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The human side of digital transformation

Digital transformation has become the buzzword phrase of the last few years as organisations reinvent themselves with tech to respond to the demands of today’s consumer. Whether it’s investment in industry-specific AI, moving to the Cloud, or adopting new software and methodologies, businesses across every sector are evolving to improve CX, productivity, and the bottom line. However, in spite of its obvious potential, adoption rates of workplace technology are often disappointing, leading to failed transformation projects. Reliable sources often cite a fairly constant 60%-70% failure rate, with an even higher percentage of leaders saying they are still yet to see tangible benefits from tech adoption. This can be off-putting to those companies yet to embark upon their digital transformation journey, given the investment involved, but are these failures really the result of the tech itself? More often than not, the answer is no. Successful digital transformation isn’t just about choosing the right technology, it’s about it being adopted well by those who use it. Positive digital adoption is the only thing that will make a transformation successful, and leaders often underestimate what it takes to get employees on board. Employees are human; humans are consumers; and consumers love tech that makes their lives easier. So, they’re bound to embrace it at work with no problems, surely? Again, the answer is a negative. Why is technology in the workplace different? Despite hungrily snapping up the latest phone, streaming everything, and automating as much as we can in our domestic lives, it’s different when it comes to our jobs. Technology in the workplace is often more complicated to learn and delivers us nowhere near the satisfaction we get from pairing new AirPods to our new iPad. When the benefits are less clear, we tend to resist more, and when things are harder and require more effort, we look for the easier route, which is usually the existing tech or process. Couple that with the fact that many employees are monitored on productivity and new tech inevitably means an initial slowdown, it’s no wonder it’s tough to get buy-in. For business leaders, transformation is a case of gain vs. pain and while they often understand the former, they may not appreciate the latter. We hear a lot about communication and training, and while both are important, training sessions and emails aren’t enough to change people’s minds and get them to genuinely adopt the technology and develop new behaviours. The transformation needs to align with the company vision and be part of a cultural change to succeed. Here are some additional steps leaders can consider in order to achieve more successful change: Vision - communicate a vision that shows people where you want the business to be, where they will be, and also how you will measure that journey Culture – illustrate how any new technology is in line with the culture and beliefs of the organisation that employees have already bought into Champions – use key employees as influencers, leading the way and convincing their peers that the change is positive Collaboration – break down the barriers that a silo culture promotes to show how much easier the process is when data is shared transparently across the company Go slow – change doesn’t need to be wholesale and extreme; simple steps in the right direction that everyone can take easily are often longer-lasting and more effective Be smart – remove the options of the legacy ways as soon as possible to avoid staff reverting to what was considered easier. Consider “stacking” new behaviours on top of existing ones to aid their adoption. Ignore the goals, for now – focus on the process rather than the outcome in the initial stages. Teething problems will put people off, as will a drop in performance or output. Encourage the process and the results will come. There’s little point in investing time and resources into new technology without doing the same for your people. One can’t succeed without the other, and any successful digital transformation must concentrate on its human side as much as its tech.

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What are the biggest priorities for Tax departments in 2021?

