Don’t burn out; break through

Why HR and IT need to come together to crack the code on digital transformation.

By Jen Felch, chief digital officer and chief information officer, Dell Technologies, and Jenn Saavedra, chief human resources officer, Dell Technologies

If the last few years have taught us anything, it’s to put humanity first and lead with empathy. And this mindset is essential to driving positive business outcomes.

There will always be deadlines to meet and goals to reach but true success happens when employees’ needs are at the forefront of company culture. An employee-driven culture should permeate everything, including digital transformation.

At the end of the day, digital transformation is for people. They are the recipients and the bearers of progress.

In a people-first digital transformation, people are brought into partnership with technology. Leaders plan for resistance and suspicion, insecurity and uncertainty. And they address them sensitively, respectively—top-down and at the grassroots level.

The original custodians of technical change—the IT department—can’t do this alone. To make this human-machine partnership happen, they need to work hand in hand with the HR function.

Based on our experience, it can be a great learning opportunity for all, resulting in a more integrated, well-rounded business, not to mention a cultural transformation that will usher in a new era in the recruitment and retention of exceptional talent.

To navigate these budding partnerships and help HR and IT crack the human code together, we embarked upon the Breakthrough study, based on insights from 10,500 respondents across 40+ locations.

Read on to learn more.

In analyzing the results, two things became clear.

  1. Digital transformation doesn’t just happen, people make it happen—which means people need to be primed and ready for digital change
  2. Sustainable breakthrough transformation can only happen at the intersection of people and technology

It also revealed that many businesses are struggling to break through here.

Some may have underestimated people’s complexity or cynicism. The fact is that the majority of people waver in the middle where inaction is rife. Our benchmark reaffirms the model’s pattern and speed at which new ideas, practices, or products spread through a population.

Based on our collective experience, we can testify that behavioral nuances can make digital transformation harder than it should be and turn employees, companies’ greatest source of value, into stumbling blocks. We see this in the 64% of respondents that report the failure of their digital transformation programs is often due to their people.

It’s a fact that if people are not being supported as they should be, the human-machine partnership would suffer, with implications for the whole program.

We have a stack of data that shows that people are looking for more autonomy to choose their preferred working pattern and be treated fairly. Laden down by repetitive, uninspiring work, employees are searching for more purpose in their roles. Stung by the lack of time and support to adapt to change, they believe their voices aren’t being heard (which is leading them to quietly resist change and retreat).

The good news is that the fundamentals of a refashioned human-machine partnership are still alive and well, meaning we have reason to be optimistic that businesses can course-correct.

  • 85% of business leaders still regard their people as their greatest asset
  • 71% believe there is always a technological answer to a problem waiting to be uncovered

To help businesses build their breakthrough, Dell has charted a path forward, along three frontiers, where human experience and technology meet: connectivity, productivity and empathy. See the Breakthrough report for more detail on each.

At the crux of the study is the belief that—within a supportive organizational culture that cultivates a growth mindset, that encourages people to never give up, to keep learning and forgiving ourselves—the best versions of ourselves are yet to come.

With an organizational culture that prompts us to purposefully, intentionally start our day with more empathy and grace, we can create an environment in which everyone thrives and everyone innovates. Where we grow in confidence and the ability to ideate, problem-solve and drive results. Where we’re empowered to create the future we want. This is what we strive for at Dell.

To learn more about the study, visit

And to learn more about how Dell Technologies can help you drive innovation and a chance to meet Jen and Jenn, register for Dell Technologies World, May 2-5, 2022, in Las Vegas.