The current worldwide confinement caused by Covid19 has undoubtedly served to highlight and manifest the importance of the digital world both in companies and in our personal lives. However, in my personal opinion, it has also made it clear that we need fewer “experts” in digital transformation and more real transformations.
As happens, and probably always will, with many other concepts the term digital transformation threatens to become a “hype”. A temporary trend that serves as an excuse to disguise (and sell) more smoke than reality, masking and diminishing the real value of the concept.
In recent days, we have seen experts, companies, and media announce the importance of telecommuting and the benefits of digital transformation with great fanfare. Stating that the current situation has brought about a revolution and an evolution in the way we work.
An example that is often cited is the use of the collaboration tool Microsoft Teams. Don’t get me wrong, Microsoft Teams is a great tool. Just like many others in many other areas. The problem is almost never the tool, it’s the use that is made of it.
The reality is that most companies are very late in digital transformation and I am not only talking about Spain and Latin America. Furthermore, many of them still do not understand its importance and are resistant to change. This is something that will not be fixed by Microsoft Teams or any other tool.
I have seen dairy product distribution companies counting daily orders and deliveries by hand, with a calculator. I have seen the registration of work reports for teams by taking a photo of a handwritten sheet and sending it by WhatsApp to an office, where someone would copy it into an Excel file. I have seen the addition and removal of stuffing feathers from pillows, weighing each time on a scale until it “more or less” gave the desired value. I have seen insulating varnish applied by hand to the plates that form the core of a transformer, making electrical measurements and recording the results in an Excel spreadsheet.
These four examples are very striking and it is easy to imagine a digital solution that would improve the process. But perhaps it will surprise you that they are real examples of four large companies whose brands are references in their respective sectors.
What would we find in the rest of the companies? In how many do we find that 90% of their processes are still based on Excel spreadsheets? How many have email as the usual form of interaction? How many use collaborative tools correctly? How many allocate resources and prioritize (not just “claim to prioritize”) the digitalization of their processes?
Allow me to be hasty in waving the flag of digital transformation with pride just because I discovered Microsoft Teams. Especially since it is a tool that, like its alternatives, has been on the market for a long time. Even more so when it is primarily used as a tool for video calls, as “the newest Skype”.
Propose to create groups, upload files, use a Wiki to share information, link it with Forms, Power BI, or third-party services. Propose using it as a tool to manage projects or departments exclusively with Teams. If you receive an affirmative response, I assure you it would be a personal joy and an unexpected surprise.
An important part of the problem is the “wobbling” of bombastic and semi-invented titles to which we are already accustomed, especially on social networks. It is true that in this country we have the defect of “titleitis,” and many of you are aware of my opinion in this regard. But the truth is that, at least, not everyone can put “doctor” or “aeronautical engineer” or “architect” on their resume. Which, without meaning everything by any means, is at least a first filter.
On the contrary, nowadays it “is free” to call oneself an “expert in digital transformation” or an “expert in technologies” or a “Business developer madafaka-manager”. Without any accreditation, without any prerequisite. It is as easy as putting it in the email signature (and note the irony of “in the email”).
Intentionally or not, these experts take advantage of the low general technology culture in many companies. Many times these self-proclaimed experts are internal to the company itself. By comparison, if I am better at technology than those around me, I might be an “expert”! That ends up in “look at this beautiful Excel with 4 macros that I made for you”! Even with the best intentions, this is also part of your company’s problem.
Here, the concepts of “in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king” and “there is none so blind as those who will not see” come together in an alternative term that we could call #DigitalBlindness, which combines a lack of technological knowledge, vision to recognize it, and the will to change it.
I am sure that the situation we are experiencing will leave some positive things from the point of view of digital transformation. At the very least, it has made it clear that we were not prepared to address it. If you have doubts, ask acquaintances who work in IT infrastructure support, to see how their last few weeks have been.
On the other hand, much to my regret, I am also convinced that many of the lessons will fall on deaf ears and we will soon return to the old and familiar demons of the companies, represented by the network folder, the omnipresent Excel spreadsheet, emails, and large meetings. It’s not so easy to leave old habits behind and not return to the warm comfort of your comfort zone.
So, please, let’s stop equating holding a video conference with digital transformation. As we all know, digital transformation is much more than that, and it involves profound technical and thought changes. But it requires creativity, knowledge, and, above all, conviction to emerge from this #DigitalBlindness.