Putting People First: The ‘OBCs’ Of Digital Transformation For Marketers – Forbes

This article is by David Armano, global strategy director at Edelman Digital. He leads their Digital Transformation Practice.

Digital transformation is happening all across the brands and industries that surround us. One misstep I often see and one that can be fixed with a shift in perspective is leaders underestimating the importance of human capital when it comes to navigating their own digital transformation journeys. It’s an honest and common mistake in an age where we are tempted to fight technology with technology—but it’s a mistake nevertheless.

To encourage this shift, I often talk with executives from various industries about investigating the organizational, behavioral, and cultural aspects of their businesses – the “OBCs,” so to speak. But the starting point is the basics and overview of where change is needed – People, Process and Platforms.

It’s natural that executives want to evaluate technology as a priority (Platforms). Those conversations are binary and the solutions feel turnkey. Are you missing an important software? Do you need a new CMS? Buy it, implement, and claim “victory.” It sounds simple, but it’s missing the most important component of your digital transformation journey’s success—the people making it happen.

Nestlé provides a good example of putting people first. Back in 2011, the company hired Pete Blackshaw, an executive from Procter & Gamble, to help navigate their digital transformation journey. He didn’t focus on technology. Instead, he built a “Digital Acceleration Team” that now collaborates with peers across Nestlé’s 200 brands and no doubt influences culture in addition to how the organization is structured.

Putting the emphasis on people may seem a bit touchy-feely. It’s not. It’s deliberate and by design and sets the foundation for everything else that needs to change and be optimized for doing business in the digital age. Know your OBCs, and you can face the “people problem” in easy to digest, bite-sized-chunks:


In theory, this is the easiest piece to bite off. Organizational design puts pen to paper and highlights where key skill sets, roles and talents are needed. When executives go through “org” exercises, I always advise they avoid the tendency to just move people around and truly evaluate talent, roles and job descriptions in the process. Organizational work helps us organize thoughts around people and the roles they play.


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