The future of work with digitization

Mar 1, 2022

In a world where remote work and hybrid work have proven to be invaluable, the ability of a business to digitally transform itself has become paramount to success. But, what does digital transformation mean? 

Digital transformation is a process of optimizing systems across an organization to make the business more efficient as a whole. In practice, this means the adoption of digital technologies to streamline processes and ensure inter-connectedness of core functions such as human resources and finance. However, it also includes organizational design, culture change initiatives, and strategic goal setting to keep business on course.

Even before the pandemic, many businesses had begun business process optimization (BPO) as part of their digital transformation, including agile and lean ways of working for better workflow. For those who had successfully completed a digital transformation or who had built a business with new technologies at its center from the start, the disruption of lockdowns and general uncertainty were easier to navigate. The “new normal” in the world of work forced many of us to utilize digital platforms and collaboration tools which we had never used before, or at least never so frequently. The functionality and user experience of the digital workplace was being tested in real-time.

With the global pandemic precipitating technological change to accommodate at-home offices up and down the country and across the world, the requirement for chief information officers (CIOs) became more evident. Digital transformation is no easy task, and it often benefits from a dedicated team to implement change or the objective recommendations of a third party such as a consultancy. 

Business leaders need to be fully supportive of the changes proposed, so that they are seen as an enabler and supporter of the new work systems. This helps with buy-in across the organization which can sometimes represent as much of a hurdle as implementation. Automation makes everyone’s lives easier, but it can be perceived as a threat, especially in manufacturing. It’s important to take a people-centered approach that considers employee experience with various consultations and town halls that offer time and space for response.

The fourth industrial revolution

A Deloitte report from 2020 called The Fourth Industrial Revolution refers to digital transformation in manufacturing as Industry 4.0. It looks at the effect of digitization on the future of work in factories and focuses on the four major trends of strategy, societal impact, talent, and technology. The report compiles information from Industrial Products leaders across Europe, the Middle East, and Africa and explores the possibilities of a digital future but also the weight of environmental and social responsibility that is increasingly felt by business leaders.

The creation of tapioca-based bioplastics by Thai Wah Starch Company (mainly known for producing noodles) is an example of how a business can successfully innovate in these areas by using its manufacturing expertise. In harnessing over 75 years of experience with starches as a foodstuff, the latest generation of the family business focused their attention on other potential uses of the raw material that also supports sustainability and drives business forwards. The company also has an innovation arm, Thai Wah Ventures that invests in agrifoodtech start-ups.

Covid-19 has caused major disruption, but it has also catalyzed a step-change in the use of digital technologies for the workspace born out of necessity. The impact has been felt beyond production, whether it’s managing supply chain volatility using apps or predicting customer demand with machine learning and analytics.

Digital transformation in Europe

In Greece, the Digital Transformation Strategy 2020-2025 (sometimes referred to as the Digital Bible) is the keynote document that sets priorities for the digital transformation of the country. It also includes goals to develop the digital skills of the entire population across all demographics. Policy makers in the Ministry of Digital Governance of Greece outline seven primary objectives as part of the strategy:

  1. Safe, fast, and reliable access to the Internet for all.
  2. A digital state, offering better digital services to citizens for all life events.
  3. Development of digital skills for all citizens.
  4. Facilitating and supporting the transformation of companies and SMEs into digital enterprises.
  5. Strengthening and enhancing digital innovation.
  6. Making productive use of public administration data.
  7. Incorporating digital technologies within all economic sectors.

The purpose of the Ministry of Digital Governance is to make sure that before any process is converted to digital that the process is reviewed and simplified to avoid bureaucracy simply being digitized. Until recently, digital politics, e-government, and citizen service were all located in different organizational units. At the same time, state information systems were scattered, resulting in duplication of work, conflict between departments, and potentially, the waste of public money. Greece’s commitment to digital transformation is part of a larger initiative for the EU that includes artificial intelligence, space technology, data strategy, and cybersecurity.

The European Commission’s proposal for setting up governance frameworks is called Path to the Digital Decade and sets targets for 2030. These include:

  • ICT Specialists: 20 million
  • Basic Digital Skills: minimum 80% of population
  • Computing: first computer with quantum acceleration
  • Tech up-take: 75% of EU companies using the Cloud/AI/Big Data
  • Innovators: grow scale-ups and finance to double EU Unicorns
  • Key Public Services: 100% online
  • Digital Identity: 80% of citizens using digital ID

These are large-scale changes that require excellent understanding of user experience to implement successfully. The proposals also need to be communicated to the public in a reassuring way as representing genuine improvements to everyday life. To support this, the EU Commission proposed an inter-institutional solemn declaration that encompasses the following digital rights and principles:

  • People at the center
  • Freedom of choice
  • Safety and security
  • Solidarity and inclusion
  • Participation
  • Sustainability

In 2021, London became the tech capital of Europe. At the time, the UK was home to 100 tech unicorns (businesses valued at more than $1 billion), 60 of which were based out of London. By the end of the year, 116 UK unicorns existed. In 2021, Europe listed over 120 tech unicorns – a staggering increase of over triple the number of European start-ups which reached unicorn status in 2020. 

According to the European Startups platform, Europe is the fastest growing region for VC (venture capital) investment.

Lead the way with digital transformation

The nature of work has irrevocably shifted. When it comes to the question of “How many jobs require digital skills?”, the best answer is perhaps another question: which jobs won’t require digital skills? It’s not so much that we are entering a digital age, more that the digitization of the work environment has become a necessity and will continue to revolutionize the way that people work.

By studying with Alba Business School, The American of Greece, you can boost your career and learn new skills in managing digital transformation at organizational level. The 100% online MBA with Digital Transformation is a qualification that is as relevant now as it will be in the future.

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