Digital Transformation

Clark Tibbs

Digital Transformation is a buzz word that seems to be getting a lot of steam right now. It used to be just “transformation” and “innovation”. Then someone added “digital” in front and it took on a life of its own. The topic, however, is real, and the impacts are just as real.

But I’m going to commit a little bit of heresy.  You see, in my mind, and my mind is a dangerous place at the best of times, in my mind the technology, the digital part, is not really that important.  While it is the impetus for change there are a couple of things that are more important.  One of which I’m going to talk about today.

Culture.  And not the stuff in yogurt, it’s the people and the the community that they have created within the organization.  And that’s what we are talking about, a community.  And as with each community you have leaders and you have followers.  But these are not necessarily the organizational leaders, indeed, they are frequently not the community leaders.  That’s something that many organizational leaders forget.

It’s the people that can make or break a digital transformation.  It is the people that decide whether or not to support an initiative or, by declining to support it, suddenly provide another form of resistance to the change.  An organizational change that is radical requires significant support of the culture.  An organizational change that purports to be radical, but isn’t, doesn’t require as much support, but does lose the goodwill of the culture.

I wrote recently about how when implementing changes it was important to get the culture on side before any organizational changes.  Digital transformation is just another change that needs to be worked out with the culture before being imposed on the organization.

Unlike the factory floors of 150 years ago, modern organizations are much more fluid and much more reliant upon their staff to maintain a competitive advantage.  Companies have access to the same technology as every other company so access to technology is not the differentiator.  The people within the company, those that purchase the technology, those that dream up uses for the technology and those that use the technology, all have an influence on the acceptance of the technology.

If the culture has been built on the idea of failure is not bad, then new technology is more likely to be accepted, more likely to be used to transform and more likely to be a success.  If there is a culture of blame, then digital transformation is going to seem like an impossible dream.

The culture needs to be changed, needs to be primed, to accept a digital transformation effort.  Without that change expect things to take longer and be less successful.  The choice is yours.

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