It is already time to adapt and survive, or become the next Kodak, Nokia or Blockbusters, all overtaken and rendered irrelevant by challengers they did not take seriously. For organisations that wish to remain relevant, and not become part of the 40% of Fortune 100 companies that are predicted to no longer exist in 10 years’ time, Digital Transformation is a necessity rather than just a buzzword. Companies now need to “be digital” rather than just “go digital”. This means understanding and integrating digital practices into every area of the organisation. Unless a company truly embraces what it means to ‘be digital’ then obsolescence beckons rapidly.
Intrinsically linked to the success of digital transformation in business is culture change. “Culture leads to technology adoption. The ability to innovate depends on the impatience of the organisational culture,” says IoT and Big Data evangelist Sandeep Rault. Companies and individuals have to understand, and willingly embrace, the cultural changes organisations must implement to build sustainable digital strategies.
What is your company’s culture?
Culture is not an easy thing to identify in the first place. We spoke with Antonio Palacios, Learning Experience Manager at the Digital Skills Academy who described culture as “a set of behaviours inspired by broadly accepted values and beliefs. To change the culture [of a company] you have to change both”. Once you have worked out what your company culture is, you need to decide on how you are going to shift values and beliefs to embed your digital transformation. Palacios explained that you need to “build a digital maturity model – a roadmap to describe and assess various desired progressive stages that drive change within the company – clearly capturing where your company is today and where you want it to stand.”
What will the future look like?
At the recent EU Future of Work conference in Estonia, it was clearly stated that companies are facing a challenge of major proportions to remain relevant, or even in business. Kersti Kaljulaid, the youngest ever and current President of Estonia clearly spelled out the cultural and work challenges in Europe. “We need to be proactive about ways for people to work in the future as self-employment is only going to increase”.
Kaljulaid, President of arguably Europe’s most cutting-edge country in terms of e-citizenship and other online digital initiatives, explains that digitally driven innovations provide opportunities for all areas of society. “Tech jobs are being created, and they are equalisers. They are not reserved for tech savvy people – the services and jobs created often benefit a wide range of people across the social strata. Like Uber and Airbnb they create jobs for a wide range of people”. But while millennials working for digital mastodons or tech start-ups might have less trouble adapting to digital transformation strategies and the ripple effect on company culture, the general talent pool will need time, communication and guidance.
Communicating your digital transformation plans
The challenge then is for companies, and governments alike, to identify what is required to implement your innovative plans, and then effectively communicate what you have done, what you plan to do, and how you will do it. Palacios highlights the importance of having “evangelist programmes, (which) are excellent agents for change, (and) company evangelists who are effective in broadcasting a positive, consistent, authentic message about the company.”
It is also important for the leaders of companies to endorse cultural changes. Any examples showing the top tier of the organisation has not bought into them are quickly noticed and undermine the intended changes. On leadership, Palacios emphasised that leaders must “lead by example.” Kaljulaid reinforced this need for leadership to also come from those who make policies at a national and international level. “Governments are still grappling with the digital disruption to their services.” She explained that it is vital for governments to set the right example for businesses and citizens – by taking the lead in digital transformation initiatives.
Managing your digital footprint carefully
As we enter Industry 4.0, our next industrial revolution, some have questioned if the new round of automation and AI (Artificial Intelligence) driven practices will remove the need for human workers. Others are more optimistic. They see these new developments as aids to help humans work on the things that humans do best; creativity, innovation, and other areas that cannot be automated. But again, these developments need to be clearly communicated and embedded in a company’s culture to foster a holistic approach to digital disruptions.
In this context, our digital footprint, the digital presence or mark that we – as individuals – present to the outside world, will be as much a part of us as our own shadows. Palacios describes the value of having a digital presence in the following way: “Digital makes us more efficient and effortlessly smarter. Conversations have transitioned from trivial fact-finding to the hard questions of ‘How, Why?’ Why would you invest time in building a digital footprint that is not a useful extension of yourself? Why would your offline presence differ from your online one? How is your reputation affected if a difference is spotted?”
We live in exciting, but uncertain times. The challenge is to work out what role we want to play as the organisations around us also re-evaluate their culture and their own digital transformations. It looks more and more likely that those who prepare for their own digital transformation will be able to adapt faster than those who have not done so.