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Defy the odds: how to win at digital transformation

Jada Balster, Workfront, discusses how to adapt to new technologies and make them work for you

The belief that future automation and new technology will free up time in your working day to be more strategic and creative is going to pay off – for 30% of you.

For the other seven in 10, you’ll adopt emerging technologies with the very same dream of revolutionising your working patterns and your team’s performance.

But you’ll never quite feel the effort to use new digital tools was worth the cash you spent or the sweat over implementation.

And that’s the hard truth about digital transformation projects: 70% fail.

What sets the successful 30% apart is their understanding that technology will have a transformative effect on work schedules and performance if those new digital tools become part of the DNA of their business. New tools need to be part of re-imagined workflows for the people who will use them — a rethink of how tasks

get done right


What the winners know is that you don’t just adopt new technologies, you adapt to them and embed them.

Creatives yearn for digital innovation

If you look around today’s leading creative businesses you will find no lack of eagerness to embrace innovation.

According to Workfront’s

State of Work


— a survey of more than 2,000 creatives and knowledge workers in the UK – 44% of employees are actively requesting new digital tools. 

On average, workers say 30% of their day job is already automated, with the potential to automate up to 40% with technology available today.

But there’s also evidence of frustration that those new digital apps and tools are just being bolted on to existing working processes.

Only one in three UK creatives and knowledge workers believe that in five years’ time their businesses will be able to track digitally all the work that’s being done.

There’s even less confidence they will be able to tell how their own work maps to the organisation’s strategic initiatives or the bottom line, only 23% and 21% respectively.

It seems we all want new and better technology, but don’t really have much faith we’ll be able to make the most of it.

As American academics

Thomas H. Davenport


George Westerman

wrote: “Digital is not just a thing that you can buy and plug into the organisation.

“Digital transformation is an ongoing process of changing the way you do business. It requires mixing people, machines, and business processes, with all of the messiness that entails.”

In other words, at the heart of successful digital transformation is figuring out what tasks are automated, what tasks stay in human hands, and what’s the future interplay between the two.

How one creative business is winning

So, how does successful digital transformation work in practice?

Visit the offices of experience design agency Foolproof in the UK or Singapore and you’ll find teams using a single digital work management system to monitor project progress and forecast availability.

Implementation meant reimagining how teams would record activity: from resourcing and project management, to timesheets and reporting.

Using historic data as the base for future resource planning, and spreadsheets to help with project management were consigned to the past.

The new digital system has doubled the forward visibility of team allocation – allowing Foolproof’s resource managers to predict within 10% accuracy team availability four weeks ahead, and within 30% accuracy six weeks out.

Project and portfolio transparency have increased with more detailed profitability data. And in all, 16 hours in monthly, 24 hours in weekly, reporting time has been saved.

Previously, Foolproof’s resource manager spent about two days per month and its eight project managers at least half a day every week creating and distributing reports.

“We needed a solution that would help us work smarter,” says Foolproof’s head of operations Rachel Sheppard.

“We chose this solution because it would help us more accurately manage staffing and more effectively manage projects. It covered everything from resourcing and project management to timesheets and reporting.”

Automation has simplified, standardised and streamlined processes. The technology has been embedded and the agency has adapted.

End of the fragmentation era

So here is a quick stress test to see if your organisation is on course to be among the transformed 30% or disappointed 70%.

How many apps are in play in your business today that solve a problem, but don’t speak to other systems?

How easy is it to record, export or share data between the tools your team is using?

If the answer is that few of your digital technologies are compatible with each other, you’ve been bolting-on.

Certainly, you will have made some progress. But it’s likely that you’ve still got teams who are working in silos and potentially insightful data on the organisation’s performance is stuck in there with them.

The future trend will be towards technologies that can span a business and break data out of those silos to give leaders a clearer view of issues that need to be solved, what’s working, and reveal future opportunities to improve performance.

Leaders in digitally transformed creative businesses will be able to understand the work that’s going on in its full context; how it plays out as it moves between teams.

Invest in getting it right

If you’re still wondering whether the investment in making new technology part of the DNA of your business operations is worth the effort, think about the maths for a minute.

By one estimate, businesses across the globe will spend £1 trillion ($1.3 trillion) this year alone chasing the aim of digital transformation. Across Europe, the Middle East and Africa, businesses will spend £215 billion ($280 billion). 

Now think about 70% of that money being blown on projects that will never deliver what those businesses were really hoping for.

So, let’s bring it closer to home. How much is your business going to spend on digital transformation in 2019?Thousands, tens of thousands or more? Can you afford to waste it?

Whatever the sum, you need to invest the time and effort in making your new tools and tech part of your organisation’s DNA. Join the winning 30%!

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