For many people, digital transformation is about selecting the right hardware and the best software. Buy or build the best tools: get those two things right and you might think the rest will surely follow. But you’d be mistaken.
As we make tracks into 2016, we stand at a crossroads that will define the future of business. Companies must innovate to stay relevant, adapting their technology and their teams for success in the dynamic 21st century.
Digital window dressing
Today you might be giving your business a digital overhaul, bringing in new tools and systems. You might even devise new ways of delivering your products or services. But will they work if the culture and behaviour in your organisation remain unchanged?
In an interview with McKinsey & Company, Ericsson’s chief HR officer, Bina Chaurasia reveals how Ericsson tapped into the power of their people to undergo a successful digital transformation.
Start with culture
As Bina explained, “our culture was our strongest asset.” There was already a mindset among Ericsson employees that collaboration and innovation are important. Employees were also aligned with the brand’s wider purpose of creating technology that helps people and communities.
If your culture isn’t quite as robust, this is where you can take the Barclays approach: select staff that are already aligned with your wider aims and empower them to help their colleagues understand the benefit of the transformation process.
When undergoing any change in business it can be normal practice to make the decisions at the top, hand the edicts down to management and let the bulk of the staff scrabble to adapt and catch up. This is something that Bina feels she and her colleagues didn’t get quite right.
No matter how alien it might feel, it’s necessary to open up communication from top to bottom, and leave the lines open. This doesn’t mean that everyone has a say in everything, but when people are suddenly told that the way they work is changing, they can become very resistant.
Use your ambassadors for change as a way of keeping teams up to date, and show them why change is both important and beneficial.
When Ericsson began their process of digital transformation they had twenty three regional groups, all of whom had their own processes and ways of working. There were no joined up systems, and the different groups often worked in isolation. Now they have ten groups, all of whom share platforms and processes.
You don’t need to be a global corporation to learn from this. The more teams and silos you have, the harder it is for people to deal with change and support each other. They begin to think that what’s going on won’t apply to them, and perhaps if they carry on with business as usual everything will be OK. This is a dangerous belief that must be tackled if businesses wish to successfully implement their digital transformation into the psyche of all employees.
Getting on the front foot
Two other critical elements that are vital for your new digital approach: iterate, and be ready to fail. You cannot precisely predict the next technology that’s due to change your world. Your best hope lies in an approach that may appear unnatural if not altogether unreasonable: work faster, make as many mistakes as you can and learn from each failure.
Some of the world’s foremost innovators and visionaries all share this trait – they learn faster by doing more in a short space of time, learning from their failures to strive for greatness. Elon Musk’s SpaceX program is a case in point. What began as a revolutionary idea – that rockets launched into space could be flown back to earth and landed safely – has now become a reality.
In the face of massive adversity, repeated failures and mounting pressure, Elon Musk’s resolve remained strong as he crashed his way to success. Each instance of “failure” was actually a stepping stone to success.
Remember that your people are your greatest asset. They are not only vital to the continued success of your business, but employees who feel supported and empowered will be the best advocates you can have for your brand.
If you fail to impact the minds of employees and change the way they work then digital transformation will never happen and will just be a costly exercise in futility. Culture is the key that unlocks the door to nimble and dynamic business growth.
We’ll be discussing more aspects of digital transformation at our event on the 1st of March in London.
By James Moffat, founder & Managing Director, Organic
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