ONE interesting notion I got when I attended a recent webinar conducted by futurist Gihan Perera of Perth, Australia, was that digital transformation is more about transformation than about digital. It’s about organizational, people, and mindset change than about technology.
Of late, digital transformation has been on top of the agenda of many organizations; and associations are not much far behind. According to Wikipedia, digital transformation (DT or DX) is “the adoption of digital technology to transform services or businesses, by replacing non-digital or manual processes with digital processes, or replacing older digital technology with newer digital technology.”
Digitalization can apply to information (converting analog information into digital form), to industries, organizations (new production processes and much of the phenomena today such as the Internet of Things, Industry 4.0, Artificial Intelligence, etc.) and to society (like consumption patterns, socio-economic structures, legal and policy measures, etc.). In effect, digitalization touches upon and affects our daily lives.
But there are three biggest mistakes leaders make in their digital transformation efforts: on focus, assets and expertise.
Leaders often focus their energies and resources on the digital part, i.e., technology, rather than the transformation part.
As an example, Singapore Airlines now offers home-delivered meals by bringing its first-class and business-class dining experiences to the condos of Singapore. This is part of the “Discover Your Singapore Airlines” initiative aimed at grounded travelers while also helping reconnect the public with the nation’s flag carrier.
In the context of associations, this could be providing members with content for solving their problems, advancing their business or career, or providing member-to-member exchanges. As such, technology is merely an enabler but content, solutions and experiences are the more important transformational factors.
Another aspect often overlooked by leaders is the physical asset that an organization possesses.
For example, universities have lands and campuses that are most of the time either idle or underutilized. These areas can be used as venues for open-air conferences and exhibitions that are on demand right now because of the pandemic.
In terms of associations, they can approach and make an inventory of their members who own assets (land, warehouse, building, etc.) that can be used for hybrid meetings and activity sites, then using technology to stream the event virtually.
The other tangible asset that associations have is knowledge of the industry or profession. While there are many technologies that facilitate conversion of content into online learning, for instance, it is still the content that is the valuable asset.
Whether sourced internally and externally, there is a need for organizations to be equipped with the necessary skills and capabilities in their desire to transform and succeed in the digital economy.
Internally, staff have to reskill or upskill to acquire the expertise required. When necessary, external expertise may be tapped for this purpose.
Digital transformation presents associations with both challenges and opportunities. When planning for digital transformation, associations need to consider that their focus, assets and expertise are aligned with the change they wish to happen.
The column contributor, Octavio ‘Bobby’ Peralta, is concurrently the secretary-general of the Association of Development Financing Institutions in Asia and the Pacific, Founder & CEO of the Philippine Council of Associations and Association Executives and President of the Asia-Pacific Federation of Association Organizations. The purpose of PCAAE—the “association of associations”—is to advance the association management profession and to make associations well-governed and sustainable. PCAAE enjoys the support of Adfiap, the Tourism Promotions Board, and the Philippine International Convention Center. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.