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Hub and Spoke: Taking Conversations Digital

by TJ Fjelseth – CHRO, Socrates AI, Inc.

If asked at the beginning of 2020, whether digital transformation ranked as a priority, many organizations would have said, “yes, it’s on the roadmap.” Then COVID-19 showed up, and the whole world had to go remote almost overnight. And as suddenly as online became our only means of making work happen, illuminated were the glaring gaps relegated to the yearly roadmap and the possibilities presented by digital transformation. 

Academics will study how the pandemic impacted this storyline for years to come, yet early numbers from two surveys of IT professionals indicate digital transformations have now become top of mind. The first, from April 2020, learned that 73 percent of IT managers expected to either accelerate or at least maintain transformation initiatives through the crisis. The second, from a month later, found that 71 percent had implemented digital transformation projects within weeks rather than the months or years it might have taken pre-pandemic. Of course, for those considering such a move, there is more to transformation than merely adding new technologies.

Rethink the Hubs

For starters, the existing infrastructure, stakeholders and information repositories fit together – or they don’t. In most instances, applying a hub at the core allows for connections to many spokes across the workplace to ensure that work moves ahead more efficiently. Communication also plays a significant role in this, both in the day-to-day and shift to a digital mindset. So significant that McKinsey & Co. identified communication as one of five factors integral to digital transformations, explaining that organizations that communicate frequently are three times more likely to see these projects succeed.

Think about the IT operations, software and solutions that power everything from corporate network structure and firewalls to project management and the help desk. By eliminating or reducing the number of employees in physical office locations, organizations need to keep things running and offer support to employees outside of the IT department, whether that means critical equipment updates or troubleshooting. When it’s no longer possible to walk over to an employee’s desk, IT needs a way to interact with other teams digitally – and a repository of FAQs will only go so far. Here, the organization needs to rethink how this hub engages each spoke in a way that’s both meaningful and accessible by all members of their workforce.

Rewire the Spokes

Such relationships, like the one between IT and employees, exist across organizations and at every level. Employees are constantly looking for information in different places, trying to chase down the answers they need through a labyrinth of systems. It is often a frustrating, tedious journey with little to no documentation to help them on their way. The cycle repeats when the next employee goes to solve a similar issue, not knowing what their co-worker previously experienced.

Coming through COVID-19, organizations are finding that they will need to do more with less while working smarter, not harder. That’s where digital transformation fits in, giving businesses the opportunity to improve on what are now outdated practices. Additional research from McKinsey validates this thinking, encouraging organizations to understand what’s working using surveys, discussions and data analysis to recraft digital strategies and then scale the use of agile and collaboration tools for remote delivery. Communication, being at the heart of every interaction, serves to reinforce a hub and spoke model, offering the employer a way to maintain contact and connection while enhancing the employee experience. The result sets wheels in motion, carrying conversations, and the organization, forward.

The question is, does your organization have a “digital conversation hub” that can serve as the core platform for interconnection between the spokes of people, data and communication?