Making ‘Think Digital’ a part of your Employee DNA

Shifting focus on getting the machines and humans to work together, continually coexisting and co-creating, businesses will start bringing changes to where they invest, who they attract, what they patent and how they develop competencies that outperform competitors.

Organizations worldwide are new in their digital transformation journey. They are either in the process of creating or have just created the role of a Chief Digital Officer (CDO). Most of them are doing their digital transformation internally to improve the overall productivity of different business processes, for asset optimization, creating new age experiences for the customers, employees, others and so on.

“A ‘Think Digital’ culture is when every employee of a company understands the meaning of going digital, starts thinking on how to move towards it, and finds ways to incorporate digital in everything they do.”

Mandar Marulkar
Chief Digital Officer
KPIT Technologies

There is massive innovation happening in the marketplace with lots of new technologies emerging and becoming mainstream, such as the Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), big data analytics, machine learning, different user experience technologies, Blockchain, etc., enabling enterprises to get a competitive advantage. While doing so, their emphasis at the outset should also be on creating a ‘Think Digital’ culture in the organization.

What is ‘Think Digital’ Culture?

Organizations are typically perceived from two perspectives – individual and organizational– basis visible and invisible factors. From an individual’s perspective, the visible component is the skill and from an organizational perspective, it is the structure, policies, processes, systems, and infrastructure. The invisible factor is the mindset of the organization. The collective mindset of any organization is its culture and an organizational culture is not that easily measurable.

A ‘Think Digital’ culture, as the name suggests is when every employee of a company understands the meaning of going digital, starts thinking on how to move towards it, and finds ways to incorporate digital in everything they do.

Employees of any IT firm have a basic understanding that technology helps solve problems. But, not everyone will be tech savvy. Those, part of the enabling functions may not understand the need for the company to move towards digital. It is important to make them understand the power of digital technologies by giving examples from their day-to-day lives. It will simplify their understanding of the digital technologies and make it easier for companies to implement similar ideas internally to improve productivity and drive cultural changes in the organisation.

It is important to train employees so that they have the necessary skills to think and act digitally. While employees will be well-versed in the traditional skills, with the world moving towards digital, the real requirement is to re-skill employees in emerging technologies to avoid massive layoffs. A ‘Think Digital’ culture requires three types of skills – domain understanding, technical expertise and data mining ability.

Employees need to have a deep domain understanding, creativity, passion and curiosity. They need to know the business constraints and the relevance of what is happening in their project and in the customer domain. They require good storytelling ability and analytical guidance and leadership. Employees with technical skills such as new-age technology coding, platform-based development, agile application developments, cloud-native application development, cyber security, DevOps add value to the table and are a must-have for organizations.

Data-mining skills are the most important of the three and essential for every individual, irrespective of their designations or job roles. In the past, companies depended on the analytical abilities of their employees to come up with insights based on the data collected in past reports, and take a right decision. The technology was there, but there was no democratization of the intelligence. But now, if everybody is trained in analytical skills then it helps increase the in-the-moment effectiveness of employees as they will take the right decisions at the right time. The analytics should support the decision-making ability of an employee to come up with quick and worthwhile insights.

The availability of skills coupled with a deep understanding of the company’s key verticals and pain points of its customers will help to evaluate the company’s capability in digital technologies.

Implementing the ‘Think Digital’ Culture

To adopt a ‘Think Digital’ culture at scale, organisations will need every single employee from across geographies, verticals, grades and functions, to understand digital technologies work and put them to use in their own area of specialisation.

There are people with three different profiles in every organization: customer-facing people which include the sales managers, practice managers, account managers; product development professionals and enabling function people which include personnel dealing with HR, IT, Corporate Marketing, Facilities, Talent acquisition, etc. Each profile needs dedicated workshops to re-skill themselves. At KPIT, for instance, we came up with an initiative called DigiChamp certification to train our 11000-plus employees in digital technologies to make them understand the digital influence.

