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Why digital transformation is about more than just technology

By Greg Griffiths | Posted on April 20, 2018

Digital Transformation Culture

Many of the discussions surrounding digital transformation have focused on the technology: mobile applications, cloud platforms, artificial intelligence, big data, etc. However, having the technological foundation to support such innovations is only one piece of the digital transformation puzzle.

To fully embrace this growing trend and reap all the benefits it offers, corporations need to make a major change to their company culture. Digital transformation is about more than just adopting new technologies, such as consumer identity management (CIAM): It's about reinventing your business to be driven by data - and that starts with your team.

Digital transformation defined: More progress needed

Although interest in digital transformation has reached a fever pitch, there's still a lot of work to be done across many industries. According to Dell Technologies, only 5 percent of businesses have reached a state of sophisticated maturity, where the principles of digital transformation have actually become ingrained in their organizations.

Meanwhile, 81 percent are either evaluating their options, waiting for more information to develop or lack a digital plan altogether. These figures speak to the substantial need for sweeping changes to company cultures to foster an environment that embraces advanced technology, digitization and data-driven strategies. Stakeholders must get buy-in across the board - from the C-suite and business end users - to push their digital transformation efforts forward.

Strong company culture is key

For many companies, the status quo can become a warm blanket, comforting to employees who have only ever done things one way. The technology associated with a digital transformation strategy can radically change internal processes and workflows, and that can easily cause stress and trepidation.

Moving on-premises assets to the cloud or launching an omnichannel customer experience platform may seem disruptive and radical to staff members used to the traditional way. As such, it can be difficult to get full support for these kinds of initiatives if business leaders don't first take the time to refocus their organizations with data-driven strategies in mind.

In fact, Gartner analyst Aashish Gupta warned that failing to cultivate the proper cultural mindset could put digital transformation strategies at risk.

"For any transformation to be successful, people need to buy into your vision," said Gupta. "The culture aspect and the technology demand equal attention from the application leader, because culture will form the backbone of all change initiatives for their digital business transformation. Staff trapped in a 'fixed' mindset may slow down or, worse, derail the digital business transformation initiatives of the company."

Creating a data-driven culture

How can businesses go about laying that cultural foundation for innovation? There are a few key steps to consider:

  • Creating and selling a digital transformation vision.
  • Assuaging fear of change.
  • Allowing for experimentation and potential failure.

It all starts with developing a strong vision. Change for the sake of change won't win over staff members who don't see a problem with the status quo. Company leaders need to show everyone why evolution is necessary and create a compelling argument for shifting focus toward digital technologies.

A strong technological roadmap provides stakeholders with a clear idea of where their company is going, what their ultimate destination is and what checkpoints they should hit along the way.

Take omnichannel retail and brand manufacturing, for instance. Industry members are well-aware that traditional brick-and-mortar stores are losing customers in droves to e-commerce shops. They can't abandon physical store channels, however, as they remain a major source of income and many consumers prefer to shop there. To not only survive in this climate, but thrive and surpass the competition, retailers and brand manufacturers alike need to support both digital and physical challenges, and intertwine the two to create a singular customer experience.

Framing the digital transformation vision around these impending market changes makes it clear that companies must evolve to weather the storm and come out the other side stronger than ever. Moreover, it gives stakeholders a better understanding of what technology will be required to turn that vision into a reality. In this case, using customer identity management solutions to bridge the divide between disparate platforms and channels.

Another important element to cultivating a digital-focused company culture is making it safe to fail. Not all digital technologies will bear immediate fruit, if they ever do at all. That uncertainty can be paralyzing for teams that are judged by the success and failure of their latest projects.

Companies need to give their digital transformation teams time to develop new solutions and see how they pan out. Even projects that fail to deliver immediate ROI can be helpful learning experiences for later developments.

Gupta went a step further, stating that companies should foster a "psychologically safe" environment for stakeholders to ask for help, admit they have knowledge gaps or have made mistakes. This mindset will help companies embrace the experimental spirit underpinning digital transformation.

Once businesses have the right culture in place, technological innovation won't be far behind.

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About the author

Greg Griffiths

Sr. Product Marketing Manager

Greg Griffiths brings more than 15 years' experience marketing SaaS solutions in the enterprise IT, publishing and education arenas to Janrain as our Senior Product Marketing Manager. Greg drives much of Janrain's content and works across groups to ensure cohesive and articulate presentation of how our products and services align with the needs of our clients and the larger market. An analytics geek, Greg also steers much of Janrain's internal SEO and conversion initiatives, as well as new product launches. 

When Greg is away from our Portland office, he's likely enjoying time with his kids, near a trout stream, in a hammock, with a Faulkner novel close by ... probably all four at the same time.

View all posts by Greg Griffiths