French change management consultant, Nelly Jimenez says traditional organisational structures are being dismantled by digital transformation.
It’s an established trend that’s now been accelerated by the impacts of the coronavirus, with the UN declaring the crisis has pushed the globe further into a digital world, with changes in behaviour likely to have lasting effects in the post pandemic economy.
Ms Jimenez has spent more than a decade working with French consultancies, such as Mazars-Alter&Go and Herdia, helping multinationals digitally transform their internal operations.
“Digital has a big human side to it.”
“The digitalisation of work has a massive impact on the work environment,” says Ms Jimenez.
“I work with companies and managers to assess the change they need, define the strategy and involve staff with the strategy – to ensure they commit and make it happen,” she says.
“Usually managers and directors have the strategy in their head and then try to implement it, but if they don’t bring everyone together on it, it will never work.”
Digitalising across sectors
Ms Jimenez, who has worked across the luxury, retail; and oil and gas sectors, says each has its own set of challenges and opportunities.
“Luxury companies are very client orientated, so they have to respond quickly to clients and change inside the organisation quickly,” she says.
“They can have a difficult time changing the organisational structure and making decisions faster and communicating more effectively within the company.’
“The employees can have a hard time coping,” Ms Jimenez says.
“Whereas, if you look at a petroleum company, they don’t have as many clients, so they have more time to change inside the organisation and adapt to the digital transformation more cohesively.”
The IÉSEG School of Management alumni is now imparting her expertise and insights to Australia’s senior executives.
“In the last ten years I think companies have really changed the way they’re answering the digital issue,” she says.
“They’ve done it with external customers and now they have to make the same shift from inside the company.”
MIT Sloan Management Review and Deloitte’s study of digital business found that that companies that succeeded in digital transformation, collaborated externally through digital ecosystems and internally through cross-functional teams.
“Both ecosystems and cross-functional teams increase organisational agility,” the report states.
Its recommendation to companies working towards digital transformation?
“Loosen formal hierarchies. Let teams explore and occasionally fail. Learn fast and correct as you go.”
This disruption of traditional organisational hierarchies and work flows is only set to intensify according to Ms Jimenez.
“We are actually shifting towards the influencer movement, similar to what you see on social media,” she says.
“On social media you choose whoever you want to follow.
“Companies are moving in that direction too.
“The control that managers have traditionally held has been based on information, because they’re the ones that have had the information from the top,” Ms Jimenez says.
“Digital has a big human side to it,” says Ms Jimenez.
“Information is power and traditionally you share information with who you want to, but with digital, information is everywhere, so power has to be something else.
“Power is shifting to leadership and to be a leader you must be legitimate.
“A manager is appointed and is someone people follow, so they can progress through the company, whereas a leader is someone that people choose to follow.”
Fear vs freedom
She points to the potential of blockchain technology to allow businesses to free themselves from traditional corporate hierarchies and established chains of command, by removing the need for centralised decision makers.
“Decision making could be fully distributed,” she says.
“The blockchain could help us become more liberated and free.”
Conversely – while the digital shift may be unwelcome for some and overwhelming for many, Ms Jimenez says it’s occurring regardless.
“It is scary, because when the digital and technical change, so too must the human side of the organisation .”
“Basically AI is going to take away a lot of jobs.”
“You have people, who don’t want to see what’s happening, but it will be hard, because at one point they will be forced to change.”