A Digital Transformation Team Is Only as Good as the Sum of its Parts

Redefining the notion of teamwork in a post-pandemic world.

Dana Montenegro, Chief Design Officer, Wovenware

August 10, 2022

4 Min Read
paperdolls holding paper hands and dancing in a circle
Ivan-Kmit via Alamy Stock

The pandemic has shone a spotlight on the need for digital transformation as the only way for businesses to move forward. In fact, a McKinsey Global Survey of executives showed in 2020 that companies had accelerated the digitization of their customer and supply-chain interactions and of their internal operations by three to four years. And, the share of digital or digitally enabled products in their portfolios has accelerated by a shocking seven years. Yet, with a worker shortage, there lies the conundrum: How can digital transformation proceed without the right teams in place to bring it to life? It requires a complete reimagination of what constitutes a team.

IT teams often lead digital initiatives, but many companies are realizing that it may not be the best approach. That’s because digital transformation isn’t about the next technology implementation, but solving real human problems. It’s about creating competitive advantage by focusing on customer and employee experiences and establishing new business models and processes to tackle them. This new way of working requires a new team approach that extends far beyond the IT department.

Who Comprises a Team?

The new team approach requires understanding people, from customers to employees and their needs and motivations as well as managing the change that digital transformation asks of people. Team members should reach across roles and functions and include some of the following:

  • Line-of-business representatives – Those in the front lines doing the work, who acutely understand the business need because they deal with it every day.

  • Human resources managers – Who can help to manage the change and training that digital transformation may require.

  • User experience (UX) leaders – Who can help to identify the actual business problem, take the pulse of the users and make sure the right thing is being built.

  • Software engineers – Who build the solution based on those identified needs and specifications.

  • IT managers – Who manage the implementation and roll-out.

  • Data scientists – To train algorithms if the digital transformation involves AI.

  • Finance people – To make sure the project stays on budget and meets key ROI metrics.

  • Marketing people – Who can ensure that the initiative is communicated effectively to all audiences.

Nurturing the Talent You Have to Build Better Teams

As enterprises struggle to retain the best talent, and get the greatest work from individuals, they must carefully craft how they work together. After all, it’s not just the individual talented person that matters, but the collective team that drives success. It requires fostering collaboration and empowering them with a clarity of purpose. And, almost always, incredibly talented people gravitate to the best teams and demand a better team dynamic wherever they are.

So in addition to bringing in key stakeholders enterprise-wide, what should you look for when assembling a digital transformation team? Consider the following:

  1. The best digital transformation teams succeed because they first address the problem. In order to get everyone rowing in the same direction, it’s important to identify the real problem from everyone’s perspective. In healthcare insurance, for instance, maybe it’s helping to understand what it is about your services that may be frustrating users, and then all working toward a digital resolution.

  2. Empathetic team members always lead to better solutions. The best team members are those who can identify with the end-user and “feel their pain.” Regardless of the role those specific team members play, this type of empathy, toward end-users leads to customer-centric solutions that meet real-world needs, not just digital transformation for transformation’s sake.

  3. Makes sure every project starts with clear understanding of outcomes. This means more than just meeting technical requirements, but also defining user experience. For teams it creates the clarity that unites engineers, designers and business leads, makes decision-making clear, and injects purpose into the work, which teams seek and thrive on.

There also should be team members with a mix of certain characteristics to help ensure success. These may include:

  • Curious and ready to learn. You want people willing to learn, ask questions, and maybe even be wrong. Digital transformation requires that people lean into new things. You don't want people who only rely on their past experience, which might mean old ways of thinking.

  • Collaborative by nature. This means people who are willing to work in a team with no hierarchy. People need to see their role as a contributor, not a single expert. You don't want power struggles.

  • Unsatisfied by what is. There are always those people who are not happy with the way things are. They believe there is a better way and advocate for change. You want them on your team.

The role of today’s digital transformation teams has changed dramatically for the better, but what remains is the need to foster an environment of collaboration, innovation and mutual respect. As Babe Ruth once said, “The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don’t play together, the club won’t be worth a dime.”

About the Author(s)

Dana Montenegro

Chief Design Officer, Wovenware

Dana Montenegro is Chief Design Officer for Wovenware, a nearshore provider of AI and custom software engineering services. He combines design thinking with agile and lean methodologies to help customers identify their unique business challenges and find innovative ways to address them.

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