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Fix culture to make digital a success

Businesses with well-honed processes will often find it hard to adapt to new, digital transformation initiatives, according to Gartner report

Resistance to change is the biggest barrier CIOs are likely to face as they attempt to execute a digitisation strategy across the workforce.

In its The resilience premium of digital business report, analyst Gartner has advised CIOs that digital transformation requires significant changes to culture and systems.

A recent survey found that only a small number of organisations have been able to successfully scale their digital initiatives beyond the experimentation and piloting stages.

Marcus Blosch, research vice-president at Gartner, said: “To change an organisation designed for a structured, ordered, process-oriented world to one designed for ecosystems, adaptation, learning and experimentation is hard. Some organisations will navigate that change, and others that can’t change will become outdated and be replaced.”

According to Gartner, digital innovation can only be successful when a culture of collaboration exists in the business, as people have to be able to work across boundaries and explore new ideas. In reality, most organisations are stuck in a culture of change-resistant silos and hierarchies, the analyst firm warned.

“Culture is organisational ‘dark matter’ – you can’t see it, but its effects are obvious,” said Blosch.

Gartner has found that issues of ownership and control of processes, information and systems make people reluctant to share their knowledge.

Digital innovation, with its collaborative cross-functional teams, is often very different from what employees are used to with regards to functions and hierarchies – resistance is inevitable.

“The challenge is that many organisations have developed a culture of hierarchy and clear boundaries between areas of responsibilities. Digital innovation requires the opposite: collaborative cross-functional and self-directed teams that are not afraid of uncertain outcomes,” said Blosch.

He recommended that CIOs aiming to establish a digital culture should start small by defining a digital mindset, then assemble a digital innovation team, which is shielded from the rest of the organisation to let the new culture develop. Connections between the digital innovation and core teams can then be used to scale new ideas and spread the culture.

“It’s not necessary to have everyone on board in the early stages. Try to find areas where interests overlap, and create a starting point. Build a first version, test the idea and use the success story to gain the momentum needed for the next step,” said Blosch.

CIOs may also encounter difficulties when areas of the business are not be ready to be digitised or where there are a lack of relevant skills.

Digital innovation requires an organisation to adopt a different approach. People, processes and technology blend to create new business models and services.

Employees need new skills focused on innovation, change and creativity, along with the new technologies themselves, such as artificial intelligence (AI) and the internet of things (IoT), Gartner noted.

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