As corporations are trying to return to some semblance of “normal,” whatever that definition may look like now, and are concurrently dealing with the lingering impacts of a global pandemic and implementing digital transformation, many challenges face the C-suite. Putting people and culture and how to adapt to the significant changes that have taken place in the workforce since 2020 may very well be at the top of that list.
According to Protiviti’s 2022 and 2031 Executive Perspectives on Top Risks study, “people and culture” are on the minds of both boards and C-suite executives as they prepare for another volatile year. Disrupted labor markets, rising competition, and constantly shifting threats raise serious questions about how organizations can attract, prepare and retain talent that can adapt to the aggressive technology modernization initiatives that underpin evolving digital business transformation strategies.
We recently hosted a roundtable with several senior-level executives who are readers of CIO.com. Their input, along with what we hear from clients every day, indicates there are clear patterns emerging. In fact, we now suggest that organizations focus on these top four fixes to achieve a successful digital business transformation amid significant upheaval in their workforce:
- Companies looking for speed and agility must promote tighter business and IT alignment.
- With competing priorities, the growing skill gap, the Great Resignation and the War for Talent, companies need innovative workforce management strategies and tools.
- In this time of accelerated change, fostering a culture that welcomes change as opportunity and uses collaboration to innovate will help organizations thrive.
- Emerging technologies, particularly AI and ML, are driving the need for governance among citizen developers.
Let’s look more closely at each.
Tighter alignment between the business and IT will drive speed and agility
Over time, we’ve seen IT leadership evolve from a bits and bytes focus to a dollars and cents approach that looks at ironing out costs and improving efficiencies. In most successful enterprises, IT now commonly takes a front-row seat, driving the digital transformation. This doesn’t happen without strong executive leadership working toward shared goals and operating with a common vision. In this model, metrics are shared across the organization’s various stakeholders, with all teams working towards a unified outcome.
In this new world, prioritization can be challenging as organizations can find themselves almost paralyzed by the sheer volume of things that need to get done. We like to help clients see “the art of the possible” as they look to match technologies to the business problems that need to be solved. We also believe the Lean Agile movement helps bring organizations together. In the past, executives and the board did not know where to insert themselves into the Agile process – and now, more than ever, the board needs to be a part of that process. Organizations need to find, and align with, their North Star – the one critically important thing they’re moving towards.
Innovative workforce management strategies and tools
Companies are now in the unique position of preparing for a new era to be completely aligned with customers and leveraging the digital economy. But that won’t happen unless we bring our people along with us. Technology has introduced new variables that provide unmatched opportunities to maximize our teams’ talents. But at the same time, the hybrid workforce is looking to redefine when, where and how they work. This requires new workforce strategies that will optimize efficiencies and engagement.
Organizations are rapidly shifting from manually intensive, low-tech processes to highly automated, low-touch processes by adopting emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotic process automation and more. This leads to a need to allocate resources in such a way that the workforce can continuously adapt to constant shifts in the business and risks landscapes yet remain convinced that the work they are doing is valued.
Putting the right workforce management strategies and tools in place will help future-proof investments in people, processes and technologies through the balance of this decade and well into the next.
Foster an innovation culture that embraces change and welcomes collaboration
Emerging technologies. Cyber risk. Hybrid workforce. The challenges facing leaders now are escalating. But the need to foster an innovation culture should rank at the top of the priority list. How do we maximize the talent we have, give people more rewarding work and, at the same time, use new digital initiatives to help people collaborate effectively to deliver the work on time and on budget? How do we protect the incredible skillsets of our tech and risk professionals who are likely being heavily recruited by other forward-looking firms? How do we strategically manage external partners to help fill gaps caused by the resource churn, keeping our digital adoption work on schedule?
It’s time to break organizational siloes, once and for all. Organizations that will be successful going forward are those that have learned, or soon will, how to integrate disciplines and provide the tools and environment to let people do their best work. People collaborating with a common purpose create functionality and manage risk. This concept is likely to meet with resistance, but with the proper governance, along with the right tools and the right skillsets in place, accelerated adoption of new business priorities can happen. People will become dedicated, determined agents of change.
Emerging technologies reshape the need for governance
Humans are naturally wired for perhaps three significant changes in their lifetimes. Yet we’ve seen many more than that in the past 18 to 24 months alone. All of this change, particularly when talking about emerging technologies, requires the need for more governance, securing the tools being used and the programs being developed. Strong governance calls for ethical decisioning, which of course, takes us back to our first point – how well the business and IT can work together.
The broad view of governance includes multiple elements, including the security of the tool suite being used and the security of what’s being developed. But the people – your citizen developers and your leaders – ensure governance takes place as digital acceleration happens and tools like artificial intelligence and machine learning are introduced.
Every organization has its citizen developers and we are seeing more and more organizations turning to these people for peer leadership. They’re the ones that step up and say “I want to be trained” when new technology is introduced. They are good at what they do. They are innately skilled at determining what they can handle within the scope of their work and what needs to be moved to a center of excellence where more experienced people can handle the issues. They become the change agents we first introduced above when talking about innovation. And they become the key to successful governance.
Outsourcing also needs to be considered when talking about governance. Relying on partners throughout a transformation effort can be extremely useful as that partner becomes a constant in the change. But bringing in third parties can present complicating factors so we encourage clients to carefully consider who they are bringing onboard and how well those partners will merge their practices with the organization’s governance requirements.
As we look to the future, we don’t know what might happen next. But we do know that the pressures facing senior leaders, particularly in the technology sector, are only going to increase. We see that as a tremendous opportunity to make great things happen within organizations whose people are well prepared to cope with continual change.
Digital adoption success hinges on mastering both the art (leadership and empathy) and the science (emerging technologies and data) of the situation. This will require organizations to establish a ‘culture of empiricism’ in which the teams are in a constant, collaborative process of discovering. We should all always be pushing the envelope and asking if there are ways to do things better. When organizations develop empirical cultures, they figure it out together.