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Culture: The Pivotal Factor of Successful Digital Transformation


It’s no secret that digital transformation inevitably involves the adoption of modern technologies such as the Internet of Things, Big Data analytics, and so on.

It must also embrace—changing infrastructure, streamlining of business processes and using digital tools to become “customer-centric”.

However, to achieve true digital transformation, it is culture that is key. It is arduous for an organization to undergo digital transformation, when it has a culture built around silos or is missing a channel to engage, involve and learn from the employees. To overcome inertia and deliver digital maturity, it is crucial for business leaders to honestly assess the limitations of their organization’s culture and plan a solution and timeline that delivers improvement and a change of culture. To achieve successful digital transformation, the culture must open up so that every individual within the organization, from leaders to front-line employees, works in a transparent way, sharing experiences, testing and learning and experimenting to find what works best in their unique environment.

I believe that culture is the key enabler in the era of digital transformation. There are few important considerations for managing change in the organizational culture:

Evaluate and define desired brand values and expected stakeholder behaviors: Every organization is defined by the values, mindsets, and behaviors that in aggregate, constitute the environment that is conducive to success. It is rare for organizations to automatically possess a strong and highly-effective culture because the culture takes hard work and lots of time and energy to build. It requires constant monitoring and (re)shaping of beliefs, assumptions, values, and behavioral patterns and individualistic perspectives in order to create the ideal working environment. Once these values and behaviors are evaluated and defined, the path leading towards a strong, constructive nuclear culture can be more clearly envisioned.

Have an ongoing conversation about culture and align that with business strategy and structure: Changing the culture is a powerful lever, but it should not be simply a one-off. It should be a part of the business program and an ongoing conversation throughout the year. Business leaders need to fully engage with their workforce, to arrive at a clearer understanding of the shared core values and widely held views on how things exist within the business environment. If the culture does not align with the business strategy, then what needs to change? What should the organizational culture look like to support a successful business?

Communicate and engage with the right people to define smart goals: Not all company cultures help a business reach its goals; indeed many definitively hinder that ambition. Organizations need to build a culture of transparent communication between people (specifically when there is a lack of common goals and incentives). There must be an open door policy for feedback, and it should encourage process optimization and idea generation, as well as establish and improve the ubiquity of genuine human connections. This openness encourages businesses to look at reorganizing smart goals, which should be compatible with the new aspirational organizational culture. It is also vital to effectively communicate the organization’s mission, vision, and values, so that every employee experiences a visceral sense of goals shared with their teammates.

Talent, technology and teamwork to be aligned: While embedding a digital culture in an organization is on everyone’s To-Do list, its success comes through strategic alignment of talent, technology, collective teamwork and information sharing across business functions. This spirit of collabaration is integral to a productive and effective digital culture.

Build motivation and innovate to excel: Low employee motivation harms businesses profitability and culture. Organizations can go the extra mile to fortify employee motivation and drive positive outcomes throughout their business. Motivated employees are more productive, as they learn and absorb new things, develop and enhance their skills and come up with innovative ideas for solving the business issues they experience.

To reap the benefits of building a digital business, leaders must take a culture first approach, which in turn improves the working life, productivity and efficiency of the organization’s people. Digital transformation is largely a matter of entrepreneurship and attitude, not just technology. The accompanying culture shift will involve a complex mix of unique working practices, shared values, ethics, goals, company mission, attitudes, standards, and environment.

Ness helps plan these changes into manageable phases. We help businesses identify new digital propositions, while reinventing their strategic, operational, and organizational approaches. We take pride in being a partner in their success.