly when planning transformation programs.

For starters, when it comes to Malaysia, 64% of IT leaders surveyed say their organizations know what it takes to digitally transform a workforce, but after such rapid change, many employees are now facing a challenge to keep up the pace. In contrast, only 45% of those surveyed in Asia Pacific and Japan and 50% of global respondents feel the same way.

Dell Technologies’ Telecom Systems Business’ manager for South Asia Mak Chin Wah reckon most organizations around the world – including Malaysia – realize the need to digitally transform, but they find digital transformation hard, and their people don’t always embrace change. “This human-technology friction is only compounded by the pandemic and what we end up with is businesses that are more digitally resilient, but many of their people are exhausted,” he reiterated. 

That basically highlights how the recent period of rapid transformation is leaving businesses and their workforce in need of time to recharge, reflect, and refine before embarking on new or iterating projects. To top it off, despite the huge progress and efforts of the past few years, the research highlights how there is still a potential for transformation to stall as 68% of Malaysian respondents (APJ: 72%; Global: 64%) believe it is their people’s resistance to change that can lead to failure. 

“Over half or 57% of Malaysian respondents (APJ: 62%; Global: 53%)  fear they will be shut-out of the evolving digital world due to a lack of people with the right authority / vision to capitalize on the opportunity – this is when an as-a-Service model becomes a favorable option for many businesses.  

Separately, Dell and independent behavioral experts also studied survey respondents’ appetite for digital change and found that only 8% of the Malaysian workforce – from senior business leaders to IT decision-makers and staff – are pursuing modernization projects, slightly higher than APJ’s 7%; and lower than global’s 10%. Additionally, 40% of Malaysian respondents are slow or reluctant to embrace change, lower than the 46% respondents in APJ and global’s 42%.

For Malaysians, around 76% of those surveyed at least, say they need their organizations to provide the necessary tools and infrastructure to work anywhere, along with the autonomy to choose their preferred working pattern. In fact, they worry their people might be left behind because they do not have the right technology to shift to a highly distributed model.

Essentially, Dell reckons that in order to succeed in a digital transformation effort based on a do-anything-from-anywhere-economy, the first focus should be on peoples’ needs and preferred ways of working and learning. “They might be out-of-sight, but they shouldn’t be out-of-mind. Now is the time to broker more thoughtful partnerships with technology and release scores of innovators across your workforce,” Dell said.