Digital Transformation has increasingly become the top priority for leaders the world over. It has become a main pillar of operations strategy and has gained momentum ever since the COVID pandemic hit in 2020. What is less evident though is the fact that digital transformation is far more than just the adoption of automation and new technology. It is really about people and their improved/enhanced/augmented interaction with data: the ability to gather more data faster; manipulate and utilize that data from all incoming and available data streams in the right context with a connected workforce; and allow this digitally-transformed workforce to use this data through the right platforms to perform better, to generate better business and operational results.
When businesses are able to harness and better understand their data, allowing their workforce to make more informed and accurate decisions in or close to real-time, is what starts them on the path toward a transformation. When coupled with complementary technologies such as automation, AI/ML, and Cloud, it leads to a more agile business, which, when faced with challenges like the COVID pandemic, allows the workforce and business process to be more resilient.
Workforce transformation needs to happen simultaneously with a business’s digital transformation. Separating your people from the transformation vision is a grave mistake and should be avoided at all costs. People within the company play a major role in enabling the changes required for the operation to become more flexible, more visible, and more robust. It is them, the staff, and the frontline workforce which has been and most likely will continue to be the company’s number one resource. Any transformation strategy should bear in mind that without the empowerment and digital engagement of frontline workers, overall digital transformation is simply out of the question!
TechRepublic pointed out the inevitability of digital transformation and the way in which strategies needed to enable it have become a universal priority across industry segments and businesses. They cite some interesting survey results based on executive feedback as proof points of the drive for accelerated transformation. We believe Digital Transformation has to view and prioritize frontline workforce digitization. Let’s review the findings presented by TechRepublic and understand how these should be interpreted from a frontline workforce digitization perspective:
- A majority of the respondents expect to complete all of their digital transformation programs within 5 years.
This shows how urgent digital transformation initiatives have become for organizations, and how quickly they wish to change status quo. For the companies who have determined the importance of transformation but haven’t acted on creating a detailed strategy, the time is now. For the ones already acting on a tailor-made transformation strategy, it is important to keep calibrating and upgrading the strategy to ensure it keeps them ahead of the competition.
Webalo recommends starting at the grassroots and looking at ways to digitize the current workflow, keeping in mind the importance of the frontline workforce and their role in the overall digital transformation. It is possible that companies in their bid to bring Industry 4.0 technologies focus more on knowledge workers and enterprise-level applications. However, an assessment of the baseline is recommended, which will indicate the amount of data that can be captured through the shop floor and can directly impact the efficiency and throughput of the entire process. Taking a platform approach and digitizing the frontline should be a priority of any transformation drive.
- Among enterprises that did not accelerate digital transformation due to the coronavirus pandemic, nearly all lost business.
It is evident that not changing the way things are always done can lead to a massive loss of business. And with most organizations actively and vigorously pursuing digital transformation, the question really isn’t about should a company begin its transformation; it is about how and specifically in what areas as a priority.
The pandemic bears testament to the relevance and importance of frontline workforce as companies struggled to keep their factories operational, and depended on their workforce to deliver under extremely difficult situations. In order to be better equipped for such situations in the future, companies need to have a platform which enables the fronline worker to deliver better results even with limitations. Such platforms should reduce/eliminate paper-based work and allow work instructions, data entry and problem solving all to be digitized. Once this happens, workers are enabled to tackle their jobs even with harsh restrictions in place, and the performance of the operation is elevated.
- Most of the respondents said they had “started delivering their digital transformation strategies” and over a quarter said “digital is now a part of their companies’ DNA.”
Having digital transformation strategies in place is the first important milestone in a long and rewarding transformation journey. Companies need to assess their current business model, charting areas of inefficiency which may lead to loss of business, and create an alternate vision for the future which leverages all modern digital transformation tools. The focus of the transformation should include both IT (for infrastructure and applications) and extend to human resources (especially the frontline workforce) as a primary focus for transformation.
The second statement justifies this line of thought: instances where digital transformation has been incorporated in the very DNA of the company. Any company, no matter their size or industry, relies on the people it has to deliver the value it creates. Unless the workforce adopts (or better yet transforms) alongside the company’s business processes, digital transformation can never truly become a part of the company’s DNA.
Webalo believes that the approach taken towards the implementation of a transformation strategy and the ease with which users can utilize digital tools has a major effect on the outcome of these transformation efforts. We recommend companies take a Lighthouse approach towards digital tools especially when it comes to the frontline workforce. When a platform is rolled out across the entire operation in a given plant and allowed to operate over a sustained period of time, the results can be far better than taking specific use cases and getting stuck in a pilot purgatory with ambiguous results. The platform chosen, should be easy to use and permit users to build their own apps, allowing them to view activities they believe are relevant and capture data that they believe impacts the product’s quality or the process throughput.
- Over three-quarters of the respondents said they’ve already provided executives with data literacy training to “ensure the staff (has) the skills they need to work with data-driven technologies.”
The statistic above highlights two main points pertaining to the digital transformation paradigm. First and foremost, data is the main driver behind digital transformation. The abundance of data, the hidden value inside the data, the ability to deliver intelligent data and the convenience of having actionable data at the fingertips of personnel through advanced technologies like connected worker platforms.
The second and equally important point is that while technology enables the data, and the very data itself are available to provide companies the advantage they seek, unless their staff and workforce are fully equipped to handle this intelligent data and the new ways of collaborating amongst themselves and with the business processes, data alone (no matter how refined or how quickly delivered) will not add any value to the company’s bottom line.
IT platforms and solutions enable data literacy. Tools exist which can not only help transform the business process but also transform the workforce, while achieving the larger corporate goals. Companies need to carefully select solutions which can elevate their workforce to achieve the level of collaboration and data literacy which is demanded by the new industrial revolution.
Webalo as a solution provider has a partner network to work directly with the frontline workforce and understand their needs, which then transforms directly into the solution’s functionality. When this level of collaboration exists between vendor, partner, and customer, two things happen. One, the platform’s acceptability is higher as actual users have helped shape the eventual application or parts of it, meaning roll-out is smoother and ROI faster. While working on the solution deliverables and areas of data capture and low-digitization, the system itself is enriched with existing tribal knowledge, and the workforce through ease of use and mobility of the application is pre-trained which means faster results and a happy workforce.
The TechRepublic post creates a narrative that suggests those companies that pursue digital transformation will lead and thrive. It is also interesting to note that leaders prioritizing data literacy for their staff, and providing digital tools, positively contribute to both worker satisfaction and the company’s bottom line. Digital workforce optimization platforms have been changing the game when it comes to workforce transformation, which basically forms the foundation of the overall digital transformation of the business. In order to leverage existing data and technologies, company leaders need to look at IT solutions that can help instill the ‘digital first’ philosophy into workforce practices and company DNA but remember. Without workforce transformation, digital transformation cannot exist!