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PHOTO: Pim Chu

Grasping the imperative for digital transformation can be a challenge, especially if nothing seems to be wrong with the way your organization currently operates. Yet shortcomings in organizational culture are one of the main barriers to success in the digital age.

Changing culture doesn’t happen overnight. In particular, transforming behaviors and patterns from “the way things have always been done” takes time. However, some techniques to motivate people to change — like breaking down silos, collaborating more effectively and encouraging risk taking — will drive your digital transformation.

Related Article: 3 Decisions That Matter in Digital Transformation

Break Down Silos

You can’t deny that digital is transforming business systems, customer relationships, technology and the workforce. In fact, according to a McKinsey survey, a third of key decision makers said culture is the most significant barrier to digital effectiveness, followed closely by a lack of alignment in the organizational structure and a lack of internal alignment.

According to research conducted by Deloitte on behalf of Workplace by Facebook, 69% of C-level executives believe company culture, especially transparency in internal communications, is critical to their organization’s ability to realize its mission and vision. 

Embracing a digital culture can be challenging as employees struggle to mobilize around consistent touchpoints, new technologies and new ways of working. But organizations must move beyond traditional structures, processes and systems to change individual and collective behavior. In order to shift team and group dynamics, organizations can do the following:

  • Embrace transparency. Implementing a digital culture can be a challenge, especially if your organization suffers from a “silo mentality.” Strive for open and honest communication, both top-down and bottom-up.
  • Build cross-functional project teams. Cross-functional teams help organizations put their customers first by encouraging effective communication and collaboration. Digital transformation projects should have experts from different areas of the business to ensure all perspectives are accounted for. Some organizations to draw from are sales, finance, marketing, operations and human resources.
  • Use collaboration tools. Instead of email, try apps like Slack or Microsoft Teams. You can also try collaborating on documents instead of emailing them back and forth. This helps you share information and more efficiently work toward common goals.

Related Article: Give Employees a Voice in Your Cultural Change Initiative

Collaborate to Build a Single View of the Customer

“[A single view of the customer] is the most critical foundation of a customer centric approach,” said Dave Cherry, executive advisor for Cherry Advisory, LLC, in an interview with Gary Drenik. “Achieving this will result in an improved customer experience, improved employee experience, cost savings, revenue growth and increased customer loyalty.”

A recent Deloitte survey asked C-suite executives for their perspectives on the future of work. Their responses revealed that only 14% of leaders were completely satisfied with their organization’s current ability to communicate and collaborate.

When an organization’s culture is fast-moving and digitally-dependent, employees often use their own preferred tools and solutions without collaborating or sharing information. This can lead to inconsistent perspectives on customers and their needs.

To ensure your organization is building a holistic and single customer view, ask the following questions:

  • How good is our data? Bad data doesn’t just lessen your ability to communicate — it can impact productivity and ultimately revenue.
  • How much time are we spending validating the data we collect? When you’re spending all your time collecting and managing data, the quality of the information can fall by the wayside. Make sure you are incorporating time to validate and clean your data.
  • How do we manage the data we collect from our customers? You need consistent strategies for handling your customer data, regardless of its origins. Responsibility for data accuracy should not be siloed to a single team.
  • How close are we to a single view of our customer? A single customer view shows you all the interactions a customer has had with your company, including all their relevant contact information and preferences. Make sure you aren’t dealing with siloed data because you’ve forgotten to consult a colleague or have forgotten about a legacy system.

Related Article: 'Good Enough' Data Will Never Be Good Enough

Encourage Risk-Taking

In a fast-moving digital culture, agility is key as employees must feel empowered to try new (and unproven) initiatives. To drive agility, leaders must reinforce digital skills, processes and technologies within their organizations.

Failing fast, a traditional tenet of agile software development, is important for digital transformation initiatives because it activates innovation. Leaders must be intentional in building a culture where employees feel comfortable trying things that might fail. Focus on eliminating bureaucratic decision-making and shift your focus to innovation rather than strictly efficiency — and don’t forget to celebrate the iterative nature of progress.

A key component to failing fast is reflection and growth. You must encourage team members to share what didn’t work so the entire organization can learn, rather than remain stuck in stasis. Your team needs to have the skillsets to use the insights and data generated from these new initiatives to drive further change, which may require a shift in mindset or additional training.

Shifting to a digital culture takes time, but the sooner you get started, the faster you’ll see results. Any digital transformation will — by its nature — remain a work in progress. This experimentation involves calculated risk, but that experimentation will ultimately drive results and lead your organization to new successes.