Nishtha Satyam was appointed as the Deputy Country Representative for UN Women, the entity of the United Nations that is dedicated to working towards Gender Equality and Woman’s Empowerment, in India in January 2018. She is the youngest Deputy Country Rep for the Entity of the UN across 193 countries. She formerly managed Strategic Partnerships, Policy Impact and Public Relations for the UN Women Multi-Country Office for India, Bhutan, Maldives and Sri Lanka.
In the 21st century, companies in every industry need to embrace new business methodologies and techniques to stay relevant. Organizations that were specifically born before the technological age need to transform themselves digitally to stay afloat. They need to welcome this digital wave to stay ahead of the competition and enhance customer interactions. However, very few companies have actually embarked on this trend. This is because most of them have a very sceptical attitude towards technology, along with the mindset that it’s either too difficult for them to change to this degree or they feel comfortable with the monogamy of it all. These companies should realize that digital transformation isn’t just about using new technologies—it is about transforming processes and changing people’s mindsets. By staying away from such a transformation, businesses will remain ignorant about the opportunities they can receive. On that note, here are the five major challenges businesses can face in their digital transformation journey:
1. Technological Governance
Technology governance is the process of exercising administrative, economic and political authority in the development, diffusion and operation of technology in societies. It can be a major barrier to enabling emerging technologies because, for some businesses, Governance is too complex and arduous. For others, governance systems fail to protest basic human rights, which can lead to mistrust in technology. For still others, Governance cannot produce the necessary alignment of technology development with larger human goals.
A lack of technological Governance can also perpetuate gender inequality in businesses. This is because when there’ a lack of legal rules and regulations that must be followed, an artificial intelligence (AI) system operates on—and learns from—the data given. When that data is generated by and collected from humans, it carries all the biases that humans have, including those pertaining to women. This results in companies developing technologies that reinforce equality. For instance, Facebook was sued for withholding financial services advertising, from older and female users.
2. Consumer Education
In a data-driven era, it is common knowledge that the more businesses get to know their consumers, the more they are bound to grow. However, online channels are not completely risk-free. When today’s tech-savvy generation encounters a weak digital experience, they’re much less likely to go through with that transaction—even if the business is a market leader. This means that no organization can sit back and wait for customers to chance upon their business/products.
However, consumer education in technology remains biased toward women. All marketers and product designers know they must target women, considering that women control an estimated $20 trillion in annual consumer spending worldwide. Nonetheless, the tech industry still remains male-dominated due to its culture of lightning-speed product development—which means that tech companies don’t really take the time to understand women, their needs and their lifestyles. This results in USB cords painted with daisies and sparkly clutches that hide wireless speakers. Therefore, in order to truly avoid the pitfalls of creating a product for and marketing it to women, companies need to put women in charge of the process.
3. Archaic Knowledge Management Systems
Knowledge management systems refer to the ability to collect, organize, manage and retrieve valuable information. An organization with good knowledge management processes are at a distinct advantage due to their ability to retrieve information at an exceptional speed. However, one of the biggest obstacles to a good knowledge management system is obsolete technology. As technology is continuously evolving, older systems that rely on decentralized architecture creates a situation where no one knows whether the information is stored on a network drive, in the cloud or one of several databases. In this confusion, businesses are not able to reap the benefits of a good knowledge management system as much as they should.
There are some strong indicators that Knowledge Management (KM) discipline has a significant gender quality problem. For example, in Stan Garfield’s comprehensive list of KM Thought Leaders, just 16% are women, and the Women in Knowledge Management LinkedIn group has been established “for women who are in a field [which is] often … male-dominated.” Ensuring this equality in the KM discipline will only ensure better decision making and problem-solving.
4. Employee Pushback
No business can achieve its goals without the support of the entire organization. While employees are often the reasons for change, they can sometimes be a drawback as well. A significant concern for most companies considering a digital transformation is that some of its old-fashioned employees might feel that their job is being threatened by it—which is not good for morale or productivity. Moreover, there is also a major skill gap when it comes to this type of a transformation—primarily because all its skilled employees are already occupied with other tasks and can’t be entrusted to teach with skills to those lacking in the same.
On the other hand, the organization’s female employees could benefit from such a transformation as they get more flexible hours, allowing them to juggle work and domestic duties seamlessly.
5. Lack of a Clear Vision and Plan
Going digital can be difficult for an organization of any size as it needs to consider a combination of different skills, jobs and competencies inside and outside the company. Starting a transformation journey without benchmarking and then forming a plan for each step will result in failure. To prevent the digital transformation from becoming a simple project task and to keep in mind the reasons for exiting the project, long-term planning for the adoption of digital intelligence is necessary.
In this transformation, companies also need to keep their female employees in mind. Women earn more higher-education degrees than men and start new businesses at a faster rate than men. Their earning power is slowly exceeding that of men’s and more half of Twitter users, and Facebook subscribers consist of women. If a company truly needs to involve digitally, it needs to ensure an equal number of men and women in the decision making and execution of this digital transformation.
While these are the most common challenges companies may face during a digital transformation, there are many others. Organization need to essentially remember to build a solid foundation that delivers a wide range of results to its businesses, employees and customers. In doing so, all the profits of a digital transformation could be within reach.
More About Nishtha Satyam
Nishtha has also served as the Private Sector Partnerships Specialist with the Office of the Resident Coordinator of the United Nations and UNDP. Before her career with the UN, Nishtha worked with leading firms such as KPMG and American Express as an Economist. As a futurist and feminist, she is an advocate of the urgency to mainstream women across the marketplace, workplace and community.
Nishtha has authored several studies on the business value of inclusion and continues to be excited about using her multi-sectoral experience to inform the interplay of policy, politics and people to foster lasting change for the most marginalized. Nishtha holds a Master’s Degree in International Business from the University of Nottingham, UK and a Bachelors in Economics from Delhi University.