The importance of pro-digital transformation culture

Existing systems may be expensive to run and difficult to change but they work, until they don’t. When the business needs to change then digital transformation could be essential.  This is more likely to succeed if people are willing participants and even champions. So, how can organisations get everyone on board and build a pro-digital transformation culture?

Time for a change?

As competitors, customers and technology changes business requirements alter and systems need to adapt. Resistance is possible from staff who perceive a vested interest in legacy technology and systems, keeping the organisation tethered to the past. It is essential for a successful digital project that the leadership team creates a pro-digital transformation culture in the business.

Building a pro-digital transformation culture

Creating a culture to drive business through new technology and methods involves a combination of leadership, communication, training, quality and continuous improvement. Objectives must be clear. 

Everyone must see a positive “what’s in it for me.”  If previous projects have failed, addressing concerns and keeping people motivated and engaged is essential. 

The board can demonstrate commitment by driving change through a steering committee chaired by a senior executive.  This committee needs the authority to engage stakeholders which control the strategy and drive decisions to deliver effective change at pace.

Articulate a clear vision and strategy

Define a clear digital transformation vision and strategy, but don’t keep it in the boardroom. Clearly communicate why digital transformation is important, what the goals are, how it aligns with the organisation’s overall mission and objectives, the benefits of success and the risks of failure.

 It is also important to manage communications if there are commercial issues associated with suppliers, or where uncertainty and rumour could cause employees to worry.

Communication cannot just be top-down. Encourage open dialogue, create channels for questions, concerns, to identify issues, and provide feedback about the transformation process. If there are people critical to the transformation or able to obstruct progress, what incentives can encourage them to engage? Employees who are initially most sceptical can often be turned into the greatest advocates if handled correctly. They know where the pitfalls are and can help to overcome them.

Most important, ensure stakeholders can trust communications. Give regular progress updates linked to evidence that the plan is being delivered.

Opportunity in digital transformation

All change creates opportunity but also involves business and personal risk. The current team may not have the experience to manage such a project, yet it is vital to create a positive culture.

Bring in the right people to lead best practice adoption so that from the beginning staff see that commitments given by the business are kept and trust is retained.  Create an eager want to be on the project.

If there is a need to shed people over time then manage this carefully.  Plan for early internal transfers to new and exciting long-term roles to allay fear among staff critical to success, motivating them to remain. This ensures critical knowledge is transferred through a documented handover process.  It also starts the concept of change and that information sharing is essential to building a pro-digital transformation culture.  

Empowerment and experimentation

Digital Transformation changes technology and transforms how an organisation works. Adopting new methodologies such as user experience (UX) design, developing an agile architecture platform to respond quickly to changing business needs and more generally to create better applications is important.  However, success requires staff to be trained and gain experience in these new technologies and adoption should be paced. Technology expertise has to be built up without losing existing business knowledge.  Allow time to train existing staff who know the business. Also bring in technology experts allowing time to learn the business.  Start slow, experiment, innovate, have parallel workstreams and deliver in phases for a competent and confident team that establishes standards and proves the approach to de-risk the design before scaling up.

Foster a culture where employees are encouraged to experiment, identify and take risks with mitigations in place, and come up with creative solutions using digital tools. Celebrate and reward employees who contribute innovative ideas or drive successful digital initiatives. Make it more valuable to come up with innovations rather than profit from outdated knowledge.

Embrace agile methodologies by breaking down large projects into smaller, manageable tasks that can be completed in iterative cycles. Innovations can be tried quickly but discarded if they don’t actually bring the expected benefits. Access to relevant data and analytics tools is important to encourage data-driven decision making rather than emotional or political responses.

Change Management/Change Culture

If the aim is digital transformation, then it would be foolish not to plan for how the organisation manages change. It is likely that the first thing that must change is the culture.  Start with changing management culture

Be sure to anticipate and address resistance to change with a well-defined plan that includes communication, stakeholder engagement, and addresses concerns head on rather than ignoring them.

Identify and empower digital transformation champions. Select individuals and teams enthusiastic about digital transformation which can serve as role models and advocates. These digital ambassadors may come from unexpected places. They might be junior employees who bring fresh ideas or longer serving staff who have experience of historic project successes and failures.

If there is a history of resistance to change, then it may be essential to create a separate team that develops the new culture.  Recruit from within the organisation individual by individual and train them into the new way of working.

Think Big, Act Fast, Do Small

Winning the hearts and minds of all stakeholders relies on creating the vision, delivering outputs regularly, while showing clear, successful progress towards the end goal.

It is essential to acknowledge the change, from capital projects to operational spend and continuous improvement. Digital transformation once adopted continues with significant impact on an organisation’s model for managing staff and delivering financial performance.

These strategies, simple to describe but difficult to implement, can deliver a culture that embraces digital transformation, fosters innovation, and positions itself for continuing success in the digital age.