By Guillermo Fernández de Jáuregui

During the last decade we have been involved in a digital transformation and, as a consequence of the current COVID-19 pandemic, it will only move faster and deeper within our organizations.

Currently, most of our team members are working remotely using technology to perform their activities and, in the workplace, we are all looking for ways to do our job while minimizing contact within our workforce.

For many years in ONILOG we followed the strategy to acquire the technology we needed, until we realized it would never be enough until we changed our mindset towards our own development. Once we did it, we started a deep reorganization of our leadership team by creating a Corporate Strategy Director position, by hiring an IT Manager with a developer mindset and by concentrating our Organizational Development efforts in making sure our team members have a personal/professional path to reach their goals.

Contrary to popular belief, digital transformation is less about technology and more about people. You can pretty much buy any technology, but your ability to adapt to an even more digital future depends on developing the next generation of skills, closing the gap between talent supply and demand, and future-proofing your own and others’ potential.

Under the proper attitude, crisis is where opportunities are created; it provides us with the opportunity to rethink our potential and ensure that we are positioning ourselves toward the future. While the future is more ambivalent and uncertain than ever, we are confident that a pretty strong bet on the future is to focus on reskilling and upskilling people so that they are better equipped to adjust to change. If anything, an even bigger proportion of jobs, tasks, activities, and careers will find ingenious and novel ways to coexist in the digital world. Here’s how we can all prepare for that eventuality:

Put people first: Technology is always about doing more with less, yet that combination is effective only if you pair technology with the right human skills. The main implication is that when leaders think about investing in technology, they should first think about investing in the people who can make that technology useful.

Focus on soft skills: Just as digital transformation is more about people rather than technology; the key technological skills are soft skills rather than hard skills. In our view, the best way to make your organization more data-centric and digital is to selectively invest in those who are most adaptable, curious, and flexible in the first place. Since nobody knows what the key future hard skills will be, the best action is to bet on the people who are most likely to develop them. Technical competence is temporary, but intellectual curiosity must be permanent.

Drive change from the top: The idea of bottom-up or grassroots change is both romantic and intuitive, but in reality, change is much more likely to happen if you drive it from the top down. Needless to say, everything in business can be copied except for talent, so if you are looking for impact, do invest in top talent, which is where you will get the most value.

Make sure you’re acting on data insights: So much of the current discussion on data is focused on AI, or specific types of computer intelligence, such as machine learning, deep learning, or natural language processing. These powerful advances in AI are exciting, yet we don’t see them as the main differentiator for future-proofing your organization. A much bigger competitive advantage is to harness valuable data, having the necessary skills to translate that data into meaningful insights, and above all being able to act on those insights. In our view, data without insights are trivial, and insights without action are pointless. Data truly is oxygen, and that is something you cannot buy; you cultivate it, nurture it, and harness it with time — and above all, with leadership.

If you can’t fail fast, make sure you succeed slowly: The statements that speed is king, that action is key, that perfect is the enemy of good, and that you should be willing and eager to fail fast, have all become clichés in management thinking. But, the only way to adapt to a constantly changing and rapidly disrupted present is to speed up and operate at pace. In other words, it’s okay to succeed slowly if you can’t fail fast and learn from it.

In today’s reality, the digital transformation era is people-led and technology-supported. It all starts with each and every one of us, and those we are responsible for developing. The key is to nurture curiosity, so we have options, even outside of a crisis.

Based on the article Digital Transformation Is About Talent, Not Technology by Becky Frankiewicz and Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic