Guest post by Stephen Kelly, Ireland country manager, Dimension Data Ireland

Digital transformation is a trend that no business can afford to ignore. According to analyst firm, IDC, annual worldwide spending on transformation projects will hit a staggering $2 trillion by 2020, with the amount firms are investing in ‘going digital’ rising at over 17 percent each year. Irish businesses are getting in on the act too. In a 2016 survey of the Irish market, IDC saw evidence of both private and public sector organisations embracing third party platforms to drive innovation.

The benefits of transformation

In the board room, digital transformation makes considerable economic sense. At the most basic level, the increased use of technology boosts process efficiencies and reduces costs. When done well, digital transformation also enables businesses to develop entirely new services and unlock previously untapped revenue streams.

It’s not just the c-suite that is buying into digital. Some lines of business have been equally quick to recognise the value of automation. For example, marketing departments are keener than most to exploit the benefits of information sharing and communications technology to create more sales opportunities and improve customer service. Such is their enthusiasm that Gartner has reported marketing’s technology spend is on track to exceed that of the CIO this year.

One person’s opportunity is another person’s threat

Change creates different challenges for people depending on their role within the company, and while some employees will be quick to embrace it, others could be sceptical or even fearful for their futures.

It’s easy to understand why people could feel this way. Much has been written about the threat of automation to jobs, particularly in customer service roles. Online banking and the evolution of the cash machine to provide a wider range of services has changed the face of our high street banks. Similar examples can be found in retail where more and more customers are turning to online shopping. Even if they do make the trip to a physical store, consumers are more likely than ever to use self-service checkouts.

The impact on the IT department

For IT managers, the transition to cloud services in particular has already created a feeling of job insecurity. In fact, a 2016 Bitdefender survey on the topic of virtualisation and hybrid infrastructure revealed that 66 percent of US IT decision makers feared losing their job. It’s natural that IT professionals will look at the role they occupy and the tasks that they perform and consider how much of that might remain once an alternative way of working has been introduced.

Back in 2011, Gartner noted that 70 percent of IT resource was devoted to operating IT infrastructure and predicted that to fall to just 35 per cent by 2020. If IT staff aren’t given clarity over how their positions will evolve in the face of change, uncertainty and concern will inevitably result.

As well as job security, there have been operational concerns around the security of digitising legacy systems or moving critical data to the cloud. With high-profile data breaches regularly making news, it’s little surprise that 73 percent of those surveyed by Bitdefender admitted to a fear of company liability for financial compensation in the event of a security breach.

There’s also the growing issue of shadow IT. A shocking near 40 percent of cloud services are commissioned without the involvement of IT, adding to IT’s woes over keeping data secure. Operational staff, delighted by the flexibility they gain from shared services and business apps, are bringing their own devices to work and utilising whatever makes them efficient.

Engaging through the change process

Companies need to effectively manage change to take new opportunities and to grow. It’s vital they take time to understand why people within their organisations have concerns and what they’re founded upon. It’s also important that they establish strong two-way communications to allay fears.

Good communication starts with agreeing a common view of what the company is trying to achieve. Change should be communicated to staff in the context of what the company needs to deliver to customers and other key stakeholders, and how it is going to maintain differentiation in the market.

Transformation and change also needs to be communicated in a meaningful way. Companies need to keep staff focused on the task in hand and, at the same time, create an environment where everyone pulls in the same direction. If staff feel insecure, this aim will be severely hampered. To avoid big change announcements causing concern, everyone needs to be given a clear explanation of how the change affects them.

This includes being clear about the reallocation of resources freed-up from operational duties by automation. If only 35 per cent of IT resources are needed to run operations, expertise can be refocused on value-add activities. As Clive Longbottom of analyst company Quocirca says, “The canny CIO can then focus on what matters, which is supporting the business.”

While change is inevitable and necessary for success, companies need to be sensitive to the fact that different parts of the organisation will view it differently. Management need a joined-up message that will engage individuals and teams with all their differing priorities, to channel excitement while easing concerns.

If you would like to have your company featured in the Irish Tech News Business Showcase, get in contact with us at [email protected] or on Twitter: @SimonCocking

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