Digital transformation introduces change to all parts of your business. It therefore requires an enterprise strategy that balances culture and technology.
Breadth of Digital Transformation
The introductory article for this series defined Digital Transformation as “applying technology to deliver a differentiated customer experience”. Further, that differentiated experience needs to provide your business with a sustainable competitive advantage.
Think about this. If we change the customer experience, we’re probably making changes to marketing and sales. We may also adjust how we ingest orders and may have to alter our supply chain. Surely there will be legal requirements to be addressed and we may need to modify our accounting. Obviously, there will be new technologies. And we may have to hire and/or retrain people. In these few, descriptive sentences, I just mentioned nearly every aspect of the business.
That is why digital transformation is really an enterprise strategy. It’s definitely not an IT project or a digital marketing project or a product development effort. More likely, it will be all of these and more.
Because digital transformation will require multiple projects across nearly every aspect of the business, it clearly requires an enterprise strategy.
Culture and Technology
Transformation means change. Most business cultures are resistant to change. Executives may fear losing authority. Staff may be afraid of new technology. People are just comfortable with the status quo. Yet, we can’t transform if everyone isn’t on board.
Therefore, digital transformation requires not just an enterprise strategy, but a strategy that balances culture and technology.
I purposely stated culture first and technology last. That’s because the technology doesn’t matter if the culture isn’t ready. And, frankly, changing technology is much easier than changing culture.
Change Readiness and Technical Fluency
The culture aspect of digital transformation refers to change readiness and digital fluency.
Change readiness can be a huge initiative that not only prepares the organization for change but recognizes that change may be the normal course of business. Many digital transformations fail because they are treated as IT projects. No offense to the thousands of IT leaders reading this but, face it folks, we’re not traditionally the people the business calls on to change culture.
The culture portion of the digital transformation strategy may be led by Human Resources in collaboration with Marketing, Corporate Communications, and IT. The goals are to prepare staff for a new way of working, to remove the fear and communicate the benefits, and equip managers to coach their teams through the changes. This requires a lot of communication and training. Without these, any major change initiative is likely to struggle.
Change readiness begins long before any technology is in play and it continues throughout the initiative. The goal is to create a culture that welcomes change and is prepared to embrace it.
Another important aspect of the cultural portion of digital transformation is digital fluency. As we transform the customer experience and leverage technology to streamline the business, we are likely to ask people to use technology that they have never seen before. We may be asking people to use technology for the first time on the job.
Training people on the very basics, long before we train them on the “new systems” is critical to the success of any digital transformation. Again, we’re changing nearly every aspect of the business to deliver a differentiated customer experience. The company needs lead time to prepare the workforce for the new, digital environment.
Once the culture begins shifting to a digitally fluent, change ready environment, then new technology can be introduced.
Digital transformation clearly requires an enterprise strategy that balances culture and technology. The company culture must include change readiness and some digital fluency before substantial new technology can be introduced.
We’ve discussed the need to clarify the definition of digital transformation and also understanding who your competition may be. This article explained why digital transformation requires an enterprise strategy that balances culture and technology. Coming up will be some keys to successful program and project management, resource planning and setting performance objectives to keep the team aligned, and some discussion of executive sponsorship and accountability.
If you’re embarking on a digital transformation, planning to do so, or just don’t want to wait weeks for all of these articles, just email Emily at Emily@WolffStrategy.com and she’ll be happy to schedule a call with me to discuss any or all of these topics.
Larry Wolff is the founder & CEO of Wolff Strategy Partners, a boutique consulting firm specializing in Enterprise Strategy Management and Digital Transformation. Larry has served as CEO, COO, CIO, CTO, chief digital officer, and management consultant for public, private, international, and emerging growth companies. His specialties include corporate and IT strategic planning, technology led business transformation, business and IT turnarounds, merger integration and large-scale project rescues. His methodologies span industries and scale to companies of all sizes.
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