Everyone everywhere seems to be talking about digital transformation – the process where companies overhaul their structures and functionalities to reach a new stage of digital efficiency and enlightenment. However, for the most part, the focus of those interested in digital transformation remains fixated on new technology and software, rather than on the people and teams responsible for adopting this emerging tech.
62% of employees say that corporate culture could be the main hurdle to digital transformation. In other words, the average business isn’t just struggling to stay ahead of new hardware and software – they’re missing out on the human element too. Part of the reason for that is the fact that corporate culture remains one of the most misunderstood, yet most important elements of any growing company.
If digital transformation is pivotal to the survival of the modern business, then corporate culture is the lifeline that companies need to create to make transformation possible.
A Culture of Digital Agility
In the digital world, there’s more to a successful corporate culture than implementing strategies for engagement and employee satisfaction. Today’s businesses need to create a strategy for constant evolution – they need to become agile in their vision of the future. The days of making a couple of changes to organisational infrastructure once every five years or so are gone. Today, there’s a growing need for companies to build momentum in their digital strategies. Indeed, digital transformation may be less about technology, and more about the organisational agility that brands can embody.
Culture is the heartbeat that leads the adoption of technology. Without the right internal drive, passion, and understanding, it’s impossible to understand not just what a company needs to thrive in these changing times, but how new technology can be used successfully. That means that “corporate culture” is quickly transforming into “digital culture”. Rather than focusing exclusively on purpose, vision, and leadership, businesses with their eye on transformation are looking at digital elements of culture, like:
- Innovation: The ability to take risks and implement new, disruptive technology, or explore up-and-coming ideas.
- Flexibility and agility: A focus on fast, dynamic decision making, and the ability for companies to respond and adapt well to new demands and technologies
- Collaboration: The ability to interact through new, cross-channel teams that spread far and wide across the world, and make the most out of enterprise skills.
- Decision-making: Today’s businesses need to use analytics and data to transform the results of their key decisions.
- Open Culture: A chance to extend partnerships for transformation across third-party start-ups, vendors, and external networks
- Customer focus: The chance to use new and improved digital solutions for the expansion of the customer base, and the revolution of new customer experiences in everything from AI, to chatbots, and more.
The Challenge of Digital Transformation: Mind the Culture Gap
Culture is often overlooked as an element of digital transformation. However, when you look at it from a “big picture” perspective, it starts to become obvious just how essential culture can be. After all, you can change your processes, your infrastructure, and even the technology you use down to every piece of software – but if you don’t address the people behind your company – then change can’t thrive. Culture is the operating system of your business – without it, you’re left staring into the void.
Successful cultural change requires action from the top of the ladder all the way down. That means managers and front-of-store employees all need to have the same drive and focus. Digital transformation can’t happen in silos, which means that you need to begin your cultural strategy before true transformation can begin.
Today’s business leaders need to start getting a handle on their existing cultural efforts, and their future plans for growth in the industry. If you’re not digitally ready now, then you need to put a plan in place that helps you to not only improve your current culture, but supplement it in the future with the right hires, the right teamwork, and the best applications.
Unfortunately, a study called “The Digital Culture Challenge” found that there’s a significant gap between what leaders think they’re doing to improve digital culture, and how team members feel about their current state of digital transformation. For instance, while 40% of executives believe their firms are “digital culture” ready, only 27% of employees feel the same way. The study also found that:
- 85% of leaders feel that they’re collaborating well across all business units, compared to 41% of employees.
- 75% of leaders think that their corporate culture is one of experimentation, innovation, and risk-taking, compared to 37% of employees.
- 56% of leaders feel that their organisation is agile and flexible, compared to 40% of employees.
- 71% of executives feel as though they’re acting as “leaders” in changing the state of digital culture in their workplace, compared to 41% of employees who agree.
- 65% of leaders say they have reassessed their core values to include attributes for digital culture, compared to 46% of employees.
In Digital Transformation Culture Comes First
It’s easy to see that digital transformation is affecting the world in several profound ways. We’re seeing developments that we would have never thought possible previously in areas all the way from IoT to AI. However, the growth of new technology has put significant pressure on traditional businesses to start re-thinking the way they perform in the marketplace. While companies are beginning to re-think their investments, they also need to consider the value of true cultural change, from hiring new digital talent to inspiring the right internal values.
Developing your own digital culture is going to take time. The quicker you start acting, the more profound the changes will be. Digital transformation requires more than just new technology in the workplace – it requires a focus on operational agility, and an ability to grow and evolve wherever necessary to make progress. IT and CIO leaders need to be prepared to implement this change across the enterprise. Companies like Southwest airlines are now bringing digital customer service solutions into play, and GE has recently begun changing their culture in an attempt to become leaders in the Industrial Internet of Things.
It’s easy for leaders in any industry to overlook the importance of culture when it comes to making technological changes. After all, focusing on machines makes it harder to concentrate on people. However, culture remains one of the most important things that any company can implement to differentiate themselves from their competition. Without a strong foundation of digital culture, it’s going to be tough for any business to make meaningful progress in the world of digital transformation.
Rob is Founder & Publisher of UC Today, a leading news publication specialising in Unified Communications & Collaboration technologies.