Digital transformation has become a major theme in all organizations. It is a direct consequence of the digital revolution taking place in all modern economies. It is based on several major pillars, such as universal use of the Internet, mobility, instantaneity and the Internet of Things.
Pore than a simple 'buzzword', this digital revolution is creating real challenges for companies of all sizes, which in order to remain competitive, must respond to the changing needs of their customers and conquer new markets, and imperatively reinvent themselves, transform their processes, gain agility, at the risk of disappearing.
No wonder this digital transformation has become a key factor in their operational efficiency and thus a source of growth and profitability.
However, it is clear that the digital transformation is not only solved by means of innovative technological tools and financial investments, as a large number of unfortunate experiences can testify. The introduction of new tools is certainly essential today, but to get the best out of them, they must be adopted by all. This is where corporate culture comes in. Because the challenge of digital transformation is to stimulate the growth of organizations as a whole, but also to continuously modify and improve employees' work processes to make them more efficient, so that they in turn generate growth.
However, in addition to strong values (ethics, transparency, team spirit, etc.), it is behaviour, management methods and work processes that define a company culture. This is both a good and a bad thing. A good thing because it helps to perpetuate an identity and values. It is bad because by freezing old habits and processes, it acts as a powerful brake on change.
A difference in perception between management and employees
A study conducted in June 2017 by Cap Gemini confirms this and highlights that corporate culture is the number one barrier to digital transformation, with 62% of respondents in 340 organizations in eight countries agreeing. Moreover, the study reveals a significant difference in perception between managers and employees regarding the existence or not of a digital culture within their company. While 40% of executives believe that their organization has a digital culture, only 27% of the employees surveyed hold the same view. Digital culture is defined according to seven criteria: collaborative work practices, innovation, cultural openness, digital focus, customer focus, data-driven decision making, and agility and flexibility. The significant differences in perception between employees and management noted in the survey also concern openness to innovation, collaborative work and the company's digital strategy.
The conclusion of the study is clear: organizations do not sufficiently involve their employees in the process of changing their corporate culture.
Without this cultural transformation at all levels of the organization, there is no real digital transformation possible.
This difference in perception between management and employees is also highlighted in a survey carried out in the United States in 2017 by Atomik Research entitled "The difference in perception between management and employees". Wrike Operational Excellence Reportand carried out on a representative sample of 1,000 people. When asked about the operational performance of their organization, 32% of managers consider it to be very satisfactory, while only 21% of employees feel the same way. Similarly, when asked whether their company operates more efficiently than its main competitor, 33% of managers agree, while 21% of employees do the same.
Therefore, how to transform a corporate culture by changing habits and behaviours to achieve operational excellence while respecting its corporate values?
Six successive steps
Transformation is all about people, and without them, there can be no major breakthrough in the company's digital transition. It is therefore essential that all staff have a common vision and move forward at the same pace on the subject of digital transformation. In order to have the best chances of success in this exercise, six steps should ideally be followed by management.
Identify the issues at stake. The objectives of digital transformation vary from one company to another. For some, it is simply a matter of obtaining a competitive advantage. For others it is a matter of survival. Transformation does not imply that everything will have to change, but requires a thorough review of existing processes. Where can new technologies help? What can they simplify? Which silos need to be broken down? Does the product offering need to be improved? All these questions need to be addressed beforehand.
Take into account aversion to change. It is well known that human beings naturally have a deep aversion to change. As a result, in companies, changes in work organisation are most often accompanied initially by a low rate of adoption of new procedures and new tools, which can lead to a drop in productivity. Indeed, it takes time to master new concepts and to understand and memorize different procedures. Therefore, after choosing a new solution, it is highly recommended to rely from the outset on the consultants within the editor whose mission is to promote the adoption rate within the teams, and to accompany them in the strategic uses of the new tool.
Implement a change management strategy. Too often still forgotten, the implementation of a real change management strategy, encompassing all the company's staff, management and employees alike, is essential throughout a digital transformation process. How will employees react to the introduction of new processes? How to present them? What training programs must be set up on the new tools? What support resources will have to be made available to users? In order to best answer all these questions, various elements will have to be planned.
- The advantages and disadvantages of the new tools and processes will have to be listed and taken into account.
- Each step of the transformation process will have to be planned and monitored like a conventional project management.
- An internal communication plan, targeting the entire organization, will have to be established.
- A project leader will have to be designated, a referent for the whole process.
Building step by step a corporate culture focused on excellence. Processes in companies are no longer linear or sequential, but conditional. Frequent changes in the conditions underpinning a project or strategy, which is now becoming the norm, may require changes within one or more pre-established processes, and teams must be able to adapt to these changes in time. Digital transformation cannot succeed without the principle of continuous process improvement, and this principle must be embedded in the corporate culture. Organisations that have acquired their digital culture all implement a regular review of their processes to gain in quality and efficiency.
Create a team of supporters internally. No internal transformation project can be carried out without supporters to spread the word and convert the sceptics and undecided to their cause. Recruiting this team of supporters, selected from early adopters, at an early stage is essential to ensure that the rate of adoption of new processes and tools will increase at the desired pace.
Communicate regularly during the transition and measure results step by step. Ongoing reporting of progress will be required at all stages of the process by the project leader. This includes highlighting successes, clarifying objectives where necessary, and reporting on additional training or changes in the pace of the transition where necessary.
In addition, and finally, performance indicators will have to be determined and measured: number of users, level of satisfaction, return on investment, turnaround time, etc.
Four main disciplines seem to move companies forward in their daily tasks: planning, process definition, collaboration and visibility. These four major disciplines provide a solid foundation for optimally executing work in teams: today, large global companies emphasizing these areas throughout their organization and constantly optimizing their applications are significantly improving their overall output and quality. The adoption of digital and the allocation of the time needed to devote to these 4 disciplines to serve the company's objectives, are proof of the adoption of a culture of internal excellence.