Last month, I had the opportunity to host a roundtable discussion on how to drive cultural change in support of digital transformation at the New South Wales (NSW) Digital Transformation Summit in Sydney. This post highlights some of the insights and discussions from the session between myself and the 15 attendees.
Digital Transformation is diverse
The line-up for the event had speakers from a variety of industries, such as an Australian Football League club, a charity and an energy company. This diversity was shared by those who participated in our discussion.
The group featured representatives from IT to marketing, but all were interested in a shared challenge: the cultural element of digital transformation. Plus, all of them agreed with and understood the need for digital transformation in order to remain competitive in their respective markets.
Cultural change is probably the hardest part of transformation
Early in the conference a delegate made the statement that the technology aspect of digital transformation is the easy part; the challenge came in changing the mindset of the organization to fully realize the value from the change initiative (regardless of what digital transformation initiative that is).
This was echoed in our discussion in the roundtable as many of those present were struggling with this very problem. The most common challenges included senior management support, support from other areas of the organization and investing in people to make the change a success.
There are no quick or easy solutions for any of these, but generally those organizations who were investing in cultural change were seeing greater returns on their digital transformation initiatives.
How do we measure cultural improvements?
Early on in our discussion one big topic was how to measure cultural changes and improvements. Many of the metrics that can be used are generally softer and more difficult to tie directly to financial benefits; think employee satisfaction ratings or a metric managing employee behaviour. This in turn can result in either a lack of senior support or loss of focus as the initiative progresses.
Two alternative suggestions came from the group. The first was using OKRs (Objectives and Key Results). These focus on outcomes instead of outputs and can be a useful tool in looking at changing behaviours in an organization.
The second suggestion was to think more creatively about the changes and ultimately finding the appropriate metrics. One member of our discussion shared how her organization has been measuring the volume of emails sent, i.e. tasking staff to reduce the amount of emails and instead focus on other tasks. This is easily measurable, tied to behavioural change and, most importantly, had senior management support as they understood the value of the change.
Focus on a strong vision over long-term planning
A theme throughout the conference which continued into our discussion was the importance of developing a strong vision for digital transformation initiatives, particularly for long-term detailed planning. With technology, industry best practice and market conditions evolving rapidly, detailed long-term planning often means that organizations become too rigid, are unable to respond to change and waste valuable resources developing plans which will soon be outdated.
Instead, focusing on a strong vision enables an organization to have a clear direction while also maintaining the ability to be responsive and flexible to change.
The key topics discussed during the session all tie in closely with the major themes of AXELOS’ latest best practice guidance, AgileSHIFT®. Digital transformation for most if not all organizations today will be critical to stay competitive in their market, but as discussed, this doesn’t start with technology. The much greater challenge is transforming the organization to continually support these initiatives.
Thanks to everyone who participated in our roundtable. I hope sharing some of these key themes offered some useful insights in how some of the challenges organizations are currently facing can be solved.
Read more AXELOS Blog Posts by Tom Lynam
The communication problem
Generalists vs. Specialists – what will the PPM future bring?
The Importance of Vision: a case study of the PRINCE2 2017 update
Defining the delta
How to be comfortable with feeling uncomfortable