I recently had the opportunity to interview Adam Davidson, co-founder of NPR’s “Planet Money,” while he was in town for the Greater Des Moines Partnership’s Small Business Success Summit. Davidson and I chatted about his new book, “The Passion Economy: The New Rules for Thriving in the Twenty-First Century,” which touched on digital transformation in the workplace.
When asked about ChatGPT, Davidson commented that this new AI tool struck him as being like an “overage intern,” as long as you monitored and refined the work product through the entire process, the output was good. It got some good laughs. All jokes aside, digital transformation is a serious topic for leaders today.
Learning to take advantage of technology is one of the biggest challenges organizations face, as well as one of the biggest opportunities. To compete in an increasingly digital world, businesses need to invest in technology and automation. However, after several years of navigating all kinds of rapid change, how many leaders have truly progressed to digital maturity? Formstack’s new research on the state of digital maturity indicates that only 4% of businesses have “reached the ideal of a fully automated and digitized workplace.” Most businesses still face inefficiencies, with 51% of workers “spending at least two hours per day on repetitive tasks,” which represents more than $1.3 million annually in lost revenue.
I can relate to the digital transformation journey. At BPC, we recently launched a new Business Records website, are adding digital products, and investing in various technologies to enhance our customer experience and streamline our operations. All of these changes are exciting and scary at the same time. Transforming one’s organization takes time, money, and energy, and technology can be disruptive even when it promises positive change when it’s done.
McKinsey & Co. ’s recent CEO Excellence Survey took a pulse on the priorities and actions of leading CEOs, and not surprisingly, digital disruption was one of the top trends that respondents believed would have the greatest impact on their businesses. That article suggests that the mindset CEOs and their leadership teams need to approach digital transformation is that of a key technology architect. “Think of the executive team—not just the chief digital officer—as owning the company’s technology strategy,” said one CEO. “There is too much danger.”
How can you and your team begin to become the Chief Technology Architect of your own organization? How can you as a leader develop your digital capabilities to achieve your bottom-line goals and enhance your brand or customer experience – all while continuing to operate your business on a day-to-day basis? McKinsey & Co. CEOs in the survey cited three ways that digital transformation is being put into practice, allowing leaders to focus on their own journey:
Develop advanced analytics: The introduction of ChatGPT sparked entertaining conversations, but shone a spotlight on the need for companies to look at advanced analytics and predictive analytics. These technologies can personalize and target customers or streamline processes to create a better customer experience. Are there areas where your organization could benefit from this type of analysis?
Enhance cyber security: Cyber threats and breaches are growing at an alarming rate. Investing in infrastructure, embedding cybersecurity controls and training employees to always be vigilant will be critical for leaders to protect their business and customer information. Are you taking cybersecurity and related technology seriously enough?
Automate the job: Some jobs must be done manually, but there are certain jobs, roles or functions that can be done more efficiently, effectively or safely through automation. Exploring and investing in technology to streamline your organization won’t replace jobs with robots, but it can increase employment or output. My small hometown grocery store recently installed self-checkout stations, which speeded up the process during peak times, and customers were happy with the option.
These three areas of focus represent significant potential investment and change. Presenting them in a simple list doesn’t do justice to the magnitude of potential change, but it gives leaders a way to frame the journey.
While we may be busy and sometimes reluctant to change, we as leaders must be open to exploring new ways of working and mindful of the need to move quickly in the use of technology. After all, the digital transformation around us shows no signs of slowing down.
(And just for the record, I wrote this article without the help of ChatGPT, but I did take advantage of Asana, Google Docs, and our first-rate copy editor — the perfect combination of technology and human talent.)