Balancing Equations in Digital Transformations


As a kid, I have always been fascinated by how elements react to yield a new compound.  And what was interesting is that the mass and charge of the reacting elements remained unchanged. It was about focusing on ensuring equilibrium between the number of different atoms of elements in the reactants side and those of the products side. 

A similar need for balance is felt in all kinds of reactions in the business landscape. Immense competition, changing customer preferences and forces of globalization have given impetus to digital transformations for existing and established businesses.

“The case for digital for such businesses is very compelling. It helps to augment benefits of flexibility, scalability, efficiency, enhanced customer experience and sustainability. But it can also thwart and impair the humanness of the workforce. The need to balance the digital and human elements in digital transformations is critical”

Digital way of Life –Digital wave is all pervasive and powerful. It propels efficiency in the value chain by addressing speed, cost and resource imperatives. The insights and analytics about customer preferences facilitate enhanced competitive advantage.  Innovation and experimentation triggered through digital processes are enabling creation of new business models. Digital transformations are being scripted through use of Social Media, Mobile, Analytics, Cloud and Internet of Things (SMACT).  All legacy companies big and small, irrespective of their sector and type are championing the digital agenda. Digital is not simply a way to go, it is away to be.

Digital Talent-While the digital wave is credited for accelerating business excellence, it comes with challenges which can leave talent in workplaces vulnerable. There is a lot of flux when there are departures from the past systems and architecture. New technology leads to manifestation of new digital ecosystems. We are witnessing the emergence of non-traditional dynamic players creating business value by dismantling traditional time-tested industry formats.

Digital transformation journeys are championed by leaders who are nimble and agile. They evangelize the process through their strong commitment towards digital goals. Talent who will thrive today will be those willing to learn and be open to new experiences. Those who are agile and dexterous at sensing and drawing insights from both inside and outside of their business. For developing talent, we need to democratize work and create positive workplaces. Trust and influence are replacing the erstwhile power and patriarchy forces at work.  Empowering and engaging talent will be key in the digital world.

Leveraging Artificial & Social Intelligence

As we witness the onslaught of Artificial Intelligence (AI) as the digital currency, social Intelligence is also gaining prominence.  As machines mimic cognitive functions of the human mind and solve complex problems, humans need to be amplifying their emotional and social awareness. Digital leaders are displaying keenness to listen, learn and communicate with humility. Greater focus is on talent being authentic and curious. Hyperaware leaders are spotting opportunities and threats by being mindful and focusing inwards. Artificial intelligence bereft of the tempering of social intelligence runs the risk of making talent feel alienated, overwhelmed and sometimes inadequate. Social intelligence brings calm and equanimity and helps deal with anxiety arising due to urgency and complexity pressures. Tempering both AI with SI will foster creation of greater value.

Blending Hard & Soft

The splashing of hard data is rampant using sophisticated technology. Numbers and graphs are extolled through Big Data and Internet of Things (IoT).  While we are measuring, tracking and validating data through digital sources like Sensors, Smart Devices and RFID, triangulation of soft data points and qualitative insights are also helping in deriving powerful insights from real time situations and environmental variances.  Blending hard and soft will help create globally integrated and locally responsive systems. Synthesizing the hard and soft, and quantitative and qualitative lends credibility and competence in predicting futuristic business models.

Sharpening Mindsets and Skillsets

It is breath-taking to see seamless transactions of humans and machines in today’s world. Technology and social media platforms all accessible through hand held devices are attributed to bring people across geographies together. The endeavour remains to align mindsets and skillsets. Continuous flow of communication based on trust can help build synergies and open systems. Real time feedback mechanisms and communities of practices can surely help in building a culture of transparency and continuous learning. Alacrity and resilience are important competencies in times of change and disruption. Rapid technology strides make it imperative for talent to have high levels of adaptability and a growth mindset to explore possibilities. A design thinking approach aimed at fusing human centeredness and technical feasibility lays the foundation for failing fast and learning faster through creation of prototypes.

Efficiency Through Work Life Integration

Digital has increased mobility and flexibility levels to address preferences of both external and internal customers. Solutions are targeted at delivering individual preferences for unique customer experiences. For internal customers, work gets carried everywhere -as jobs get mobile and flexible. The need for work-life balance has become paramount as a lot of work spills over life making talent susceptible to burnout. Efficiency can be enhanced by expanding the scope of life beyond work. Making time for good life style encompassing hobbies, family pursuits and fitness will help in fuelling wellbeing and happiness leading to enhanced performance of workforce.

Amalgamating Digital & Social Architecture

Balancing the human and digital elements is cardinal in any digital transformation journey.  Organizational Culture is reflected in the way people think, feel and act. The basic assumptions and espoused values impact the business’s speed of embracing digital.  There is a multiplier effect when digital agendas are supported by an enabling social architecture. A positive eco-system encouraging voice provides talent space to reflect, contribute and flourish.

While digital is more about being collaborative and collective, there is a need to focus on helping every talented individual find his true north and not lose focus and significance. When the digital natives spring in action, there must be emphasis on discipline and rigour of punctilious planning. As digital transformations yield results through empowerment, an integration of processes and people in structures is indispensable. Digital is not simply a way to go, it is more about a way to be. It is not about being a fad, but about being integral to strategy, process and culture. It is not about being an intervention, but about being a revolution. It is not about aiding business but being business itself. Digital transformations are surely about finding balance between the people and digital elements in equations at work, workplace and workforce.

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Dr. Swatee Sarangi is an industry thought leader and practitioner in strategic workforce development; combined with an unparalleled background in academia. Her 20+ years of blended industry experience demonstrates excellence in talent modeling, learning, people development, work practice innovations and leadership development. Highly proficient in design and execution of OD interventions, assessments, coaching and mentoring models. A Ph.D holder and academic Gold medalist, has 20+ publications and received “Best Management Faculty” from Mr. Ratan Tata. She is currently the “Head of Capability Development”at Corporate HR,Larsen & Toubro.


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