October 27, 2022

Article
8 min

Why Digital Transformation Should Value People and Processes Over Technology

Technology is best implemented to solve a problem. The first conversation should be around your company’s problem, whether it’s processing cheques faster, crunching more data or keeping more accurate client information – not the tool to solve it.

CDW Expert

What's Inside
  • People: Capture the existing user experience

    The first step in a digital transformation project shouldn’t be identifying the best technology available for your organization’s industry, but rather for your organization’s daily operations.

  • Process: Where does digital transformation fit into your operations?

    Focus on process alignment before rolling out a digital transformation project. Ensure that each stakeholder understands each others’ needs and how they fit into the overall workflow, so the technology solves everyone’s challenges as well as it can.

  • Technology: Why it pays to hire an expert

    Even if a company has a defined goal and process implementation plan in mind, experts like CDW can help ensure they’re getting the most effective bang for their buck, depending on their digital maturity and the size of their IT team.

Person working on an iPad while standing on the sidewalk with a tall building in his background and overlay with geometric network visualization.

Canadian businesses have long seen the benefits of digital transformation, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic: According to Statistics Canada, Canadian businesses with five or more employees grossed $398 billion in e-commerce sales in 2021 – roughly 30 percent higher than in 2019.

Those benefits are not distributed equally – what KPMG calls “digital leaders” represent only four out of 10 businesses in Canada – but a key factor separating the leaders from the laggards isn’t the technology used, but the attention paid to the people using it.

“Some organizations get caught up in the newest, coolest, shiniest tool – but that’s not really a great business model outside of Silicon Valley,” says Craig Siemens, Solutions Manager, CDW. “Technology is best implemented to solve a problem, not for technology’s sake. So the first conversation to have should be around your company’s problem, whether it’s processing cheques faster, crunching more data or keeping more accurate client information – not the tool you’ll use to solve it.”

Siemens acknowledges that digital transformation best practices have changed over the years. The prevailing mentality 10 years ago, for instance, was to implement the best solution available for each function. The problem with that approach was a lack of interoperability, with workers forced to use multiple platforms that ran differently and did not connect with each other.

It’s a problem that Mitch Kelsey, CDW Team Lead, Cybersecurity Advisory, still sees organizations make today.

“Organizations that are digitally transforming usually fall down when they don’t have a good understanding of the process or fail to make sure they have the right people with the right skill set to address all of the different stakeholder requirements,” he says.

That’s why today’s digital transformation leaders should focus not on whether a given tool best solves a given problem, but whether it fits into a single holistic process – one that workers can be trained in and excited to use. The technology industry even has a phrase for it, which CDW has wholeheartedly embraced: people, process, technology – in that order.

People: Capture the existing user experience

The first step in a digital transformation project shouldn’t be identifying the best technology available for your organization’s industry, but rather for your organization’s daily operations. It’s where Puneet Duggal, Cisco Acceleration Lead at CDW, starts when advising clients.

“In COVID and now recessionary times, many of our customers are looking at their technology stack and saying, ‘There’s challenges. Performance issues. People working from home that we have no visibility over. Security concerns. Data flowing between partners we’re not sure we can trust. And staff that we aren’t even sure are trained to operate any of it,’” Duggal says.

“We tell them to start at the definition stage – asking what the enterprise needs, what the users need and what your customers need,” he continues. “What are your current processes? What is your end goal? Many companies have a lot of blanks.”

CDW begins by asking organizations for their technology roadmap, Duggal says – how are they using their current tools? Do their workers know how to use them? Do they understand which processes they need to implement for them to work most effectively? – and measuring cost of ownership based on the answers.

“Many companies ask for cloud services, for example, but there’s a misalignment between the process and their people because they aren’t operating those services properly,” Duggal says.

A good cost of ownership calculation, Siemens says, accounts for how much an organization is likely to “pay” in lost productivity changing from one platform to another as IT staff are trained to maintain it and workers are trained in its use.

“I can design you something amazing, but it’s useless if you can’t run it after the fact,” Siemens says. “Organizations can’t just look at the technology itself, but the ripple effect it has throughout their workforce.”

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I can design you something amazing, but it’s useless if you can’t run it after the fact.

– Craig Siemens

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Process: Where does digital transformation fit into your operations?

When advising clients on their digital transformation projects, one thing Siemens tries to emphasize is the similarity many vertical-specific enterprise technologies have with each other.

“Let’s take networking for an example,” he says. “When looking the spec sheets, Cisco, Aruba and Fortinet are very similar. They can all switch at the same speeds. They all have great security features. From a digital transformation perspective, any one of them can be a fit.”

“Where the technologies differ is how they do X, and that can be a big sticking point,” he continues. “That’s why you’re better off having conversations around existing operations. What are your teams doing now? Do they have more experience with one product than the others? We can work with that.”

Leading CDW’s Cybersecurity Advisory team, Kelsey knows that organizations need to have certain processes in place to ensure operations are secure and stakeholder privacy is protected. But he also recognizes that every organization and stakeholder has different needs that need to be accounted for.

That’s why he advocates focusing on process alignment before rolling out a digital transformation project: ensuring that each stakeholder or group of stakeholders invests time into understanding each others’ needs and how they fit into the overall workflow, so that whatever technology is adopted solves everyone’s challenges as well as it can.

“Having a good understanding of an organization’s workflow is crucial – in our case, not only does the security team need to know what’s required of them, they need to know what the other hurdles are going to be in order to deliver their full value to the business,” Kelsey says. “If we recognize their needs and where individual people’s limits are, we can put the right controls in place to make their job easier and safer.”

It also addresses the greatest challenge to a digital transformation project: People, who in Kelsey’s experience, represent the biggest variable in any organization’s cybersecurity strategy.

“Process adoption and training is an important component of any sound cybersecurity strategy,” Kelsey says. “After all, you can have the correct tools in place, but if you haven’t trained your people to recognize something suspicious and report it, all that protection flies out the window.”

Technology: Why it pays to hire an expert

Once organizations have passed the definition stage and have a process training plan in place, then they can start researching the technology available to them – or, if they’re smart, consult an expert to help them, Kelsey says.

“There are best of breed tools out there that are amazing – if you have a full-time employee whose job is to operate that tool,” he says. “Not everybody is fortunate to have that. And so as your partners, we can be there to help guide your decisions.”

Even if a company has a defined goal and process implementation plan in mind, Siemens says, experts like CDW can help ensure they’re getting the most effective bang for their buck, depending on their digital maturity and the size of their IT team.

“If I’m talking to a large oil and gas company with an IT team that’s been using a specific networking technology for a long time, that type of conversation isn’t as necessary,” he says. “But if I’m talking to a smaller organization that just has an IT generalist, a solution like Meraki or Fortinet might be a better fit, because of how easy they are to deploy and monitor.”

Perhaps most importantly, it’s worth acknowledging that many organizations simply don’t have a comprehensive plan in place – just shiny new technology they want their IT teams to implement without knowing anything about a product, except the benefits touted by its vendor, Duggal says.

“Many companies don’t have a plan,” he says. “They don’t have internal alignment, they don’t have the budget allocated to make the changes, they just have an end goal and don’t realize how hard it is to implement an infrastructure improvement initiative while also maintaining that infrastructure.”

That’s why digital leaders employ a chief transformation or digital officer in addition to a chief information or technology officer, Duggal notes.

“IT teams can only finish so much in a day,” he says. “So if you can’t afford a CDO and don’t want to lose good employees, you’re better off going to us.”