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Digital Transformation: it’s all about People

Throughout the years, I have been curious and, in some cases, an enthusiast regarding what technology can do, upgrade and … disrupt.

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Digital Transformation

Throughout the years, we have been curious and, in some cases, an enthusiast regarding what technology can do, upgrade and … disrupt. I have watched closely an unprecedented time in the history of mankind in which the confluence of several technologies (information and communication, but much more than that) are transforming life as we know it, as we learn, work, live, or travel. We see this happening in the business world, how we design new business models, changing work processes, product or service design and interaction with customers, partners, or suppliers. In my executive search, cultural transformation, and leadership shaping consultancy missions, I have also helped companies to acquire human and organizational capital to bring these roadmaps to a successful conclusion.

“Digital transformation,” as we globally call it, has become a mandatory concept for any organization. I have noticed, however, that it has become a buzzword, too general and intangible , when not managed in a proper manner. Management is not rocket science. Yes, it is increasingly less deterministic and predictable. More complex and, as such, more difficult. My perspectives, described below, are personal, subjective, and based on empiricism, after experiencing several projects of change, in which digital was / is the main driver or accelerator.

First, digital transformation must, of course, go far beyond the massification of communication platforms (e.g., Skype, Zoom, Teams), investment in the latest generation CRM or ERP, the implementation of document management software to paperless objectives, the e-commerce store, or the insertion of friendly chatbots on the website. It should be deployed and rendered profitable as a global investment, that “touches” the key aspects of an organization’s value-chain.

Let’s go back to the basics. We must understand that the digital transformation is based on three components, which have performed fast-paced improvement levels in the last decades: the processing, transmission, and storage of information. This allowed the emergence, sequentially, of personal computers, networks, mobile phones and the internet. Later, we saw the emergence of smartphones and cloud computing. And, in a new generation of innovation, a whole new array[WB3]  of technologies, ranging from AI and Machine Learning to Blockchain, from 5G to the internet of things (IOT), from Augmented Reality (AR) to Robotic Process Automation (RBA) or 3D printing – which intersect and increase the disruption. As such, it is important to ascertain the optimal way we can leverage this disruption to transmit, process and store information. And how we transform this disruption into useful knowledge, needs to be in the fastest and most reliable way possible, throughout the key processes of an organization.

In each company’s unique status assessment, the conclusions should make it possible to establish a strategic vision of the transformation, by areas, specifically addressing two macro-objectives: operational excellence (efficiency) and the maximization of the customer experience (effectiveness). This should be done top-down (vision and strategies from the CEO / top management) balanced with bottom-up improvement projects, properly aligned. Example: if we want to set up a new business unit that provides certain products / services to a segment of customers, a digital transformation must optimize the supply of resources, the marketing model, the degree of standardization / tailor-made of the offer, and the simplification of company – customer interactions. For example, it is because they are effective in these dimensions that Airbnb competes successfully with hotel chains, Uber or Lyft are overcoming taxis, or Netflix ending Blockbuster’s business. Or the reason why Android (Google) or iOS (Apple) systems are today practically a duopoly worldwide (yes, they are extreme cases, of notoriety and success, but they show the essence of digital transformation).

It is necessary that the new business architecture unfolds in the Processes, Technologies, and People aspects. The latter is the most important variable. Questions for organizations (and namely, the CHRO’s) to assess:

  • Do we have qualified people to deal with data in a dynamic manner?
  • Do we have qualified people to manage projects in an agile way?
  • Do we have qualified people to interact effectively with an “ecosystem”, in an open innovation environment, on collaborative platforms?
  • Do we have leaders trained to manage teams, which collaborate digitally, in a work-anytime-anywhere model?
  • Do we have top management teams capable of identifying technology opportunities and, with a strategic vision, reformulating (or disrupting) current business models?

It will be mandatory for HR leaders to develop basic technology knowledge and competencies to face this incoming future. They should learn about the utility, present maturity, and potential of the above-mentioned technologies. How it can interact and generate “augmented human talent” – in a symbiotic relationship between humans and machines.

