* The following text is an adaption of a discussion moderated by Constantin Rudnitchi for Radio RFI Romania's "Business Expert" program.
Today, digitalization is a popular objective amongst organizations, much like innovation. Digitalization promisses to unlock an abundance of opportunities and benefits: from process optimization to productivity increase and cost savings. Digitalization is soon to become inevitable — as generations of users and customers change, so do their behaviors: digital natives prefer and demand a different kind of experience. And the current context makes the need for digitalization stand out more than ever, with the emergence of the low touch economy. During the state of emergency, many businesses' survival rested upon their ability to shift to digital solutions quickly; next, companies will continue needing to meet their customers fast and facile, and with a minimum of physical interaction.
Still, this doesn't mean that every company that strives to digitalize its processes and services ends up doing so. In fact, research shows that approximately 70% of digital transformation projects fail (Forbes, 2018). I believe that for digitalization to be successful, three factors are essential. In their absence, the probability of failure grows considerably: one should work with experts in the field, set a budget, and exercise patience.
"For digitalization to be successful, three factors are essential, and in their absence, the probability of failure grows considerably."
First, it is imperative to work with experts, whether they are external consultants or team members — because the solutions are technical and demand expertise, and a successful implementation must begin with a strategy. Digitalization for the sake of digitalization does not deliver results; on the contrary, this approach is likely to generate a low or no return on investment. Such an effort should have a real purpose: to solve challenges the business is facing or serve the unaddressed needs of an audience. Equally, it is imperative to collaborate with change and organizational development experts because digitalization is a transformation process that has a significant impact on people and how they work. I would even say that the success of a digitalization process depends more on managing people and processes than on the technology you implement.
It is also essential to set a budget — digitalization will be costly, and organizations should dispose of a budget that includes hardware and software acquisition, alongside implementation and maintenance fees. Still, I must stress this again: a generous budget cannot guarantee success in the absence of a strategy.
Finally, going into digital transformation projects, an organization should be equipped with patience: even if digitalization can lead to a decrease in operational costs, it will not be immediate. Rather it will happen in the following year (or years).
”There is little talk about how digitalization and automation can improve the way we work.”
Patience will make a difference when it comes to people, too; like any other change, digitalization leads to anxiety and uncertainty. The fear of losing one's job due to digitalization and process automation is real. I think this is also influenced by how the media portrays the topic. There are many articles on jobs that will become obsolete in the near future, and on whole industries that might become automated. On the other side, there is little talk about how digitalization and automation can improve the way we work, given that they replace repetitive tasks that employees are no longer fond of. These transformations will contribute to an increase in efficiency, speed and productivity, and to fewer errors. All these gains will impact not only performance indicators but also the organization's brand (both employee and client-facing). Automation will save us time that we can use for unpredictable and complex tasks that demand creative thinking, strategic thinking, and empathy.
I believe it is safe to say that digitalization will impact every category of work, but it will also create new jobs for current employees and future generations. For example, in accounting, we process a large volume of data that companies can leverage to discover opportunities, minimize risks, and, most importantly, make data-driven decisions. For us, digitalization will facilitate a paradigm shift, allowing professionals to steer even more from data management to data analytics and consultancy. And I believe this immense opportunity to reframe how and why we do our jobs could apply to every profession automation will impact.