November 17, 2016
Is your business culturally ready for digital?
By: $name

When it comes to digital transformation, I keep hearing the same complaints from clients, the most common being: “my people don’t collaborate effectively, and I don’t know why”; “I’ve bought all these great new digital tools, but my staff refuse to use them”; and “I can’t attract or retain the right talent for my digital business.”

All these problems share the same root cause: the business in question has adopted digital technology, but has failed to adopt a digital culture.

Digital culture is an essential part of digital transformation, but one that’s been sorely neglected. True digital culture is the blending of values, leadership, behaviours, and experiences that help an organisation really make the most of the opportunities created by digital. Building this culture is inseparable from maximising the value of your technology investments and realising the full value of your new business models, products, and operations.

In fact, companies that neglect to build a digital culture risk failing in their digital transformations.

Across all the successful digital transformations I’ve seen, the starting point has always been people and values. This is because technology does not make a culture—only human beings are capable of that. But people change is also much harder to achieve than technology change—it’s very easy to invest in a new bit of kit, but much harder to ensure everyone in your firm has bought into it and understands how to use it properly. It’s only by building, sustaining, and reinforcing a digital culture that you can solve the organisational problems that’ll emerge in the transformation to the digital world.

When clients ask how they can quickly and effectively build their digital cultures, the answer is always the same: focus on leadership. But this isn’t leadership in an abstract sense, it’s something much more specific. To build a true digital culture, you need to understand the different leadership models that must be deployed in the various parts of your organisation to achieve your unique digital goals.

For example, a lot of clients are moving away from deeply hierarchical control and command structures to horizontal models that help them achieve decision-making at the edge. These leadership models empower employees to make better decisions with the tools they’ve been given, which is undeniably important at the cutting edge of customer interaction—for instance, empowering contact centre staff to use digital tools and their professional judgment to make the best possible decisions and deliver a superior customer experience.

The businesses I’ve seen really succeed with this are those that put in place a transparent set of values across the business and implement them consistently throughout the entire employee journey. If you want to be a digital business, forget about tinkering at the edges, you need to embed digital from on-boarding to exit, supporting employees at every step and enabling them to live and breathe digital ways of working.

The hardest part of this is knowing exactly where to start with your digital transformation. I think it should come from the top, but in a very specific way. Culture can’t be forced nor delegated; but it can be enabled and reinforced in a kind of structured bricolage. The best way to do this is to free your staff to build their own cultures in an organic way that makes sense in the context of their specific jobs. The ideal is for an organisation to be a culture of cultures and the leadership should be the agent enabling this.

The only way you can transform into a digital business is if you have the right culture in place. As a result, it’s fair to say that creating a digital culture is essential to your ability to compete and grow. Look at your business and ask yourself whether it is really ready for digital. Forget proxies for digital transformation, such as technology and tools, ask yourself whether your people really “get” digital and are able to optimise everything they do through digital methodologies. This is an important first step in ensuring you can compete in a digital world. - Read more at:

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