By Greg Bowen, SVP, Digital Acceleration and CTO, Dell Digital
How you view the future can have a big impact on your digital transformation success. Are you an optimist who sees the Next Data Decade as the opportunity to unlock the power of data to solve our greatest challenges? Or are you a pessimist who predicts the next decade will be a digital disaster?
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Research shows optimism can help you live longer, perform better and boost your energy. In my experience, it could have a similar effect on your organization’s digital transformation.
“You can view transformation as an imperative: adapt or die. Or if you focus on the bright side, transformation can be about possibility.
—Greg Bowen, SVP, Digital Acceleration and CTO, Dell Digital
You can change your processes and modernize your technology, but if you aren’t able to change how people think and behave, your transformation will fall short. People are, without a doubt, the most important piece of the digital transformation puzzle. Unfortunately, people and culture can be the toughest things to change in an organization.
Why? Because we are hard-wired to maintain a state of equilibrium. Our primitive brains cling to habit and heuristics, originally for survival, but now to deal with the countless decisions we must make on any given day. Change is interpreted as a threat and triggers our primal fear, fight or flight instincts. That’s why so many people, when presented with a new initiative or idea—even a good one—will resist it.
Like many things in life, how you view your organization’s digital transformation can make a difference. You can view transformation as an imperative: adapt or die. Or if you focus on the bright side, transformation can be about possibility.
At Dell Technologies, we see digital transformation as the ultimate possibility. As the company grows, our IT organization is making people, process and technology changes to support a company of this scale and keep up with the pace of change. The result is the Dell Digital Way, a cultural shift in how team members partner with the business using a direct, simplified and streamlined approach to quickly design, develop, iterate and deliver new products and capabilities for our customers. Leading with optimism has helped our teams overcome their natural resistance to change. Here are just a few ways we’ve looked beyond the challenge to the possibilities in digital transformation:
Digital transformation: challenge or possibility?
Challenge: You must deliver new capabilities at an increasingly fast pace and continuously innovate to become more efficient, while absorbing budget challenges, to meet the demands of the business and needs of customers. When viewed this way, digital transformation feels like a mandate and is unlikely to be met with enthusiasm by anyone—especially your IT teams.
Possibility: This same challenge, positioned as the ability to reimagine the developer experience with improved technology and streamlined processes, could mean more time for innovation and less time on mundane, repetitive tasks—which tops the career wish list of just about every engineer I know.
I’ve seen, firsthand, how happier team members produce better results. In our old model, IT would receive requirements from the business and then deliver capabilities months, maybe even years later, that often don’t meet the evolved needs of the business. In our new continuous delivery model, teams interact directly with the business and iteratively improve products through daily software releases. We’ve not only shortened delivery times, we’re also delivering more value to the business. And, our teams have a greater sense of ownership and are proud of how quickly they can drive results.
Challenge: Given the speed of today’s technology evolution, it’s difficult to find skilled technical talent. So, when the business questions the readiness of your workforce, you to turn to outsourcing—driving development costs up, quality down and putting the brakes on your transformation.
Possibility: Upskilling your current workforce will not only help them meet the demands of the future but will also increase employee engagement and retention. Consider this, by later this year, Gen Z could represent 20 percent of the workforce. These digital natives place high-value on the ability to learn new technologies and have new experiences in their jobs.
When we identified the need to make our IT workforce more technical, we created a coding boot camp that taught full-stack development skills to non-technical employees. All 60 of the initial team members graduated, with several going on to work on product development teams. After an extensive internal and external talent search, two of the graduates landed in our AI Accelerator, where they will be able to advance how we use emerging technologies.
The human element
Building a digital culture in a traditional organization—with established ways of working and decades of technical debt—is a massive undertaking. A positive vision of the future will help you win hearts and minds, but this alone will not advance your digital transformation. It’s only natural for your teams to struggle with fear and resist change. You’ll need to have grit, empathy and optimism to overcome their fears. So, the next time you’re sitting across the table from your leaders and asking them to invest differently or asking development leaders to completely change how they’ve been doing something for 10 years, take a moment to understand where they are coming from and help them see the bright side of digital transformation.