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When developing strategies for digital transformation or any technology-driven organizational change, business leaders often begin their efforts with a focus on the technology—for example, which applications or systems does the organization need to “be digital”? Leaders seldom start by concentrating on the human element.

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Considering Moore’s Law and the exponential rate of technological change, it seems logical to regard technology as the main character in the digital disruption drama. After all, isn’t technology the cause of the disruption?

Technology may be creating the challenges, but it’s people who can turn those challenges into opportunity, growth, innovation, and digital maturity.

In a recent blog post published by MIT Sloan Management Review, Boston College professor Gerald C. Kane suggests that the key issue for organizations with respect to digital disruption is people—specifically, the different rates at which people, organizations, and policy respond to technological advances. Kane calls these gaps adoption, adaptation and adjustment, and explains how they are created: “Technology changes faster than individuals can adopt it, individuals adapt more quickly to that change than organizations can, and organizations adjust more quickly than legal and societal institutions can.”

And while all three create challenges for organizations, the gaps in adaptation and adoption are particularly relevant today.

Adaptation is the gap between how most people want and expect to use technology to engage with companies and how companies have adapted to support digital interactions. If companies don’t adapt quickly enough, their customers will find other companies that can meet or exceed their expectations. Business leaders need to keep in mind that employees are also customers—of other companies, and within their own workplace—and they know the difference between an effortless digital experience and a frustrating one.

While Kane also addresses adoption gaps in his blog, a recent London School of Economics/Rackspace report about cloud technology adoption highlights what happens when organizations fail to focus on people as the key drivers of change.

Among the findings:

  • Big businesses are losing $258 million per year due to lack of cloud expertise
  • 71 percent of IT leaders believe they need to invest more in employees to meet the challenges of the cloud
  • 42 percent of IT decision makers believe a lack of skills is causing a lag in their organization’s ability to deploy cloud platforms
  • 65 percent of IT pros say they could bring greater innovation to their organization with the right cloud insight

Rackspace Chief Technology Officer John Engates weighs in on the report and writes: “While the rise of artificial intelligence and automation may cause some to think that human insight is less important, our report shows that this is not the case. With technology and the cloud now underpinning business transformation, the growing technology skills gap means organizations must have a strategy to access the expertise needed.”

Business leaders need to keep in mind that employees are also customers—of other companies, and within their own workplace—and they know the difference between an effortless digital experience and a frustrating one.

To create strategies that are successful, business leaders need to ensure their approaches are designed to drive adoption and enable employees to use technology as it was intended. This means providing a range of support and training resources, including self-help options, live support, and on-demand training.

By focusing first on people, organizations can more effectively provide their employees with the tools they need to turn digital transformation’s challenges into opportunity, growth and innovation.

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