Why culture is the linchpin of successful digital transformation

Larry Faragalli
August 25, 2020

Too often, companies make the mistake of buying into digital transformation (DX) with the mindset that it’s all about technology. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Despite its “digital” moniker, DX has very little to do with the technology itself. Instead, it’s about the strategy that powers all of the moving pieces in an organization.

In our discovery sessions with clients, one of the first things we take time to unpack is the importance of understanding and viewing digital transformation as a holistic strategy. And in order for any company-wide endeavor to be successful, it must involve employees at every level. If you’ve already put in the hard work to create a culture that fosters growth through transparency, vulnerability, and trust, you’ve likely paved the path to a smooth transition. Still, there are several things to consider along the way.

Let’s take a look at the role your culture plays in the overall DX plan, and how you can begin making small changes now that add up to big wins in the future.

People — not products — are your most valuable asset 

It’s easy to get caught up on what we’re selling. After all, it’s why we have a business in the first place and it’s how we keep our people gainfully employed. But putting products ahead of people is a mistake. Your employees are your most valuable asset in your digital transformation journey. Successful organizations understand that true transformation is only possible when everyone is on board. This means ensuring that your strategy is aligned with your culture. Taking measures ahead of time to get everything in sync means reducing challenges and avoiding roadblocks later on — which brings us to our next point.

Align your DX goals with your core values

When was the last time you actually updated your company’s core values? I’m going to make a fair assumption that it’s been a while — as in years or, for some, possibly decades. If your business falls into this category, it’s time to take a deep breath, dust off that old mission statement, and determine precisely how it fits with where you’re headed next. Failing to ensure your goals are in line with your values can create problems down the road, such as low employee morale and issues attracting top talent.

Ditch outdated thinking

Have you ever made a decision based entirely on historical data? Most of us have done this at some point, because it’s human nature to rely on the past when planning for the future. Past events play a role in helping us understand how scenarios might play out later on, but we must get beyond this thinking in order to develop robust strategies. To truly innovate, you need to adopt a digital-first mindset that can be easily embraced by every employee. Some of your people may have a difficult time overcoming old ways of operating, simply because it’s what they know. It’s the responsibility of company leaders to break through this outdated thinking and push everyone to move forward by outlining desirable behaviors such as open communication and collaboration. Speaking of….

Communicate outside of the C-suite 

Communication is the most crucial component in clearing the path to a successful digital transformation. But it won’t work if it’s not happening throughout the organization. Leadership must communicate its plan for change and transformation outside of the C-suite, not just when employees are apprehensive about new initiatives. Without this, you’ll have no way of predicting outcomes. These are insights gained only when you keep your people in the loop. Do whatever it takes to ensure everyone is tuned in, and provide safe spaces for feedback. Once you have total support, only then is it time to move forward with full adoption of your digital transformation.

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