3 Things about Digital Transformation

October is traditionally HR technology month.  2 major conferences with accompanying expos, and chances to see what new functionalities the major companies have lined up, as well as some of the newer, start-up tech businesses.

For all the bright shiny new things, there are 3 things about digital and back office transformation that I think often get lost in the chatter.

  1. Technology needs to replicate the experiences people have in personal lives. Often mentioned but operationally the intuitive, responsive, convenient and app-like functionality seems harder to find
  2. The need for HR leaders to understand that technology is a change. For workers all new, or remastered technology and processes are an organisational change. They way they do their jobs, and often their responsibilities, change and they need need to be supported.
  3. New technology and working practices might be seen as necessary, and cost effective, but new processes need to be efficient and streamlined, should work seamlessly, produce actionable data, and not be done for the sake of it. There needs to be a purpose.

Here’s me telling the guys at Oracle what I mean…


(Exceptional Talent – the book I co-wrote with Matt Alder – is available now, published by Kogan Page. In it we look at the New Talent Journey and offer examples and case studies of how, and why, businesses are evolving the way they attract, hire, retain and develop the people they need. You can hear me talking about it on this podcast)

HMV and the Inexorable Rise of Social and Digital

I suspect there will be few readers who haven’t heard about this afternoon’s Twitter jamming series of tweets from @HMVtweets under the #hmvXFactorFiring hashtag. The company eventually managed to access the account and delete the tweets, clearly oblivious to the fact that the damage had been done, the tweets screenshotted and shared, and everyone knew. And that you can delete tweets but hashtags often have a life of their own.

The tweets were sent by Poppy Rose, an intern. Here is her explanation – they came as a series of tweets but I’ve put them together in one piece…

“I would apologise for the #hmvXFactorFiring tweets but I felt like someone had to speak. As someone without a family to support/no mortgage I felt that I was the safest person to do so. Not to mention, I wanted to show the power of Social Media to those who refused to be educated

Just to set something straight, I did not ‘hijack’ the HMV twitter account. I actually assumed sole responsibility of Twitter & Facebook over two years ago, as an intern. When asked (this afternoon), I gladly provided the password to head office. I also set another member of staff up as a manager on Facebook, and removed myself from the admin list. I didn’t resist any requests to cooperate.

Since my internship started, I worked tirelessly to educate the business of the importance of Social Media – not as a short-term commercial tool, but as a tool to build and strengthen the customer relationship, and to gain invaluable real-time feedback from the consumers that have kept us going for over 91 years. While many colleagues understood and supported this, it was the more senior members of staff who never seemed to grasp its importance.

I hoped that today’s actions would finally show them the true power and importance of Social Media, and I hope they’re finally listening.

Now, I should probably go and hide for a while…Thank you so much for your supportive tweets! Much love to the HMV staff & customers”

Clearly it would seem that certain members of the management didn’t really get social. But then they didn’t really get digital either.

It was only a few weeks ago that this blog (written last August) from a former advertising advisor went viral too. After being warned, in 2002, that the company was facing threats from supermarket discounting, downloadable music and online retailers, the MD said…

“I accept that supermarkets are a thorn in our side but not for the serious music, games or film buyer and as for the other two, I don’t ever see them being a real threat, downloadable music is just a fad and people will always want the atmosphere and experience of a music store rather than online shopping”

It would be a shame if the narrative following today is about Twitter because it’s really about people having a voice – and it’s also about those who understand and embrace change and those who don’t.

Power to the people.


Digital Ownership vs Physical Ownership

The recent discovery that Amazon now sell more eBooks than physical books led me to wonder whether we are creating a digital library of unread books.

Downloading is easy, be it books or music. It’s one, maybe two clicks and they’re yours. Rarely have you taken days or weeks of researching, of visiting a shop and browsing through the shelves and options. It is quite often an impulse decision – at least three in my Twitter network (including me) downloaded a couple of Black Keys albums this weekend as we watched them live on BBCs Reading Festival coverage.

Hey, they sound good; I don’t have any of their stuff.

Someone recommends a book or a song and we download it. C’mon don’t say you haven’t done it!

But do we relate to these in the same way? Has the digital availability of cultural artefacts led to an ownership vs consumption conundrum? Or does the ubiquity of the hardware/software – eg a kindle, a kindle app on the iPhone and on the iPad – mean that we now have so many ways of consuming what we have bought that we consume even more than before?

But if we think – ‘yes, I’ll get that’ – and then click, click, we have it…do we feel the same way? Have we invested enough of ourselves in that acquisition? And how many times do we buy more than we would if the purchase was of the physical copies.

There’s nothing to beat the feel of a book, the smell of a book, holding it and flicking through the pages. If you’re not reading it you can hear the book shouting at you…read me. READ ME!

Music is a bit different – the shift from vinyl to CD clearly signalled a change in the relationship between album and owner – yet even now some are feeling nostalgic towards the CD.

In the early days of iPod most of the conversation was around what songs and albums you should have…rarely did the conversation seem centred on what to listen to. Similarly with the Kindle I hear many talk about what books they should have, or need to get.

I appreciate that some of this is purely semantics. I chatted about this with both Rob Jones and Matt Alder last week and both feel that they consume as much – possibly more – than before.

Yet I’m still not so sure. I see a definite shift in language away from consumption and towards ownership and I wonder if it is driven by the manner of acquisition.

So I’m throwing it open. Tell me if your iPods and e-Readers are cluttered with things you’ve bought but rarely listen to or read. Or do you find you consume even more?