With advances in technology being rapidly adopted and Brexit finally arriving, 2021 was always going to be a defining year for Tax departments. Factor in the volatility of 2020’s global pandemic and impact on economies worldwide, and there’s plenty for Tax professionals to focus on this year. We reached out to a number of Tax Leaders to understand their principal areas of focus for this year and what they will be prioritising in the short and medium-term. Whatever challenges they highlighted, almost all of them emphasised the same theme: the need to maintain a flexible approach given the rate of change in the sector and the world at large at the moment. Here are three responses that cover some interesting points: Head of Tax – FTSE 100 Plc “Our main priorities will be picking up some of the projects we had to put on hold due to COVID-19, as well as some of the “day job” enhancements that we have had to similarly overlook over the course of the last year. We will also need to keep a close eye on any potential US tax reform, as well as developments in the OECD’s work around the digitalisation of the economy. All that said, I’m keen to focus on only what we really need to do, as there is a real risk of burnout across the team following an extraordinary 2020, and we cannot continue at the same pace.” Tax Director – FTSE 250 Plc “Tax departments will need to deal with the aftermath of COVID-19, whether that is increased taxes to support the economy or increased scrutiny from HMRC given their light-touch business risk review processes in 2020.  For companies severely impacted by the pandemic, there will continue to be cash flow issues, as well as effective use of losses and consideration around the recognition of deferred tax assets.  Tax departments will also need to work closely with the business to help inform commercial changes as business recover.” Indirect Tax Senior Manager – FTSE 250 Plc “The onset of tax technology is very exciting and will be a key priority for all indirect tax departments. There will also be added complexities with implementing indirect tax control and process for all exports and imports, direct or indirect due to Brexit. Particularly, businesses heavily impacted by COVID-19, cash flow will continue to be of great importance.” Many respondents cited changes in tax legislation or even full-on tax reforms in the wake of the pandemic, Brexit and the change in US Presidency. There are not only cash-flow issues for countless organisations to consider, but governments are in huge deficits and will want to focus on revenue, which could result in a more aggressive stance by tax authorities worldwide. Remaining compliant with any changes and responding to audits is going to be a challenge in itself if there is a backlog from 2020 or there have been changes in headcount / departmental structures. That buzz word “flexibility” could be the most accurate prediction we’ve ever had in our surveys to date. What are your tax priorities in 2021? If you'd like to discuss this further please contact me on p.smyth@consultancygroup.com.

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If CEOs believe that digital will impact their industry, why aren’t many acting on it?

There are many things that can trigger change in an industry or sector. Some are slow burners that result in change over time; others can drive a dramatic, seismic shift almost overnight. Societal changes, such as the adoption of the internet by consumers, or the knock-on effect on the tobacco and advertising industries of the smoking ban, are relatively slow and sometimes only noticed in hindsight. Others, like changes in legislation, have a deadline on the horizon that everyone works towards, so aren’t that disruptive or surprising. The third type are the most interesting: the innovators that can render the old ways obsolete very suddenly. The move to a digital economy has vividly disrupted many sectors – consider how Airbnb has changed holiday accommodation or how Uber has revolutionised taxi services, for example. Research continually shows that CEO’s across all sectors, from finance to farming, retail to real estate, know that digital is going to disrupt their industry at some point. It’s in their end-of-year predictions, it’s in their competitor analyses, and written about in all of their industry press. Yet a worryingly low percentage of them have digital transformation at the top of their corporate agenda, and even fewer have actually embarked upon their digital transformation journey in recent years. It’s not like there haven’t been plenty of high-profile casualties acting to spur them on. The list of bricks and mortar businesses that have collapsed in the wake of their agile, online competition is huge – just take a look at the high street names from a decade ago that are no longer with us. Progressive, technology-focused organisations are reshaping the consumer marketplace everywhere, and companies that don’t adapt won’t survive. You don’t have to become a Google, an Amazon or a Spotify and be responsible for changing an entire market, of course, but you do need to keep up and not be complacent. Think of the three names that led the mobile phone market a decade ago and try buying a Nokia, Motorola or Blackberry product now... Thankfully, as encouragement, there have been plenty of success stories when companies have evolved. Apple used to only sell computers, now look where they are. Netflix used to rent DVDs as a competitor to Blockbuster before it took streaming to the masses and took data analytics to the next level. 15 years ago, Lego was in debt and unfashionable before it underwent huge transformation and moved into films and theme parks. Even Kodak, which filed for bankruptcy after digital photography almost wiped out camera film entirely, reinvented themselves by launching its own cryptocurrency. Post-pandemic, in whatever the New Normal becomes, the need to go digital and evolve to survive will be more focused than ever, particularly in consumer markets. As society shifts to an online life both for work and pleasure, businesses will need to adapt to meet their needs – almost every company will need to be a “technology” company. The progress that has been accelerated by COVID-19 is highly unlikely to reverse after lockdown, so those organisations that put digital first and innovate to permanently replace the in-person elements of their business will gain a significant advantage. If your business has undergone or is part way through a digital transformation, whether due to the pandemic or not, we’d love to hear from you. Follow us on Linkedin now!

