December 23, 2020

Driving digital transformation through people transformation

Overcoming misconceptions of digital transformation and what technology can and can’t do is a key


Our world is becoming more and more digitized. With travel curbed and remote work an option for many because of the pandemic, the digital world has been expanding even faster than we imagined it would. We knew it was bound to happen but were unaware of the rate of growth. Are we truly ready and equipped to face the digital world and beyond?


The answer is yes — that is if we’re ready to understand and face the challenges that transformation brings. If we are facing problems from the digital world, they stem from our own misconceptions of the role technology plays in the workplace. We will find it more difficult to successfully carry out digital transformation when people themselves don’t transform in parallel.


Today I want to share with you some of the misconceptions about digital transformation that could hinder us from successfully implementing it in our organizations.


Misconception # 1: Technology replaces people


While technology can replace some human tasks, it cannot fully replace humans just yet. This misconception creates fear, so some people avoid technology as a whole rather than embracing its potential.


This, however, can be turned around. Technology can support our strengths and free us of mundane tasks, while we develop ourselves in other ways to drive our careers and businesses forward. In fact, we can look at technology as a way to help us shift our focus to more important things. We may never get rid of administrative tasks but we can use technology to make it easier.


Misconception # 2: Technology will make things faster and more efficient for organizations


While this is true in many ways, it still ties in with the first point that technology cannot fully replace people. It can make work more efficient, but people still hold the power to spur on organizational efficiency and agility.


Digital transformation isn’t all about the best technologies to support the organization. It is about using technology to support the people who really drive the business forward through the power of human connections.


Misconception # 3: Digital transformation is all about integrating technology in the workplace


Going digital isn’t just about new software or hardware. In fact, to successfully begin the digital transformation, organizations must become hyper-focused on customers. Understanding their true needs and answering them through innovation and technology is how the organization can become sustainable.


While the customer is one focus, it’s also important to ensure your people have the right mindset to constantly learn new things so they can keep pace with change. Digitization requires agility, not just in words but also in terms of learning the things that will be important going forward.


Misconception # 4: Digital transformation is an option and not necessary for businesses that don’t use machinery or technology to function


As I mentioned previously, digital transformation doesn’t focus only on technological growth for the business but more on supporting people’s growth to drives business growth.


Without people, the digital transformation won’t be successful. Whether our businesses make heavy use of technology or not, it is still important to consider when thinking about the future. A good example of digital transformation for businesses is the shift toward remote work during the lockdown earlier this year.


Misconception # 5: Digital transformation is now a major requirement for every company to succeed


While the fourth misconception speaks of its importance, it doesn’t necessarily mean every company must make a 360-degree transformation. Not every business requires it, but nearly every business needs to transform on some levels. This is so they’re able to meet the challenges of the changing business landscape.


Digital transformation will look different from different industries and organizations. Some businesses may require a full transformation to answer customer needs. While others may only require basic changes to ensure they can sustain success in the future.


People are the core and heart of every organization. It is natural that whatever changes and transformations take place — in this case, digital — people still remain at the core. When digital transformation efforts fail, it is usually because people do not fully support them because of negative misconceptions. We are hard-wired to remain in our usual comfort because if it works. Why would we change?


Digital transformations are initiatives that need to span the entire organization. The decision to transform is one that leaders must buy into. But they must also be able to inspire and empower their people to embrace the change to sustain future success.


Arinya Talerngsri is Chief Capability Officer and Managing Director at SEAC – Southeast Asia’s Lifelong Learning Center. She can be reached by email at or Explore and experience our lifelong learning ecosystem today at