Successful digital transformation is all about people, according to Josh Bersin, who shares five important lessons about people practices from the digital transformation of DBS
Over the past several years, almost every company has experienced some form of digital transformation. I was recently in Singapore and spent some time with the Development Bank of Singapore (DBS), one of the most advanced digital banks in the world. As we’ve heard from many other companies, DBS’s digital transformation was not just about technology; it also encompassed culture, skills, and new models of work.
Let me share just a few of the important things DBS leaders learned about digital transformation.
5 keys to digital transformation success
First, work simplification was key. In order to digitise the business, the company had to simplify. Paul Cobban, the chief digital officer, told me his team conducted more than 200 workshops to reduce waste – wasted effort, redundant processes, and overlapping technologies. These workshops also encouraged people to rethink how work gets done and bring cross-functional teams together. Without this kind of “Marie Kondo” process to simplify, digitisation would only digitise “the existing mess.”
Second, the company invested heavily in new disciplines. DBS now practices customer science to monitor, diagnose, and improve customer experiences in real time. Not only do engineers and marketing people now understand behavioral science, the company put in place tools to monitor how customers move from place to place in their apps and websites. This required a new focus on small teams, cross-functional communication, and of course, data fluency and analytics.
“The most important thing we’ve learned is that successful transformation is all about people, making HR more important than ever”
Third, the company focused on culture. As Paul puts it, leaders want DBS to be a 27,000-person startup. Its goal is to “make banking joyful,” which means empowering people, reducing hierarchy, and making everyone feel part of digital transformation. The company found that one of its biggest challenges was too many meetings (a common affliction everywhere). So, leaders eliminated most of them, and formally stopped HIPPO (highest paid person’s opinion) decision making. In other words, the company empowered employees to take ownership and work together.
Fourth, the company focused on internal skills sharing. DBS now has a program called Gandalf Scholars, which empowers anyone who is an expert to mentor and teach others. The company has external hacking groups to bring in startups to help the bank build new systems. And they’ve built internal academies and skills programs to help everyone learn.
Finally, DBS focused on building trust. Paul shared that psychological safety, challenge without worry, and a sense of trust are the new values that drive the business. These are principles badly needed in any company that is going through digital transformation, and for DBS they worked extremely well.
Today DBS is considered the best digital bank in the world, thanks to these practices, which, as you can see, are primarily about people.
Let me conclude with one more idea. You, as an HR professional, have to embrace these principles too. agile HR is now taking off, and everything we do in HR must be done in an agile way with a focus on making the company more agile. for more).
Yes, digital transformation is here. But the most important thing we’ve learned is that successful transformation is all about people, making HR more important than ever.