4 minute read 16 May 2019
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How technology can be a force for business growth and greater social good

By

Andy Baldwin

EY Global Managing Partner – Client Service

Passionate about innovation, FinTech, inclusive growth and geopolitics. Leading media commentator on financial services, economics and investment trends. Keen cyclist.

4 minute read 16 May 2019
Related topics Digital Growth Workforce

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Three considerations for CEOs to unlock human potential through digital transformation.

Digital transformation crops up frequently in boardroom conversations but there is a lack of clarity about what digital transformation actually is. Often it is interpreted in terms of process automation and investment in exciting emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, data analytics and the Internet of Things (IoT). In actual fact, however, any successful digital transformation strategy is – at its heart – a human strategy.

Why do I say that? Because an organization can only harness the full potential of technology if its people understand it, value it and – of course – use it. In some respects, you could even say the phrase 'digital transformation' itself is a bit of a misnomer. Technology alone does not and cannot, transform organizations. People transform organizations and drive business growth when they are empowered by technology which enables them to generate new ideas, by working in new ways, with new partners.

Digital transformation does not happen within the context of a single organization. How can it? Consider the closely interconnected nature of the world in which we live, the blurring of industry boundaries and the rising geopolitical tensions which are shaping the environment that organizations operate in. Fundamentally, digital transformation happens within the context of a much broader economic and social ecosystem, which in turn raises some very human considerations. 

Is technology a force for greater social good?

Whilst technology is widely understood to be a driver of business growth, there are concerns around the value that it brings to society more broadly. People are questioning whether it is increasing bias against certain demographic groups, and whether it will worsen social inequality if less tech-savvy individuals are excluded from the workforce in future. Many individuals feel that technology is changing their environment in ways that they are not necessarily comfortable with – for example, the rise of online retailers has made life for many local and high street stores. And they worry that technology is having a damaging effect on our interpersonal relationships and on our mental and physical wellbeing. 

How can organizations deploy technology as a force for both business growth and greater social good? 

  1. Put your people at the center of your digital strategy.

    Digital transformation is about unlocking the potential of humans, not replacing them with robots. It is about enabling people to be more productive, giving them more interesting opportunities and roles and potentially accelerating their career development. Think about how technology can be used to enable people – rather than a replacement. Consider how your business could move forward if people are relieved of some of their most mundane tasks to focus on more strategic and higher-value activities? How can you create opportunities for your people to think, create, challenge, exercise judgment and partner with others?

  2. Remember the people who might be left behind.

    For technology to be truly embraced by the workforce of any organization, it needs to be deployed in a way that does not leave people behind. Organizations should be constantly investing in training and development that enables them to better unlock their human potential. They also need to have high ethical standards, respect privacy and ensure that people’s personal data is protected. It is through taking a responsible approach to digital transformation that organizations will build trust, which in turn will drive inclusive growth.

  3. Collaborate with partners.

    A successful digital transformation delivers benefits for a wide range of stakeholders, both internal and external to the organization. That is when transformation becomes a force for good. This kind of transformation cannot usually be achieved by one organization acting individually; however, it needs the input of an entire ecosystem. That’s why it’s key to collaborate with partners, including start-ups, to create products and solutions that are not only beneficial to your own organization but to your industry or sector, as well as society more broadly. 

We are already seeing some great examples of ecosystem collaboration happen around use cases for the distributed ledger technology blockchain. Industry players are partnering with each other to develop solutions that provide simplification and transparency in situations where disparate legacy systems hold and process vast amounts of data. When these solutions are effectively implemented, they help organizations to operate more efficiently and generating economic growth and creating jobs for people.

There is no point in technology for technology’s sake. Like everything else that we use in our lives, technology ultimately exists to serve a higher purpose, a human purpose. That’s why digital transformation has to be undertaken by people, for the benefit of other people. It should not be an end in itself. Ultimately, there is probably no such thing as a digital-only strategy at all – only a human strategy that is enabled by digital technology.

Summary

Digital transformation can unlock human potential and be a force for social good.

About this article

By

Andy Baldwin

EY Global Managing Partner – Client Service

Passionate about innovation, FinTech, inclusive growth and geopolitics. Leading media commentator on financial services, economics and investment trends. Keen cyclist.

Related topics Digital Growth Workforce