These are, in practice, the most important, complex, and impacting challenges of the ongoing revolution. The Chief Human Resources Officers (CHRO’s) have the responsibility of leading the way, helping Boards to redesign organizational structures, acquiring the right competencies (through upskilling and reskilling), and reshaping the business culture.  At the end of the day, the success of digital transformation is not a question of technology (by its very nature, transmissible and scalable) … it is all about People!

Carlos Sezões
Managing Partner of Darefy – Leadership & Change Builders

Luís Gonçalves

Marketing & Tech Manager

Luís has a professional certification in IT (Computer Systems Management and Programming). He´s now finishing his degree in Human Resources Management and Organizational Behavior. He has experience in marketing and communication projects, both in Portugal and in the UK. Entrepreneur and event manager, Luís is organizer and co-founder of the Famalicão Extreme Gaming, one of the biggest e-sports, video games and technology events in Portugal.

Nuno Gonçalves

Associate Consultant

Nuno has a degree in Psychology and a Business Management Executive Master; he’s an organizational consultant and senior trainer, with over 20 years of experience in the areas of Negotiation, Team Management, Leadership; Coaching, Stress Management; Emotional Intelligence, Feedback and Customer Management. He has a HeartMath Coach – Stress & Resilience Management certification and additional training in Theater, Psychodrama and NLP (Neuro – Linguistic Programming).
Nuno has been invited professor in modules like Innovation, Creativity and Leadership and Team Management.

Susana Almeida

Associate Consultant

Susana has a degree in Psychology (specialization in Social Psychology and Organizations) and Master in Human Resources Management (EADA). She has extensive experience of more than 15 years in executive search and middle-management recruitment, in leading multinational consulting firms, in Portugal and Spain. Susana presents also an insightful experience in several talent management, leadership assessment and culture transformation consulting projects. Versatile leader, she´s also an entrepreneur, language teacher and project manager in the education and life-long learning areas.

Cristiana Paiva

Client Partner

Cristiana has more than 15 years working in organizational, leadership and HR challenges, in different companies and geographies. She graduated in Sociology from the University of Porto and complemented her training with an MBA in Management, specializing in the areas of Marketing and Human Resources. She was a consultant for Dynargie Portugal and Responsible for the Recruitment, Selection and Talent Capture of the Ibersol Group. At JASON Associates Portugal she started as Business Development, then took on the challenge of internationalization in 2013 as Business Manager for the Angola operation and, later, she took on the role of HEAD Africa. She is the “mother” of the TOP Leaders Luanda brand, an event directed to TOP Management. In 2017, she completed the brand’s spin off for Angola, having led the process of making international operations autonomous. She is a Managing Partner at JASON Angola, a Partner at JASON Brasil and a Business Development Manager at JASON Tribe.

Carlos Sezões

Managing Partner

Carlos has more than 20 years helping companies to optimize their organizations, leadership and talent.  He began his career at Banco BPI (banking) in 1999, focused on small and mid-sized companies. In 2001, he went to work to the e-recruitment portal ExpressoEmprego.pt (Impresa Group), were he developed employer branding strategies. Later, in 2004, he changed to management consulting sector, where he worked for SIGH International and BI4All – essentially, in corporate governance and performance management projects. Carlos founded LearnView in 2007, a company focused on consultancy (change management) and competencies development (strategy, leadership, behavioural). Carlos was Partner at Stanton Chase Portugal for more than 10 years (2010 to 2021) – engaged in  Executive Search, Talent Management and Executive Coaching.

He holds a degree in Business Management and has upgraded his studies with a Marketing post-graduation course, an Executive MBA, and finished his Masters degree in Human Resources Management in 2018. He’s also concluded a Digital Transformation program (MIT). Since 2012, he has an international certification in Executive Coaching. Carlos was honored in 2013 as HR Consultant of the Year in Portugal (RH Magazine) and has also participated as a speaker in more than 50 conferences and seminars. Moreover, he has been serving as visiting professor in some universities and business schools (Universidade do Minho, UAL, ISG). Parallel to his professional life, he’s the founder and coordinator of Portugal Agora (www.portugalagora.com) – citizenship and think-tank platform.