Gartner Symposium 2018: Why culture hacks spell digitisation success

Changing the way people do their day-to-day work is the hardest part of a CIO’s job. Gartner has a few tips on how to twist people’s arms

At its largest European conference, analyst firm Gartner has discussed strategies that IT leaders can adopt to streamline the roll-out of digital initiatives.

IT chiefs often regard cultural barriers in their organisations as the main challenge when scaling out a digital strategy across the business, and Gartner’s research found that 46% of CIOs report culture as the biggest barrier to change.

During the Gartner Symposium keynote presentation in Barcelona, Jessy Sussin, managing vice-president at Gartner, discussed the importance of culture change to the success of digital transformation initiatives. “Cultural change leads to 33%  lower implementation time,” she said.

Sussin described how “culture hacking” could be used to make small changes that resonate across an organisation. Culture is a barrier, but people adapt, she said.

But culture does not have to be a barrier, said Sussin “Most organisations approach culture by trying to boil the ocean,” she said. “Find vulnerable points in your culture and turn them into real change that sticks. Hacking is about doing smaller actions that usually get overlooked.”

Sussin said great hacks usually trigger emotional responses and are visible to a lot of people at once. For example, she described how one Gartner client’s approach to encouraging a cultural shift was to forbid any meetings taking place that did not work towards its new digital strategy.

Research from Gartner has forecast that, by 2021, CIOs will be as responsible for cultural change as human resources departments are today. “Dynamic organisations turn culture from a barrier into an accelerator,” said Sussin. “Great hacks are easy – you should be able to design a culture hack in 48 hours.”

She also suggested redefining how managers recognise good work by their staff. A small gift may have a bigger effect than simply saying “thank you”, said Sussin.

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Another of Sussin’s culture hacks is to encourage staff to use sticky labels, such as Post-Its. “A wall full of Post-It notes encourages business orientation,” she said.

Sussin described how one organisation’s IT team were encouraged to write down on a Post-It note the business benefit of every project they completed.

By creating a culture of “yes”, organisations can develop an agile mindset, she said. This means the IT department needs to be in a position where it can have a discussion with the business.

Sussin said business leaders should also encourage staff to take ownership of their ideas, and effectively become CEOs for their ideas.

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