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Culture trumps technology when it comes to digital transformation

October 20, 2017 • General, Opinion, Top Stories

Culture trumps technology when it comes to digital transformation

Craig Mitchelmore, Head at Intervate (North), a T-Systems company.

Alongside buzzwords like “Artificial Intelligence”, “Internet of Things” and “Cloud”, digital transformation is the catch-all umbrella term that covers anything that is considered “disruptive” enough to transform an industry.

Most organisations are rapidly exploring how to implement new and emerging technologies to digitally transform and become disruptors themselves. Some of them are succeeding. Many are not. The reasoning lies not in the implementation of technology, but the rationale behind it and the way in which these technologies are being implemented.

Digital transformation is important, and certainly necessary for evolving at the same rapid pace as both technology and the market is. Growth in a challenging economic climate is vital to retain market relevance and competitive edge. However, to avoid bland digital transformation, technology should not be the focal point but rather the tool used to enable the drivers for digital transformation.

The reason to disrupt
If you consider history though, the underlying principles of transformation have been around for thousands of years. The printing press disrupted the written word as people knew it. Microwave ovens disrupted the way households cooked. FM radio changed the way the world communicated. If you consider these technologies, most – if not all – were met with resistance before becoming adopted in the mainstream. Having said that, a great number of innovations that were poised to disrupt the industry have also failed.

What the printing press, microwave ovens and FM radio had in common was that they directly impacted lives, making the experience of the user far easier and more enjoyable. Today’s market, although considerably more tech-savvy and demanding of greater choice, is not entirely different: people want a better, richer experience.

Enterprises should be asking themselves why they are looking to transform digitally, and then identify the technologies that will answer their need. The motivation for market disruption should not be technology, but the customer and employee experience. This entails giving the customer what they want, while creating a work environment that enables a better working experience for the employee.

Engaging your “people”
Technologies come and go, or they evolve into newer, better technologies. The lifespan of a digital transformation strategy which is centred around technology is limited to the lifespan of that technology. The reason that the headline-making disruptors of industry are succeeding despite technological evolution is because they have created a culture which adapts to this evolution.

They have engaged with their customers and their employers, and have sought to understand their needs. With this understanding, they leveraged technology to innovate, giving their market – and employees – what they want, while enabling an agility to flex with these demands as they arise.

Engagement is an ongoing process. Customer and employee needs change frequently. This is particularly the case with the rise of mercurial, self-service oriented Millennials – and subsequent generational customer.

An adaptable and agile engagement strategy that can withstand the quickly changing technological landscape- creates an environment geared for constant transformation and disruption.

An environment geared for innovation
Organisations need to embrace innovation and innovative mindsets within their business to encourage agility. When an organisation encourages innovative thinking and creates an environment that is specifically geared towards innovation, accessing the right technology to digitally transform becomes a natural progression.

Employees who are equipped with the power to effect change will usually be the first to recommend technologies that will enable them to successfully complete their tasks. These technologies, implemented and integrated properly, will not only empower a workforce, but will also ensure enhanced customer satisfaction due to improved efficiencies and an evolving product and services.

Organisations also need to pay attention to their customers. Truly listen to what they are saying. It is the “age of the customer”, and customers are being increasingly vocal about what they want, how they want it and in which colour. Those businesses that are successfully disrupting their industries are the ones who are listening, and engaging with their customers to deliver a solution that works.

Many businesses may feel that they are perhaps too large or too entrenched in established practices to enable true agility. On the contrary, when considering some of the tech giants such as Google, Amazon and Microsoft, it is evident that innovation inducing agility is a result of culture, and not of size or strategy.

It is often said that “culture eats strategy for breakfast”, and this is particularly true when considering a digital transformation strategy: create a culture that encourages innovation and that drives customer engagement, and you will escape bland digital transformation.

By Craig Mitchelmore, Head at Intervate (North), a T-Systems company


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