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In this Leadership Insights video, Amanda Razani speaks with Kamales Lardi, CEO of Lardi & Partner Consulting, digital transformation expert and best-selling author, about the human element of digital transformation.



Amanda Razani: Hello, I’m Amanda Razani, with Digital CxO. And I’m so excited to be here today with Kamales Lardi. She is the author of a best selling book called, “The Human Side of Digital Business Transformation.” And she is a digital transformation expert and thought leader. How are you doing today?

Kamales Lardi: Oh, wonderful. Thank you for having me, Amanda. It’s wonderful to be here with you today.

Amanda Razani: So you recently wrote this book, “The Human Side of Digital Business Transformation.” What is the focus of your book? And could you summarize some of the key points that you covered?

Kamales Lardi: Definitely. So the book is really a culmination of, you know, over two decades of my experience in working with companies around implementing technology and business advisory. I started my career in the tech industry in the mid 90s. So quite a lot has changed over the years, as you can imagine, and the way technology has kind of inserted itself into almost every part of our business environment today in our lives as well. And I find this quite an exciting development. One of the things I’ve observed working with companies across different industries, different regions, over the years is that there is so much focus on the technology side of digital transformation. So really focusing on what are the tech solutions? How can we implement them? How can we leverage technology to optimize and improve our business, but far less focus on a critical element that actually could make or break tech implementation. And that’s really the human element. Right? So that’s taking people on the journey of transformation and utilizing technology in the best way possible, creating the right value propositions. And so this is what really triggered me to write my book. And I wanted to create a how to guide or a playbook for industry leaders, as well as pretty much anyone in the business space, who’s looking at technology application today. How do you truly implement tech? How do you prepare your organization and transform your organization to survive and thrive in the digital economy? So the book really provides this kind of step by step guide. It sets a premise, it provides kind of the basic descriptions and understanding for what technology is which phases are being disrupted, why we’re seeing the shifts in the business landscape, some of the rules and assumptions that have completely been obliterated based on tech disruption. And also how do companies and business leaders approach this environment how you alleviate the uncertainties. So that’s kind of in a nutshell, what I cover in the book.

Amanda Razani: And so who is your main target audience for your book, and then outside of that target audience who could benefit from reading it?

Kamales Lardi: I would recommend everyone should read it. But I think really, the intention for me to write the book was to target senior business executives, people involved in the space. And you’ll see that from the tone of writing as well. Although I am someone from a very tech background, I tried to present the content in a very holistic way. And this comes back to the topic of digital transformation, right? Oftentimes, we think of it as a tech implementation. But really, digital transformation is an organizational change, transforming your entire business in order to survive and thrive in the digital economy, through leveraging of different tech solutions. And so really, it does involve or it does kind of create a premise or good understanding for pretty much anyone in the business environment, particularly people who are involved in this transformation process. So really looking at heads of transformation heads of digital and senior executives. And one of the key gap areas, which I believe this book should target is also the board members of many companies. This is where I’m seeing a lack of understanding and a kind of knowledge and digital knowledge gap that still exists in many companies. So I’m really hoping that senior executives will pick up a copy of this book to update themselves in terms of what is shifting and what’s transpiring in the business environment with tech.

Amanda Razani: So you’ve shared a lot with what you’ve written in the book. And I want to go into the technology first. But as you stated, it’s not just about technology. So let’s talk about the technology. But then let’s talk about the implementation, the business environment, the relationships, and the change management. So first of all, how can businesses utilize emerging technology for digital transformation efforts during this economic downturn?

