Embracing digital transformation can have an enormous impact on your business—and on the success of your employees.
Your company doesn’t have to be a tech startup to take advantage of digital technology. By injecting digital innovations in the right places in your company, you can slash the time your employees spend on tedious tasks, improve your decision-making capabilities, and turbocharge your growth, says Venkat Venkatraman, author of The Digital Matrix and Daniel J. McGrath Professor of Management at Boston University Questrom School of Business. “You want to enable humans and machines to work jointly to create value that neither could do alone,” he says.
Venkatraman shares three essential areas in which digital technology can make an impact:
- Automating tasks. One study has suggested that the right computing power could do 47 percent of work currently done by human workers. Automation is also allowing companies to do work that no worker could do efficiently alone. This automation includes everything from Netflix developing customized recommendations for video streaming to Tesla monitoring the performance of all of its cars on the road in real time. “If you automate faster than your competitors, and if you automate a broader number of tasks, you will have a competitive edge,” says Venkatraman. “Automation can mean freeing up employees for different work that brings greater value to customers.”
- Augmenting processes. Digital innovations can help provide rich information that supplements that work already being done by employees. Doctors at a cancer center are experimenting with a software tool that sifts through published data to help physicians recommend specific courses of treatment to patients, for example. Other tools pinpoint the data that is most likely to be useful in producing the first draft of a quarterly report. “Tasks that cannot be fully automated can often be well augmented by today’s technology,” says Venkatraman.
- Amplifying jobs and human talent. Combining smart people and the right technologies to expand the scale and scope of ideas is where some of the most remarkable transformations happen, says Venkatraman. When humans can work as designers, coaches, and strategists for the right kinds of machines, they can guide incredibly powerful work. Venkatraman notes that an amateur chess player who has the support of a good process and a chess-playing computer can beat both the strongest human opponent as well as the strongest chess-specific supercomputer. In other words, humans and machines work better in collaboration than they can on their own. The advantages of this approach can be applied to work situations as well. “The design of work is not static,” says Venkatraman. “As these technologies acquire more skills and become more powerful, they will shift the nature of work,” he says.
These three approaches can make an enormous impact on an organization, says Venkatraman. “Businesses win when they do things that are at the frontier of powerful machines and smart humans,” he says. “They are comfortable automating tasks that should be automated, they strive to augment tasks that benefit from using machines as smart personal assistants, and they design processes that push the front lines of how organizations can be designed.”
Want to learn even more about how your company can take advantage of digital shifts? Download a free chapter of Venkatraman’s book, The Digital Matrix.