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Business Case Alignment to Enable Digital Transformation

Digital transformation is the process of adopting new technology to improve an organisation’s processes to remain competitive in an evolving business environment. Regardless of industry or sector, critical decisions are almost always based on data produced by technology, so it’s no surprise that digital transformation is often cited by CEO’s as being near the top of their corporate agenda. That said, most CEO’s don’t have a technological background and are often approached to invest in new tech with the promise of revolutionising growth. So, how can you make the best business case for a digital transformation to pitch to the board? Here are the common steps that case studies, anecdotes and research suggest you take: 1. Outline the need for change  Detail what impact a digital transformation would have on the organisation and the difference it could make to the business, its employees and its clients and customers on a macro level. 2. Identify the drivers Specifically, what needs to change and why. Whether it’s to answer demand for products or services; to improve staff retention; or to increase revenue, identify what is driving the project and therefore what needs to be measured to show success. 3. Show the journey A digital transformation project needs a roadmap that will show the board exactly how you plan to get from A to B. It needs to include milestones that can be celebrated with stakeholders, as well as points where the metrics can be measured to track progress.  4. Detail your communication plan A digital transformation affects everyone internally and possibly clients or supply chain externally. The board need to be reassured that the project will be communicated effectively from the outset and that a certain level of transparency will maintain momentum and keep everyone engaged throughout the journey. Highlight potential barriers and contingency plans, but don’t forget to publicise the successful milestones along the way. 5. Forecast the results The board will want a certain ROI, so it’s important that there are metrics and a benchmark in place to assess the transformation from day one. Be as detailed as you can and realistic in what they can expect from their investment and reassess this throughout the project. While some of the benefits may not be tracked in terms of hard numbers, they should filter down to improve the bottom line – which is where the board will be looking. If these steps secure a green light for your intended transformation project, it’s important to continue to monitor results outside of their requested metrics to take back to the board afterwards too. If the project’s legacy is a newly highly skilled workforce after the training that has taken place, or an unexpected  Follow us on Linkedin now!

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Structuring your business case for hiring during a pandemic

In times of crises that ultimately affect the bottom line, it is common for businesses to trigger an immediate hiring freeze while they spend their resources fighting fires elsewhere. In the current global pandemic, the focus logically shifted during lockdown to remote working and its associated tech implications for staff, processes and communications. Some organisations had to transition thousands of employees and it was understandable that recruitment became less of a priority. But what happens when there is no clear end in sight? How long until a freeze becomes a problem? While it can be difficult to consider the long-term future when there are short-term problems, it’s vital that organisations do. In the last recession, those who didn’t unfreeze after a period of time suffered. The top talent in the market had already been snapped up as the upturn approached. This time, while there may be a ‘new normal’ to factor in, there will still be fierce competition for key candidates in all sectors once recruitment begins again in earnest. Companies that start addressing their hiring needs now will gain an advantage, both in terms of the quality of talent they are able to find and the associated costs. If you know the time is right to restart your recruitment plans, you may need to put forward a stronger justification than before to get sign-off from the decision-makers, as your hiring processes will inevitably be different now and may involve additional investment. Here are some key points you should make to help make your case: 1. Think strategically: align your recruitment project to the bigger picture company strategy and highlight how your plans will help achieve those aims. 2. Expand strategically: produce a competition analysis to show how your budget will result in a competitive edge by securing top talent early or targeting niche talent better. 3. Think financially: think in terms of the numbers when you’re dealing with stakeholders. They will want to know how your proposal compares in terms of ROI against other ways they can spend the budget. 4. Expand financially: stress how recruitment can get more expensive when delayed, especially if your competitors are also hiring. Landing and developing talent earlier can be more beneficial. 5. Speak financially: change your recruiting jargon to business language to resonate effectively. Forget quality of hire, turnover rates or retention, and talk in terms of the real impact on the bottom line. 6. Back yourself: let the decision-makers know how invested you are in the outcome of this new recruitment drive and show them you’ve assembled a hiring team who are prepared to be accountable. 7. Back your plans: all new processes need to be innovative and future-proofed, so emphasize how your plan addresses any latest trends in recruitment or candidate experience. If you’ve reached that point where hiring and growth plans are back on track, contact us today. Follow us on Linkedin now!

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