Creating a culture of digital transformation - Microsoft research

Ross MacKenzie
Tags: Microsoft

Microsoft has released a research report, looking into the importance of incorporating a change in culture across the business when creating a digital transformation strategy.

The study, Creating a culture of digital transformation, evaluates the views of UK employees – ranging from the CEO’s to those in junior positions – and across industry, to conclude that encouraging and supporting cultural change is crucial to driving a successful digital transformation.

As Cindy Rose, Microsoft UK CEO and Area Vice President, writes in her foreword, “Digital transformation is not a technology deployment or an IT exercise, it’s a people exercise.”

A key finding is that while business leaders believe they’re role to be central to orchestrating and leading a transformation, commitment across the business is essential, and all employees should have “the tools and support to innovate, fail, and collaborate with the new technologies”.

The report lists five key challenges facing organisations – irrespective of size, location and industry – when looking to introduce culture change to support digital transformation:

1. Collaboration not competition: with this challenge, Microsoft explains that organisations should be reassuring employees, encouraging them to see that the new technology is being introduced to improve collaboration within the business, as well as with customers, partners, and any third parties, etc., rather than setting them up in competition for their jobs – with the ‘robots’.

2. Embracing fear: with 49 percent of the employees surveyed by Microsoft admitting to fearing changes required for digital transformation, it’s vital for businesses to include in any transformation strategy a recognition that change generally arouses fear – and particularly in the workplace – and introduce measures to proactively manage concerns.

3. Demonstrating value:  digital transformation to be successful cannot result from a top-down approach, but requires buy-in from across the organisation. This requires employees to be given access to the relevant resources and tools to be able to properly appreciate the new technology, as well as to feel that their individual feedback is valued.

4. Respecting the ecosystem: internal factors will have a significant impact on the creation of any digital transformation strategy. But, organisations also need to look at those governed by the wider infrastructure, defined by political, ethical, legal and regulatory influences, for example.

5. Living agile: “Thriving in a digital world requires speed and constant adjustment,” are the words with which Microsoft opens the report’s section on the final challenge, while going on to advise organisations to move away from “traditional command and control” to a more agile “networks and nodes” structure. Surveyed business leaders put lack of agility as one of the top two barriers to successful digital transformation.

Advice to help organisations ‘live agile’ includes treating digital transformation as an ongoing process, and one designed as a series of overlapping phases (rather than as individual stages to be begun and completed before the next can start). Microsoft also advocates being seen to encourage innovation, as well as feedback – bearing in mind that within a business there will be those enthusiastic about change, and those against.

Cindy Rose writes, “With the rise of AI and machine learning, technology is altering every aspect of the corporate and social landscape, fundamentally changing the way we communicate and disrupting established business practices.”

But, many businesses are failing to be able to take advantage of the opportunities created by technology in the face of lack of cultural change within the organisation. Microsoft’s paper concludes with the research result that a majority of organisations are only now starting out on a journey of cultural change – 23 percent of businesses in the UK – while emphasising that it’s the businesses incorporating cultural change into their digital transformation strategy that are the ones that are “getting it right”.

To download a copy of the report, visit the Microsoft website

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