What Is Digital Transformation and Its Relationship to the Future of Work?

Brand and Consumer Insights, Marketing & Advertising Technology, Other

June 12, 2018 by

When was the last time you subscribed to (and read) a foldable newspaper? Deposited a check at a brick-and-mortar bank? Listened to a radio with an analog display?

What about the last time you fixed your car without someone who could program a computer?

If you're reading this on a mobile device and drive a car made after 2009, chances are it's been a long time since you've done any one of these things, much less all three within the last 5 years.

But these are just a few of the everyday changes that have already resulted from industries affecting full scale digital transformations—we're talking about monumental shifts in business operations that have fundamentally reshaped the future of work for millions of people.

Don't just take my word for it: take the World Economic Forum's.

Fortunately, because digital skills are on the rise, the future of work looks much brighter for millions of people than it did five years ago. This is particularly true in global industries where leaders are empowering their workforces to fill skills gaps with digital skillsets and face technological automation with a sense of confidence rather than fear or complacency.

To help build a knowledge base that might increase that sense of confidence, this post will explore how digital transformation is reshaping the future of work.

Digital Transformation and its Relationship to the Future of Work

When most people hear the words "digital transformation," they think about turning something analog into something digital, like print books into eBooks or wristwatches into smartwatches.

But a true digital transformation - especially when it means turning an analog business into a digital business -  involves a much more complex set of problems than transferring the same content to a different medium or enhancing the functionality of a timepiece.

That's not to say the set of problems that comes with making eBooks or smartwatches isn't complex—it is. It's only to say that transforming a business which spent the majority of its life operating in an analog world comes with that same set of problems, along with a whole set of others.

Common Problems Encountered by Businesses Undergoing Digital Transformation

  • Scale: How can an established company that operates on an analog business model fundamentally change the way it identifies, develops, and launches new business ventures without losing equity due to changes in size and cost?
  • Talent: How can companies that desire digital transformation train, retain, and attract the most talented individuals to change their enterprise without uprooting or losing sight of employees that made them great companies in the first place?
  • Metrics: How do newly digital companies measure their successes and failures in comparison to their formerly analog selves?

Note that almost any answer to these questions circles back around to issues that affect human resources—one of the most costly (and arguably most valuable) component of a company's assets. And the question surrounding those issues is even bigger: how much does an employee's work stand to lose, gain, or retain its value, particularly when it's facing a future where automation—the close cousin of digital transformation—is on every negotiating table?

Almost any answer to that question would suggest that the future of work is intimately bound up with digital transformation. To that point, Google Trends shows that over the past 12 month, people have approached the same level of interest in both topics.

And if we look at the broader arc of this trend from 2004 to present, we see that digital transformation has experienced a surge of interest since 2013, a surge that places it on par with search interest in the future of work.

Why such a surge of interest in digital transformation? It likely has something to do with the fact that an increasing number of industries has undergone digital transformations during that time period, particularly finance and commercial banking. These are industries whose workers are currently experiencing increased risk of automation with digital transformations like cryptocurrency and mobile banking.

But workers from these industries and many others are combating the risks of automation by learning the digital skills necessary for harnessing these technologies, using them to their advantage, and creating new jobs - by some accounts, 2 for every 1 lost.

Yet there are still a number of industries that haven't experienced full-scale digital transformation. These include, but are not limited to real estate, oil and gas, insurance, and transportation.

Not only does this mean these industries are ripe for digital transformation; it means it's time to get invested in digital skills training, double down on digital development, and roll up our sleeves to create more jobs when the time comes to make that transformation.

So boost your confidence in digital transformation. The future of work depends on it.

Want to know more about participating in digital transformation? Check out OMI's upcoming webinar with Barney Loehnis on the Six Building Blocks of Digital Transformation. Barney's most recent role was as Global Chief Digital Officer at Mercer, where he led a digital transformation to service 30,000 clients and 110 million employees for Health, Wealth and Careers.

Register soon to join us on June 20, 2018 at 12:00PM PDT / 3:00PM EST!

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