Kamales Lardi: One of the key areas, you know, I think when we look at an economic downturn are uncertain times, companies tend to look into themselves; they tend to become very aware of the limited resources, the limited investments that they might have, and they look at cost cutting environments. And we’re seeing quite of this happening in not just the tech industry, but across the board with many companies. And I think here, there’s really an opportunity to look at tech solutions as enablers for optimization for creating efficiencies for cost reductions. So if you imagine implementation of solutions, like robotics process automation, to optimize your process environment, to reduce the amount of manual or human intervention in certain processes, and that can effectively speed up efficiencies, as well as reduce costs in certain environments. One of the key things that I think is also very critical, is to look at application of technology for hyper personalization. This is the opportunity for companies to really look at optimizing and creating better experiences for their customer base. How do you utilize technologies and online channels online platforms to really create these hyper personalized environments, at low cost and at scale. So this is an opportunity for companies to really explore utilizing channels, online channels to really create experiences that become an emotional trigger and moments that matter for customers, and the opportunity to expand their reach across different areas through digital platforms. So there are many opportunities for application of tech, really in the uncertain times. But I think one of the the key things that I tried to present in the book, The Human Side of digital business transformation is really in this digital environment. In this digital economy, there’s so much noise, there’s so much competition, it’s almost an overwhelming environment, because anyone can stand out any company, even a new startup can really make an impact in the digital economy. The way companies create competitive advantage today is with that human factor. That’s how you stand out and create competitive advantage. And so I think this is where I urge companies to look at taking you know, redundant work taking repetitive work taking things that are where you can create efficiencies, use technology for that, but where do you want to stand out for competitive advantage? That’s where you bring back kind of the human element into your customer journey?

Amanda Razani: Absolutely. So what are some critical success factors for sustainable digital business transformation? Financial sustainability is a real issue.

Kamales Lardi: So this is part of the reason in the book, I present a very detailed overview of framework that allows companies to look at sustainable outcomes or sustainable digital transformation. And first, we have to clarify digital transformation in this context, it’s a journey, it’s an evolution process, its ability to transform your company and shift it into a structure that will survive and thrive in the digital economy. In order to do that you have a couple of elements that need to be brought together to create success. And this is really having a clear defined purpose and vision for your organization. Where do you want to be in the future? Where do you see your business thriving, and that could look very different from where it is today. Because the digital economy, the whole landscape looks different. It also involves having the right technology solutions and landscapes and infrastructure in place. Also looking at ensuring that you have the right process environment in place processes that support the technology, as well as support the people within your organization to do what they need to do in the best possible way. And of course, looking at data and insights. Utilizing the information that you have within your company and external to your company, the best possible, you know, outcomes be ensuring that you have the right insight and intelligence, and the right information to perform at your best as a company. And the most critical element really is the people element. And here in the book, I present it as not just employees but creating an ecosystem for your company. That ecosystem involves several different stakeholders within your organization. You have board members, owners and business leaders who really are driving the future of the company, leadership teams or management teams that are executing this and kind of providing this direction for the people in the organization. Employees who have the right skill sets and the right abilities to perform On the tasks that they need to perform, but also able to advocate, the technologies and solutions you’re presenting or implementing in your company, and external to that you have your customers, obviously triggering change and demanding more from organizations. And you have these partners and providers or service providers and tech companies that you’ll collaborate with. So they bring in the technology to drive change in your organization. The key for organizations to thrive in the future is really to have this ecosystem of players working together to build a strong environment for the digital economy.

Amanda Razani: And so looking at that human aspect, let’s go into that a little deeper. So how does the digital mindset and empathy combined to contribute to effective leadership in the digital age?

Kamales Lardi: This is what I mentioned earlier, right? It comes back to it’s such a crowded environment in the digital space, there’s so much going on. Sometimes it’s really challenging to even grab the attention of your customers, it’s really difficult to attract the right talent into your organization. And as you start thinking about the digital space, particularly if you start thinking about technology’s capabilities. Tech allows you to create exponential growth and scale, you can reach new markets without having physical presences there, you can grow your business very rapidly. So this allows you to have this really said digital mindset is really an abundance mindset, thinking beyond physical limitations, and tech provides you this capabilities today, particularly emerging technologies that are coming up. But on the other hand, you need to be able to understand the fears and motivations of people as well, right. So having a good understanding for, for example, empathy towards your customers, understanding the sentiments and the needs they have, and how you could provide the services that you can provide for their needs and challenges. Having an empathy for your employee base. Now, there’s been a lot of discussion in the market today or in the media about ChatGPT replacing people. This creates a sense of fear and a sense of uncertainty in many organizations. So this empathy is so important for leadership teams to have to understand how can we approach communication in a better way? How can we engage our employees in a better way? How can we make sure that the environment, the culture that we’re building within the organization still stay strong and focused on the right elements and the right kind of purpose of the organization? Here, really the combination of kind of a digital mindset and empathy plays such an important role, and it’s really an art and a science for leadership teams today to really understand how to utilize both of these skill sets.

