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Digital strategy should be everyone’s responsibility

One of the biggest barriers to digital transformation is cultural, so how can organisations overcome this challenge?

Failure to communicate digital strategy often means failing to transform. It is therefore paramount that businesses ensure everyone at an organisation understands the digital strategy.

The most significant barrier to transformation, according to research from Harvard Business Review, are organisational silos (38 per cent). Resistance to change (31 per cent) and organisational structure impeding efforts (29 per cent) were also identified in the top five barriers.

Phil Hawkins, chief executive at digital communications agency 2112, agrees that digital transformation projects are much harder to implement successfully than it would seem.

“Before beginning these projects, it’s important to adopt the ethos that everyone is involved and promote a culture of inclusion. Leading transformation projects requires specialists with combined expertise in business analysis and project management, as well as change management,” he says.

“Change management is key here. It’s important to gain a holistic view of the project and a view that’s independent from the business to get a fresh, unbiased perspective. This will help gain vital insights into the project that may otherwise be missed by specialists who are too close to it.

For the majority of companies, a digital transformation strategy should be well under way, but for Evaris chief executive Mike Cohen, success is hinged on the shift in mindset at all levels within an organisation.“We have also found that projects as big and as daunting as these really benefit from someone who injects enthusiasm into the process to energise all stakeholders to provide a sense of something positive happening, rather than something disruptive with negative consequences.”

“Technology can be a powerful enabler, but must be underpinned by a team that supports the business objectives behind transformation and are aligned both emotionally and procedurally. This typically makes successful transformation very difficult to achieve in practice,” he explains.

“The transformation journey has to start with modernising infrastructure as technology constitutes the essential building blocks required to deliver the products, services, applications and workloads every business needs to operate.”

Companies that have been built from the ground up as technological or digital are bound to find the implementation of an all-​encompassing strategy simpler than one with a significant legacy. For the latter, peer group analysis forms an excellent insight into how to succeed with a digital transformation.

Jonathon Clarke, business and technology manager at Activate, says: “What I always advise companies to do when they’re in this space is look at the successful examples out there. Look at what competitors and similar companies are doing or the people who serve as your target market. There are a lot of shortcuts you might be able to take or quick wins.

It’s important to adopt the ethos that everyone is involved and promote a culture of inclusion

Phil Hawkins, 2112

“Management has a big role to play in this, not in terms of just telling people what to do; I’m talking empowering staff, at all levels of the organisation. Making people feel like they really own their work and that they have a part to play in driving the company forward.”

Incumbents also face difficulties with staff morale, especially when introducing technology capable of replacing workloads currently completed by humans.

As businesses continue to evolve and advance with technology, it is inevitable that companies will streamline and, for some, this will mean redundancies.

Eric Holzhauer, principal manager of strategy and product marketing at MongoDB, concludes: “I think it’s very important to invest in your people skills to make sure you’re giving them a path forward so they can evolve with the company, rather than feeling like they’re being replaced or displaced.

“There’s something to be said for the development of cross-​functional teams that are experts at what they do and able to innovate quickly.”