Why cultural change is key for digital transformation

  • Posted on July 26, 2016

cultural change

An organisation is nothing without its people. Never is this clearer than in the face of digital change.

From the outset, it’s easy to assume digital transformation is all about technology. Which tools, systems and platforms are set to dramatically transform the office? From talk of virtual and augmented reality revolutionising workplaces, and robotics automating people’s roles, it’s easy to get swept along by a tide of hype. Yet to focus solely on the technology aspect is to ignore an integral part of what makes such a vital change successful: the people.

To achieve true digital transformation requires organisations to manage cultural change as well as technical change. Without the involvement, cooperation and feedback of the workforce, any digital transformation project will struggle to maintain momentum.

Building a Strong Business Case

This maintenance of legacy systems while finding new ways of working is part of Avanade’s New Economics of IT philosophy. From a cultural standpoint, doing this successfully requires focussing on three key elements: having a strong business case for change, getting stakeholders on board and engaging all users.

The path to digital transformation is disruptive and challenging. Smart businesses therefore need to present a clear case for change that starts with the why. It must not only look at the hard numbers, but also at the softer business values. To strive for innovation and to empower employees as a business requires a long-term solution – one that can be found in the digital workplace.

Getting Stakeholder Approval

The sheer number of stakeholders involved in change processes means that internal politics can often become an obstacle. The many facets requiring stakeholder approval and opinions regarding change at play can cause decision-making to be dragged out. All key stakeholders must therefore be engaged early and regularly as an absence of alignment between functions can cause digital transformation projects to fail. For example, without backing from the Finance department, there will be a lack of capital to fund the project. Scenarios such as this can be minimised by having a robust and well considered change plan in place.

In addition, for change programme to be launched successfully, it is imperative that those pioneering change (i.e. the stakeholders) engage with staff at all levels to understand the real problems that need solving, not those management think exist. The business needs to feel this change is being driven from the top, down. It’s no surprise then that Avanade’s new research shows the most important driver of digital transformation is engagement from senior management.

Keeping People in Mind

Improving the working life, productivity and efficiency of an organisation’s people causes digital transformation to happen. Yet our research worryingly shows that just 19% of IT leaders think improved employee productivity is a key objective of digital change. For employees to benefit, this mind-set needs to shift. New digital tools and systems must be introduced in a way that gives employees space to adapt. Creative training approaches and controlled system roll-outs must be a core part of this, as should a closed feedback loop taking real-time feedback and most importantly course correcting where necessary based on that feedback.

Embracing the New Economics of IT philosophy of balancing legacy systems with innovative technology is as much about culture as it is about technology. In order to succeed, the former must change for the latter to happen. Nobody must be left behind and cultural changes must evolve with work practices. For, without the people, the tools won’t make a difference.

Cultural change is just one part of wider digital change. Download the New Economics of IT paper to learn more.

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