The Human Element: People-Centric Approaches to Prevent Digital Transformation Failures

Wednesday, 24 May 2023

Digital transformation has swept every sector, promising enhanced efficiency, profitability, and customer satisfaction. However, many business organizations overlook a critical component of successful transformation their people - amidst the buzzing phrases of AI, Big Data, and IoT.

As we delve deeper into the digital age and so many technological advancements, it's essential to remember that people are the beating heart of any organization, and their engagement is fundamental to the success of any digital venture.

At its core, digital transformation is not merely about implementing advanced technology but fundamentally changing how businesses operate and deliver value.

This profound change is intrinsically tied to the people in the organization who navigate and implement these technologies daily.

It simply explains why digital transformation efforts that fail to prioritize people are doomed to fail.

So the next question would be, "What steps are needed to prevent those failures?"

Firstly, fostering a culture of change is compulsory.

Navigating the complex digital transformation process can be daunting for employees accustomed to conventional or routine working methods. Therefore, leaders must create an environment where change is welcomed and encouraged.

From the very first day, it involves intensive clear communication of the vision and goals of whatever digital initiatives the C-level or Board of Directors have on their minds and how these changes or initiatives align with the overall business strategy.

Secondly, digital transformation initiatives will need more momentum for success with active engagement and buy-in from employees at all levels.

Gary Vaynerchuk reminds us, "You have to understand that the way to win is by giving, giving, giving."

In this context, it means giving your people a voice, valuing their input, and ensuring they feel part of the transformation journey.

Involving employees in decision-making processes not only breeds a sense of ownership but also often results in practical, on-the-ground insights that can boost the effectiveness of digital strategies.

It is also crucial to emphasize the WIIFM or "what's in it for me" related to this change process. I've seen digital transformation initiatives in several organizations "stuttered" or delayed for quite a long time because employees cannot see the WIIFM aspect of change.

Remember that empowering employees with the necessary training and skills ensures they can confidently adapt to new digital tools and processes and smoothly embrace the change initiatives.

Lastly, Simon Sinek's idea of the 'Why' is necessary for digital transformation.

It's simply because people are more likely to invest efforts and adapt to change if they understand the 'Why' behind it.

Explaining how digital transformation can enhance work efficiency, provide growth opportunities, and contribute to the organization's success in the future helps foster employee engagement and accelerate transformation efforts.


While advanced technologies are the backbone of digital transformation, the lifeblood is the people within the organization.

A successful digital transformation synergizes technology with a people-centric approach.

As we steer our organizations into the future, remember Tony Robbins's powerful words, "To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others."

Respecting and responding to these differences is crucial when managing digital transformation or any business change.

Again, it shows the utmost importance of creating a positive workplace that indicates high scores in all five dimensions (autonomy, competence, relatedness, reward & recognition, and leadership perception) as the solid foundation before initiating change initiatives on an organization-wide scale, especially related to digital transformation.

It also means those business organizations with a low score in The Positive Workplace™ Index should rethink the digital transformation initiatives beforehand because the people within the organization are not yet ready to embrace new changes.


Change, while exciting and promising, can be mentally and emotionally taxing for employees, leading to decreased productivity, morale, and increased turnover if not managed carefully.

In the context of the ongoing digital transformation process, which often requires quick and substantial change, overlooking the human factor and the potential for change fatigue can be detrimental.

Change fatigue is a pervasive, often underestimated phenomenon relevant to digital transformation.

It occurs when an organization undergoes frequent, significant changes over a short period, leading employees to feel overwhelmed, disengaged, or even resistant.

To mitigate change fatigue, leaders should ensure that change is paced and planned in a way that is mindful of the capacity of their employees to adapt and absorb.

Clear communication about the pace of change, transparency about the process, and the provision of adequate support can significantly prevent change fatigue.

By addressing change fatigue proactively, organizations can facilitate smoother digital transformation with the full engagement of their most crucial asset - their people.

In conclusion, it's undeniable that organizations leading in the digital age will understand this vital connection between people and technology, fostering an environment where each enriches the other, creating a vibrant ecosystem of progress and innovation.