When we hear the phrase 'Digital Transformation,' our minds typically jump to technology. We think of modern web and mobile experiences, connected devices in our plants and fleets, and how we’ll transform our customer experience via chatbots. The technology behind those capabilities is part of the Digital Transformation, but it’s not the biggest challenge for most enterprises.
In his keynote at the Microsoft Inspire partner conference, Satya Nadella referred to a Culture Transformation, and it immediately froze in my mind. He was describing the significant changes he’s led during his four years as CEO. He took over one of the largest software companies in the world that, by most standards, had been left behind in key areas of the tech evolution during the previous ten years. Yet what Satya spent much of his time explaining had little to do with technology and almost everything to do with culture.
Digital Transformation – or Digital Evolution, as I prefer to call it – inherently involves technology. The words digital and technology are essentially interchangeable in this context. So if the technology isn’t really new, what are we saying when we talk about transforming through technology?
The mistake many companies make is believing that if they say words like agile, artificial intelligence, and chatbot often enough, the benefits of those technologies will just happen. They’re under the mistaken impression they can keep building business cases and projects the same way, funding projects the same way, selecting vendor partners using the same methods as before, and somehow, because they’re using the words of the Digital Evolution, the results will follow.
For Digital Evolution to have any impact, there must be a fundamental shift in enterprise culture. Business leaders of traditional businesses are under pressure to deliver customer experiences akin to modern Silicon Valley startups. Every week, another executive is telling us they’re being challenged to become the Amazon (or Uber, or Netflix) of their industry. Ironically, the technology that’s allowed those firms to prosper may be the least important contributor to their growth. My examples wouldn’t be here without technology as we know it, but folks – that’s not why they’re successful. They’re successful because they changed the game. They “think different” about everything they do. They’re willing to try new things at an accelerated pace. They define success not by avoiding failure but instead by focusing on the desired outcomes and challenging the norms until they reach the target. And then they raise the bar and the cycle starts again.
If you’re a business leader or technical team trying to implement a Digital Evolution in your company, I challenge you to step back and think about your enterprise culture for a moment.
If you’ve been with the company for a while, think back to how you were making decisions five to ten years ago. Are those processes largely the same? If they are, you’re not ready for Digital Evolution.
Can you think of examples where you encouraged your team to try five new things, even if they weren’t sure they would work? If not, again, you may not be ready for Digital Evolution.
The technology that underlies Digital Evolution is a means to the end. Many leaders are doing themselves a disservice by focusing on the technology rather than the mindset and the outcomes.
The most success from Digital Evolution will come from Culture Transformation, just as Satya Nadella is doing with his “little startup.”
Have questions about Digital Evolution or want to try it for yourself? Contact us – we can help.
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