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Businesses must lead the way to a digital economy

With the digital economy changing the way we work and live, Paul Cant, VP of Digital Transformation at BMC Software explains why it is crucial for organisations to move quickly and adjust their businesses to embrace the radical changes ahead if they are to survive

The only constant in business is change. However, the rate at which some things are changing has taken many people and businesses by surprise. In a matter of years, familiar names like British Home Stores, Woolworths and Blockbuster have all disappeared from the High Street, as new technologies, competitors, and consumer behaviour have disrupted the status quo faster than they could innovate.

This rate of change is not slowing. In fact, research published by global research and advisory firm Gartner in 2017, suggests that many businesses are just getting started. Just 42 per cent of CEOs surveyed are actively undertaking a digital transformation agenda of some kind at present. Furthermore, with almost half of the CEOs surveyed saying that they were acting in the face of pressure from their board of directors to deliver progress in this area, some could say the rate of change is not fast enough.

It’s therefore no surprise that many workers fear being left behind, as businesses and the workplace undergo even greater change, driven by advances in artificial intelligence, automation and robotics. In fact, in a global survey that we commissioned earlier this year, more than 40 per cent of workers said that they feel concerned that they won’t learn the required digital skills fast enough for the future workplace.

At the World Economic Forum in Davos this year, this issue was at the top of the bill. Global leaders met to discuss how more responsible and proactive leadership could address some of the challenges facing the world in 2017, as traditional industries are redefined and new ones are created from scratch. The consensus is that leaders must do what they can to prepare the workforce for the demands and needs of the digital economy, as emerging developments continue to change the way we all work.

So it was interesting to find that this was reflected in our own research among office workers. Of those surveyed globally, 88 per cent believe that employers must create an innovative culture to retain staff and enable workers to be successful with increasingly digital roles and responsibilities. While a further 47 per cent of workers recognise that they will have to expand their skillset by learning new digital skills.

SO WHAT SHOULD BUSINESS LEADERS DO?
These widespread technological advancements are nothing short of a rallying cry to business leaders to embrace and accelerate digital transformation, and find relevant and innovative ways to continue growing their business, or else risk being swept aside by the relentless digital storm.

As companies shift towards a greater dependence on digital strategies for commercial success, CEOs have to demonstrate responsible and proactive leadership during this period of seismic digital disruption, thus enabling talent to continue to thrive. When planning and incorporating digital change however, employers must also understand how it is likely to be perceived by the wider workforce.

Reassuring employees and implementing a structural framework that lends itself to skilling them up accordingly with the tools they need to shoulder these new digital developments is priority number one for CEOs. Emphasis needs to be placed on establishing transformation programmes offering workers the appropriate training opportunities and engaging digital experiences to benefit both the employee and the organisation in the long term.

By its very nature, a digital workplace that places emphasis on these kinds of programmes fosters collaboration between colleagues, a flexible approach to working and inspires a more entrepreneurial attitude.

CULTURE COUNTS AS BUSINESSES UNDERGO DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION
In addition to skilling up employees, businesses must also strive to create a culture of innovation and creativity, where ideas can prosper and workers feel empowered to drive change and learn new skills that will help them to flourish in a digital economy. However, the level of encouragement employees believe they are currently receiving to drive change in the workplace varies greatly, according to our research.

In order to stimulate greater employee focus and strengthen productivity, an enhanced digital workplace culture that fosters collaboration, versatility and entrepreneurial spirit is crucial. Team collaboration platforms are a great example of this combination in action: simply by distilling down the process of communication and digital processes into contemporary chat-based tools, technology becomes the enabler that forms the nucleus of cultivating greater workplace productivity.

Business leaders that zone in on using technology to provide their employees with the economic and social benefits already established by the digital economy will be able to handle the rapid evolution of the global business environment head on.

The digital revolution has the potential to improve productivity and overall success across the business community. For this to pay off however, business leaders must make it their responsibility to encourage and enable digital change. Those businesses that get this right, and combat the threats of disruption by embracing the benefits of the digital economy, will ultimately be the ones that will not only be alive and kicking, but thriving too.

About Sarah OBeirne

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