Every digital transformation project needs to build a platform for the critical capability for success in digital – human learning and change. Ensuring your people have the tools to collaborate and the freedom to change is essential for the rapid and scaled digital learning and change to be able to deliver strategic value to your organisation.
Platforms for Digital Transformation
The evolution of digital transformation has put a high value on platforms because platforms offer more than just the opportunity to connect and transact efficiently and effectively. Digital platforms bring together diverse players within and across markets and enable them to connect easily with standard API interactions, interact in standard easy ways and offer a predictable stable environment of trust.
Platforms help interactions in digital to scale quickly because the platform gathers an active community of users building the network effects and the benefits of diversity of capability and information. Standard interaction patterns allow an innovation ecosystem to develop despite this diversity and users are spared the cost and complexity of dealing with each other’s complex processes costs and systems. The growing user commitment to the community, the learning that occurs in the platform and the growing trust helps further to reduce the cost of any transaction and increase the appeal of the platform as a place to solve problems.
So platforms work because they:
- connect users in a market
- provide easy standard processes to reduce the cost and complexity of action
- provide transparency and other processes to improve trust
- build an innovation and learning ecosystem that creates ongoing valuable change for users
In a platform environment, participants can benefit from greater transparency, greater learning and greater innovation, while retaining their freedom of choice and control over how they participate. We have seen over time the power & value of eBay & Amazon as an auction & commerce platform, Google & Facebook as advertising platforms, and many more. Increasingly organisations pursuing digital transformation are looking to the opportunity to create these two-sided market opportunities in their digital strategy or to participate in digital ecosystems effective which demands at least the ability to interact with these platforms, whether through APIs or other forms of integration.
The Human Platform for Digital Transformation is Collaboration
At Microsoft Ignite, I spoke with Cai Kjaer and Scott Ward on the role that collaboration plays as a platform for digital transformation enabling employees to transition easily between the inner and outer circles of their work.
In a recent post exploring the role of transition between the inner and outer circles, I highlighted that transition was the zone where users sought learning and feedback to help their work.
Organisations that want to accelerate the digital transformation in their organisation need to develop ways to accelerate this learning and feedback process for their employees. A standard human platform for digital transformation on their collaboration platform will play a critical role in reducing the cost of learning and feedback and increasing the trust and effectiveness of the resulting change.
Traditionally, the biggest barriers to learning and feedback in organisations are:
- not knowing where to go or who can help (no clarity of the human market for learning)
- an uncertain, costly and slow process of engaging others (high complexity and transaction costs in this human community)
- fearing that you will be judged adversely for asking for help or exposing work that is incomplete (lack of trust in the organisation)
- concern that learning and change is likely not to be valued in a risk-averse compliance-oriented environment (lack of value in learning and change in the organisation)
The value of organisations building a collaboration platform in their organisation is to specifically address these three issues to help accelerate learning, feedback and change, whether in the domain of focused execution or in the wider enterprise challenges of alignment, engagement and discovery. Organisations that invest in change and adoption to build effective collaboration platforms for their employees see the growing maturity of the use of the platform by their employees through the Connect>Share>Solve>Innovate maturity model. This growing maturity itself enhances the ability of the organisation to deliver its strategic agenda and manage its day-to-day processes more effectively.
Let’s examine for a minute those key items on the top right of the chart that describe the rising benefits of collaboration platform as it matures. How does the platform increase the value, trust, empowerment, collaboration and agility of the organisation? An effective collaboration platform is a human digital transformation platform:
- Market: employees know where they can find a vibrant marketplace of other employees willing to Connect>Share>Solve>Innovate: the collaboration platform becomes a straightforward home for any need for learning, feedback or change (connect a market). Community managers and their agents in the community champions will play a key role in bringing people together in the community and fostering day-to-day use. Leaders can help by using their positional power and participation to bring people along and set the direction for the community.
- Standards: employees have standard processes and interactions to get the learning and feedback of others – this is why effective collaboration launch and adoption programs focus on developing user behaviour around common uses cases, hashtags and groups. Building vibrant communities means that each of these areas that an employee will have a standard expectation in the community as to how it is to be managed, a culture of collaboration that facilitates interactions like a human-to-human API.
- Trust: employees can see on the platform the culture of working out loud, others role modelling the behaviour that they want, the contributions of leaders and the lack of negative consequences and benefits of interacting. Experimenting with working out loud at scale reduces the trust cost of working out loud for any user. Importantly too when employees can see the authentic interactions of the wider community and come to know them better the cost of seeking learning, feedback or change is reduced. Community managers, leaders and champions play a critical role in creating a culture that fosters this.
- Ecosystem: As these networks mature to the Innovation stage, employees will be exploring potential to take the strategic goals of the organisation further and have a demonstrated freedom to act building on the capabilities of the collaboration platform. This role-modelling helps foster the degrees of freedom individual employees need in a digital organisation to learn and to adapt through needed change. A vibrant community of collaborators and access to leadership reduces the human cost of employee innovation and helps improve the alignment of these innovation activities to strategic goals.
Creating a Human Platform for Digital Transformation
You cannot rely on the technology tools you are using to create this platform. The most challenging aspects of this change are human and no matter how strong the engagement techniques are in the technology it cannot provide human elements like purpose, connection, trust, leadership, and alignment. It is important to remember that employees first and foremost concern will be their safety and success in the everyday workplace off the technology platform. That is where change and adoption must help support employees.
Creating this human platform to accelerate the organisation’s digital transformation and to deliver real strategic value takes an investment by organisations in a number of key elements:
- a clear strategy for the role of collaboration and its alignment to the strategic challenges in the organisation – this is far more an adoption or communication plan
- community managers who act as the architects and the agents of strategic value realisation in community
- champions who lead the community day to day and develop its norms and practices
- organisational leadership that understands its role in networks and in fostering digital innovation.
- the experimentation, change programs, launch activities and other ongoing efforts to engage the wider organisation in collaboration, to maintain connection and to grow the value of the collaboration.
From the experience of organisations around the world, it is clear that it takes more than ‘launch and forget’ to realise this human dimension of collaboration. Changing the collaboration in your organisation is a cultural change that impacts all your employees. The benefits to your organisation and its digital strategy are transformative if you are prepared to invest in the change.
Simon Terry enables organisations to realise the strategic value of collaboration as a platform for digital transformation. Simon is a Yammer Adoption Specialist, a Microsoft MVP and a Workplace by Facebook Adoption services partner. Through Change Agents Worldwide, Simon and a global network of future of work professionals help organisations to lead change, collaboration and new ways of working.