Employees should be trained on what digital as a concept means, why it is important to move to digital, how it impacts different industries, what benefits it brings for every employee, the different technologies that constitute it, etc. Organizations should make use of case studies, success stories, use cases to showcase how these technologies are solving the customer problems along with explaining the work done by the company in those areas. Training modules could include giving employees assignments to identify how digital technologies are relevant for their functions and asking them to come up with a plan to transform their function using digital technologies, to create experiences, optimise the processes, and improve productivity.

The CDO’s office should take steps to create a buzz and excitement about the training sessions. Usage of posters, banners, mailers, info-graphics, videos and posts in the intranet will help employees understand the importance of campaign and the need to move towards digital and adopt the same.

Furthermore, everyone in the digital leadership team must be passionately curious about the digital future. They should be profoundly uncomfortable about the status quo in their area. Senior leaders of the company should persistently emphasise employees to use new age technologies, via the enterprise social platforms, instead of communicating through old communication platforms such as email or in-person meetings.

While companies can conduct technical training and e-Learning modules, giving the actual feel of digital will help drive the message better to employees. The emphasis on building a smart enterprise that uses digital for everyday activities will also inspire employees. For example, at KPIT, we have a smart campus where employees can use mobile applications for performing a variety of tasks, from reporting any issues or incidents to ordering food from the cafeteria, and so forth. As employees learn, see, and understand the different technologies available, their minds are more open to experimenting and adopting new technologies.

Benefits of Think Digital Culture

Digital Transformation is relevant for every industry irrespective of the domain, be it manufacturing, retail, telecom, oil and gas, etc. It is horizontal and based on the culture of the organisation, the priorities of the leadership and the maturity of digitisation within the enterprise.

There is a difference between digitisation and digital transformation. Many organisations have embarked on the journey of digitisation by automating tasks and augmenting business processes using digital technologies. Some organisations have also started digitizing their operational technology (OT) infrastructure by adding sensors.  For a long time, OT wasn’t exposed to the internet or integrated with the IT infrastructure. By adding sensors and collecting real-time data, organisations can come out with new ways for improving operational efficiencies, increasing safety and predictability, along with new data-driven business models. They have the early-mover advantage, and can, therefore, grow much faster than the others. If any company hasn’t started the process then it is wise to start soon or else be left far behind their competition.

Companies in the digital age need to understand the power of digital technologies such as bots using conversational user-interfaces, augmented and virtual reality (AR & VR), cognitive technologies such as computer vision, artificial intelligence, and machine learning, etc. Considering the industry segment and maturity of the existing processes, companies can choose these technologies to automate some of the manual work currently done by their employees. This will make processes intelligent and create a better experience while improving business productivity. The time spent on rudimentary work will be spent on adding more value to end customers.

Once we start focusing on getting the machines and humans to work together, continually coexisting and co-creating, we will start bringing changes to where we invest, whom we attract, what we patent and how we develop competencies that outperform competitors. We will see more task automation, process augmentation and job amplification using digital technologies – the main reason for organizations to start their digital journey.

For transforming companies in the digital age, they need to build a team composed of dreamers, designers, doubters, and doers. Collectively they represent different viewpoints but share the same vision. The dreamer’s crazy ideas need the designer’s discipline to translate them into different experiments, the doubter’s validation on whether the ideas are worth the investment and commercially viable, and the doer’s skills to build the structures, processes, and ecosystem for implementing the ideas at scale.

The major impediment to adopting digital is the organisational culture. Other barriers include the top management commitment, board commitment, skills and talent perspective, unavailability of the resources, etc. If we get the right culture in the organisation – Think Digital culture – then instinctively there will be lot of push from everybody in the organisation to make it happen in the other areas as well.

Businesses can never come to the end of its digital journey as it is an ongoing process with substantial progress happening. There will be a constant need for building digital leadership, technical skills and educating people on the things that can be automated, augmented and amplified.