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97% of IT Leaders Agree on One Important Thing — Are You With Them?

Drive digital transformation by investing in the best asset at your company: your people.

man looking at a screen full of colleagues on a conference call: employee experience pulse research
An employee looking at his colleagues on the conference call to collaborate in a digital space. [fizkes/ Shutterstock]

It’s rare for people to all come together and agree — but not in the case of digital transformation. We partnered with Pulse Research and found that 99% of people leaders see eye-to-eye when it comes to digital transformation efforts across industries.

Our findings covered obstacles and success, hard skills and soft skills — but one thing remains constant: people are, and always will be, at the heart of technological change.

We spoke with the global vice president of a popular social media company who said, “Without people, we’re rudderless … [we are] very much a people-first organization.” He is talking about the 187 million people the company serves worldwide, as well as the employees within his own customer success team and the greater organization.

The better the processes and systems that we have ingrained into our company, the more consistency, the more scale that we’ll be able to deliver as we continue to grow.

“Our operations teams work hand-in-hand with the technology systems,” he continues. He mentions how customizable platforms create an experience for the company that allows them to “really learn from data, spot trends and patterns early, to help us adjust our strategy and be more nimble … The better the processes and systems that we have ingrained into our company, the more consistency, the more scale that we’ll be able to deliver as we continue to grow.”

So how do you successfully get similar nimble digital transformation efforts off the ground? We’ve covered four key areas from the Pulse findings that a majority of tech leaders can agree on.

Transformation is trending — but people remain at its core

When we talk about digital transformation, we’re talking about technology. Tech is in place to help support the changing landscape for today’s business needs. Menu QR codes, online appointment booking, one-stop-shop websites: this all became normal with the pandemic.

What didn’t change, however, was the fact people needed to be behind these decisions to make the shift. Even though 96% of global organizations have undertaken or plan to undertake digital transformation at their companies, the technology alone won’t make it stick.

According to 97% of IT leaders, the responsibility falls on company leadership.

One company has prioritized people for 100+ years of their legacy enterprise operations. “The future is unknown, it’s uncertain,” said the digital giant’s president and CEO, “but what is very clear is if we work together we’ll figure it out.”

Her perspective aligns with research. More than half of technology leaders believe people (31%) and culture (20%) are the most critical factors that drive success. The actual technology itself falls at only 8% of leaders believing it as the most important factor behind digital change.

“It’s getting the people, it’s getting our customers to be served well by those people, and ultimately it’s also about building processes,” said the social media VP.

This shows we can’t just rely on technology alone. There are social and cultural factors within each corporate environment that determine how much the technology sticks. And, at the heart of it: 94% of leaders surveyed believe people are more important than technology when it comes to making lasting efforts in digital transformation.

Company leaders are responsible for shared vision

If we know people are crucial to digital progress, who exactly leads those efforts?

According to 97% of IT leaders, the responsibility falls on company leadership. When digital transformation is driven by company leadership, it helps ensure a company’s teams are aligned on purpose and implementation.

“There’s a shared vocabulary, a shared value system,” said the social media enterprise’s VP, “that ultimately allows us to work very well together and build for our customers.”

In addition, even though leadership must drive the vision, the entire company plays a role in its success. A sweeping 99% of respondents agree teams must collaborate with each other in order to achieve digital transformation success.

Aligned communication paves the way for transformation

If collaboration is necessary, there are certain obstacles teams need to be aware of when it comes to potential hurdles along the way. Tech leaders surveyed see poor communication, insufficient people resources, and misalignment of priorities as top roadblocks.

You want systems that run your businesses to grow as you grow, without major surgery.

Budget, typically a strong factor for nixing ideas, is, in reality, the lowest-rated hindrance for entering into digital change, with only 16% of companies seeing it as a barrier.

“You want systems that run your businesses to grow as you grow, without major surgery,” said the operations company CEO. “And so I don’t think these are ‘nice to have,’ I think they are just table stakes for businesses in the future.”

Digital initiatives must shape to your changing needs

We prioritize what we find value in. So, in the wake of COVID-19 and new waves of digital, companies are doing whatever it takes to keep pace with the modern age. As such, they are investing in:

  • Process changes 
  • Technology 
  • Business model changes and
  • Cultural changes

This helps facilitate necessary collaboration to enable their ultimate success.

Leaders want to be able to pivot quickly, and aligning on digital initiatives keeps them ready for whatever comes next.

“You want to have a learning environment with your software,” said the CEO of the century-old company, “so that you can get out of this rip-and-replace notion.”

This is why IT leaders across the board see both soft skills and technical know-how as imperative investments.

Benefits such as increased operational efficiency, unity, employee satisfaction, and revenue come as a result of tailored training programs companies choose to invest in.

The reskilling revolution ranks hard skills and soft skills as equally important, according to 58% of executives. And — contrary to what people may think — soft skills play a massive role in implementing technology. Sixty-nine percent of leaders see soft skills as important or critically important to driving digital transformation. In particular, collaboration (73%), communication (67%), and leadership (62%) rise above as the top-rated factors for spearheading effective digital change.

Digital transformation is inevitable. And people drive it. Whether or not companies focus on the technology first or the people first, both are crucial to the conversation of longstanding success.

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