Amanda Razani: You bring up an interesting topic, which is generative AI, it’s advancing so rapidly, and many people are concerned that it’s going to take jobs. So what is your opinion about? Is it going to take jobs? But is that going to create new jobs? And how important is the human elements still in this emerging technology?

Kamales Lardi: So I think the simple answer would be yes, it’s going to take jobs, the more complex answer would be, should it be taking jobs? I think there’s some things to be considered. And we saw recent tech companies, you know, laying off people, I think it was if I’m not mistaken, IBM that mentioned over the week, they would lay off about 3900 people or something to be replaced by generative AI capabilities. So there’s, there’s a lot going on in the market. And I think what will happen, and we’ve seen this rounds of technology replacing human skill sets happen for decades. If we think back to the Industrial Revolution, when you know, factory machines came in, and they replaced human effort and human manual processes. So people shifted away from working in farms into factory environments. And then when machines got more advanced, they shifted into knowledge, work environments, and so on. We’re seeing this shift happen, and it’s kind of a cycle that can be expected. So as technology becomes more advanced, and is able to do more and do more efficiently at lower cost, we see the skill sets being replaced, where we are going to see these challenges happen or these replacements happen. Really it’s going to impact jobs that are repetitive jobs that involve processing information or data writing. You know these kinds of repetitive and low complex work environments, you will be able to see in the short term, generative AI type technologies solutions replace human power. Now the question is, should it fully replace it? I do believe even if you’re applying solutions, like ChatGPT, in a, you know, content production environment, it can replace about 70 to 80% of the work and accelerate the work. But you still need a certain amount of human intervention to ensure that there is a accuracy check credibility check that there is, you know, context and common sense and that there’s alleviation of bias. And there’s insight into ethical behavior and things like that, making sure that there’s fairness in the work that’s being done. And all of this comes with that human element that cannot be replaced by technology, at least not yet. And so I do believe even if companies are looking at replacing certain types of jobs, there needs to be the human element. So what we’re seeing really is a shift of skill sets, rather than a replacement to people taking over more complex work, and shifting into new types of work, rather than completely being replaced in the market.

Amanda Razani: So when it comes to these digital business transformations, what are the key issues that companies should be focused on in your mind? And where do they start? How do they go about focusing on those issues?

Kamales Lardi: Where it’s best to start, and this is where I typically start when I work with companies as well, is having an understanding for where you want to get to, right? Where are you today, where you want to get to, and we like to think of it like a travel journey. So you always start, you know, if you’re planning a trip or a vacation somewhere you always start with, “Okay, where am I today? Where do I want to get to?” And what is that journey going to look like? And how do you enjoy yourself while doing that? So creating a roadmap that is going to be as positive and as encouraging as possible. And so I think business leaders really should focus on this as an element, there’s so much out there today that could impact your business, really being able to focus on, you know, what your capabilities are today? Where do you see your business going in in the next three to five years? And how do you want to get there? What are the key elements or building blocks you need to put in place in order to make sure your business does get there? And throughout this journey, what kind of skill sets are you going to need? How do you you know, affect change and ensure that the level of uncertainty and communication is managed in the organization, so you don’t create a sense of fear of change, and transformation, and so on, I really also advise companies to focus on understanding some of these technology changes that are happening in the market. Not everything is the kind of silver bullet that’s going to solve your business problems in one go. So really trying to understand the distinction between hype and real need. And so the way to do this is keep a real focus eye on your customers value proposition, who your customers are today and for the future, what their needs are currently, and what it’s going to be in the near future, and how your business contributes to that market meet. But this is really keeping a laser focus on these elements. And one thing I would really advise business leaders to do, and we tend to see leadership teams distance themselves and become very distant from customers. And so try to find a way to create that closeness to customers, right? Real touch points where we understand what’s going on in the market. How do we as a company contribute to what’s going on, and creating these kinds of firsthand touch points are really, really critical.

Amanda Razani: I want to thank you for sharing your insights today. You’ve really highlighted the fact that it’s not just technology, and everybody’s so focused on the technology and implementing and harnessing that. But really, what’s even more important is that human aspect and combined – that’s how they’re going to have successful digital transformation initiatives. So real quick to our audience – again, if you haven’t read this book, I would recommend it – “The Human Side of Digital Business Transformation.” And again, thank you so much for coming on our show today.

Kamales Lardi: Thank you so much, Amanda. It was a true pleasure.

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