Beware the slippery slope of a technocratic mindset: resilience in the digital age is about the PEOPLE that IT ultimately serves.

Dan Bognar, Vice President & General Manager, APJ, DocuSign

In the past 18 months, organizations worldwide have been jolted into the realization that the idea of business continuity and resilience has to be grounded on digital sustainability.

Buzzwords such as digital transformation, digital pivoting and cyber resilience ring loud and at high frequency everywhere we look. Organizations and businesses that have not adopted tech sufficiently, and even those that had gone digital but not to the extent needed to meet pandemic challenges, are now frantically making up for the lag.

However, despite the urgency to rise to the digital challenge and prepare for imminent future pandemics, leaders also need to be cognizant of being too carried away with the focus on technocracy—the belief that technology can be applied to solve every societal problem.

According to Dan Bognar, an experienced business, management and technology consultant with C-level experience in the region, organizations need to also future-proof their workforce and business strategies in a people-centric way with the same level of urgency and priority as tech.

Four obstacles to digital future-proofing

In his presentation on the topic of workforce future-proofing at a virtual Asia Tech x SG event, Bognar cited the four main challenges facing organizations (i.e., businesses as well as non-business entities such as the public sector and non-governmental agencies):

  1. Legacy cultures and systems
  2. Change fatigue
  3. Lack of agility
  4. The talent gap

A common thread running through these challenges is PEOPLE. This encompasses employees, leaders and stakeholders at all levels of the organization and beyond. According to Bognar, the keys to success in addressing the people variable in the digital success equation rests on three thrusts: strategy before tech, automating mundane tasks for people, and empowering agility in people to achieve speed and innovation—the competitive advantage for future-proofing and resilience.

“Technology alone is not going to solve business problems, but good business strategy is going to win the day every time. There must be an appetite to start small (aiming at the low-hanging fruit), to test and learn, to iterate and demonstrate value to the organization, and once we have done that, proceed to grow, scale and amplify (the strategy),” said Bognar.

Three business drivers for strategy

If strategy is more important than technology, and empowering people with technology is really about the people first, what strategies can tie all of these powerful facets into a resiliency enabler?

According to Bognar, three business drivers now define the digital era: Customer Experience (CX), Operational Efficiency, and Sustainability.

“CX is what readers are already familiar with, but what they may not be familiar with is that (according to a recent study by PwC) 60% of organizations have cited that CX initiatives drive a higher ROI than virtually all other initiatives. The CX era has truly arrived. We need to recognize that the (current CX) bar continues to rise, and every time it rises, the customer expectations also rise. So we can never take our foot off the accelerator!”

Organizations wishing to be future-proof should therefore prioritize their CX strategy—and bear in mind that their workforce is also a powerful customer—in which case we refer to Employee Engagement/Experience as a similar driver.

As for operational efficiency, Bognar reiterated how organizations are using technology to boost business innovation, scalability, agility, flexibility and productivity—all of which are contingent on the continuity, loyalty and commitment of the workforce. Operational efficiency means providing employees with the right environment, culture, tools and nurturing to operate at peak efficiency and morale: all important ingredients that go into great employee engagement and the top priority of providing impactful customer experience.

Finally, being future-proof in the digital era is intricately tied to environmental issues now pounding at every door. “Sustainability is actually a really important draw card: both for the customers who identify with that value set of your brand, and also for (your) employees in the future. And so customers and employees alike (i.e. people) will self-identify, and either choose to do business or work for organizations that have a sustainability imperative.”