Presented by Planful

Digital transformation has been a buzzword for years, and in the “before times,” companies were pursuing digital transformation at their own pace in response to competitive pressure. That changed in 2020 when the pandemic hit. COVID-19’s economic impact meant businesses had no choice. For many, accelerating the digital transformation roadmap was a matter of survival.

While vaccines are on the way, but not yet widely distributed, coronavirus cases continue to surge around the world and the economy is persistently uncertain. It’s become clear that business leaders need to keep their foot on the gas and accelerate their digital transformation efforts. Regardless of how 2021 unfolds from an economic perspective, companies will need to be nimble to succeed in the post-pandemic world. The question is, who’s best suited to drive modernization projects?

The answer is digital natives. As individuals who grew up in a connected world — and who are typically the most enthusiastic about and familiar with digital solutions — digital natives are the ideal candidates to help up-level their companies’ digital capabilities by leading projects, such as back-office software automation. But, here’s the thing: they’ll need C-suite support to succeed.

Who are digital natives? How can they help?

Digital natives were raised in an always-on, constantly connected world. They began using devices at a very early age. Just observe any 4-year-old and how intuitively they interact with a smartphone or tablet! Digital natives grew up to be Generation Now: a cohort that is accustomed to advanced technology and rapid delivery of goods and services as consumers.

As employees, digital natives tend to be unimpressed with, and frustrated by, the prevalence of legacy technologies at work. They actively seek out tech-forward employers, considering the suite of available tools in their evaluation of prospective workplaces. Digital natives have a unique and intuitive perspective on using technology to solve problems.

These natural inclinations make digital natives an excellent choice to lead transformative technology adoption projects. If you’re a C-level executive who wants to quicken the pace of digital transformation at your company, you can facilitate change by putting digital natives in a position to lead initiatives, create partnerships, and serve as technology evangelists.

The first step is to create a plan to empower digital natives across the business. You can seek their guidance, asking digital natives directly what transformational technologies they need to do their jobs more effectively, and why they believe the solutions they’d propose will create efficiencies and advance the business’s digital transformation goals.

As a recent Tech Republic survey found, the pandemic elevated the need for tools that facilitate collaboration and communication, prompting a shift in focus for digital transformation efforts. To meet that need, C-suite sponsors can provide digital natives with a platform that enables teamwork and planning by connecting participants from every corner of the business.

Create an entrepreneurial culture where digital natives thrive

Retaining high-potential employees was a challenge for many enterprises in the days of near-full employment before the pandemic, and it will remain an issue in the post-pandemic economy. Employees with in-demand technical skills find work more easily. If they think outdated technology at their company is holding them back, they’re more likely to jump ship.

But, if you give digital natives leadership opportunities on digital modernization projects, it gives them career direction and an ownership stake in the company’s success. By empowering digital natives, you not only advance your modernization goals to keep your company more relevant and competitive in the marketplace, you retain high-potential employees too. As outlined in the post-pandemic playbook from Constellation Research, the focus must remain on digital natives, while vast change is still the norm.

One of the keys to success will be implementing a platform that allows digital natives who are leading the effort to break down silos across departments and provide access to accurate, real-time data for all. This allows for faster, more iterative decision-making at all levels, improving organizational agility. It also brings more people into the planning process.

That’s important because, to stay nimble, companies need to plan continuously, mapping out possible outcomes to various scenarios to confidently chart the course forward. Digital natives can drive this effort across the organization, but first, you have to give them the power.

Grant Halloran is CEO at Planful.

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