Business Technology

There's a formula for how businesses can be ready for technological change

6 min read

14 January 2019

A successful digital transformation project requires more than just technology. Employee-driven change is what gets results, meaning culture is key.

A successful digital transformation project requires more than just technology. Employee-driven change is what gets results, meaning culture is key.

Culture can be defined as the “manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively”.

According to the Gartner’s 2018 CIO survey, “Culture is identified by 46% of CIOs as the largest barrier to realising the promise of digital business”.

Furthermore, at this year’ symposium in Barcelona, Gartner set out its vision for what we can expect to happen next in the technology industry.

At the symposium, it introduced the concept of “ContinuousNext”. This is a formula for how businesses can be continually ready for change and is as follows:

(Mindsets + practices) x technology = capabilities

A collection of mindsets form a culture, which is vital for the success of digital transformation projects. Culture impacts organisational dynamism.

So, what are the key aspects of company culture that business leaders need to be aware of when implementing digital transformation projects?

Understanding outcomes

The first step to get your company on board with digital transformation projects is to set very clear outcomes of what you want the project to achieve.

These outcomes should focus on both company-wide goals and the ‘big picture’, but, they should also be set for departments, teams and individuals – mobilising the entire company towards the end goal.

Doing this sets expectations and provides employees with a goal to work towards, helping to ensure they are aligned with the companies vision.

Get buy-in

Culture is by definition collective. Therefore, getting your employees on board with the outcomes of digital transformation projects is vital to success.

One of the most effective ways to do this is getting their buy-in from the start, involving them in the thought process, and keeping them informed as the project progresses.

As discussed above, this doesn’t have to be on a whole company level but, should relate to the objectives that you have set for individual teams.

This helps them to buy into the project by giving them the opportunity to feed into this process, and thereby take greater ownership. As part of ContinuousNext, Gartner advocates the concept of “culture hacks” to make small changes that trigger an emotional response.

The key to a culture hack is to find a single point where culture is vulnerable to deep change, particularly where employees spend most of their time. A great example of this would be thinking about the projects that teams are working on, and ensuring that they understand the big picture and reasons behind those projects, and how they affect change.

If the goal is to make the company more agile, a business could name every project after the benefit you expect it to deliver, and allow employees to opt in rather than selecting the project team. A business leader could also opt to hold a meeting across departments to gain others perspectives on the project.

Most importantly (and something that we will come back to later) – rather than prescribe every step of the process, it’s important to give people a problem to solve and a goal to work towards. The process will then emerge.

The take away here is that employee-driven change delivers results. In order to make digital transformation projects work employees need to believe in them.

Make goals measurable

It’s all very well, setting out goals and grand plans for your company, but on a smaller team and individual level, goals need to be SMART. This means they need to be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-based.

By developing goals with this structure in mind, it helps to motivate staff more towards achieving the end goal. However, it also helps break up big projects into achievable chunks, keeping teams productive.

To do this, it’s important to provide the correct training to staff to allow them to reach their goals. By enabling your workforce with the skills they need for your digital transformation project, making it part of the culture, and making it relevant to their day to day work the project is far more likely to find success.

Set the destination, not the journey

As opposed to prescribing how teams get to their goals, it’s important to set the desired outcome and deadline and then let teams work out the solutions that work best for them.

Additionally, it is also important to understand which parts of the process you are going to own, and where you might need help. Partnerships can provide real value in digital transformation projects, meaning that you are well supported by experts where you need to be.

This also frees up your teams time to focus on developing their skills, rather than taking on tasks that they may feel are less enjoyable.

Ultimately, the main thing to keep in mind about company culture is that in order to reap the benefits, culture must be adopted by all individuals across the business. There are no half measures. So, what are we waiting for?

Joanne Taylor is director of digital strategy at Software AG