Digital transformation is a people game

By Tony Saldanha

There’s one thing that distinguishes digitally native companies with sustained superior performance from the rest – their people. One could correctly argue that this is true of non-digitally natives too, but the point is that despite all the emphasis on digital technology, the real differentiator comes down to not technology, but people.

This poses a bigger transition challenge for non-digitally native companies, especially larger and historically successful ones. They have a good legacy of strong people that operate their current business model well. However, to succeed in the digital era, their skills need to be complemented with technical capabilities. That’s a harder argument to make to successful experts.

And yet, study after study produces a strong case for driving digital literacy in the workplace. This is necessary not just at lower levels in the organization, but all the way to the board too. Proactive HR leaders are starting to experiment with models to change the profile of their workplace proactively over time by mixing some retraining, with some natural or forced attrition and some bottom-up hiring.

Organizations that don’t have a digital literacy strategy may be at a strategic disadvantage!

There’s a natural human behavior challenge underlying the lack of progress in digital literacy. This is similar to our preference to buy personal exercise equipment or gym membership over engaging in regular exercise. Understanding this dynamic is key to make progress.

  1. IT must partner with HR for culture change. Some predictions include combining the CIO and CHRO roles. It is important to approach Digital Transformation as a people and culture transformation effort in order to make sustainable impact as the attached article says.
  2. Start asap on this. Gartner says that only 20% of employees have the skills to thrive in both current role and future career. See details in the link below.
  3. It can impact the effectiveness of both digitization of operations as well as innovative product development.
    94% of CEOs are unhappy with their innovation and 84%  are unhappy with digital transformation. You have the opportunity to address both issues together as mentioned in the CEOWORLD article below.

Net, the need to transform people skills is both urgent and important. This isn’t a CIO issue, it is a CEO and CHRO issue. The strategy doesn’t need to be elaborate, it just needs to get started now!

Go forth and transform.

Tony Saldanha is president of Transformant, a consulting firm specializing in assisting organizations through digital transformations. During his twenty-seven-year career at Procter & Gamble, he ran both operations and digital transformation for P&G’s famed global business services and IT organization in every region of the world, ending up as Vice President of Global Business services, next Generation services. He is an advisor to boards and CEOs on digital transformation, a sought-after speaker, and a globally awarded industry thought leader. His new book is Why Digital Transformations Fail: The Surprising Disciplines of How to Take Off and Stay Ahead (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, July, 2019). Learn more at

Digital transformation stock photo by metamorworks/Shutterstock