“Digital transformation is not a technology deployment or an IT exercise, it’s a people exercise,” Cindy Rose, Microsoft UK CEO and Area Vice President, writes in the foreword to Microsoft’s Creating a culture of digital transformation.

Featuring the views of organisations – from those of CEOs to junior employees – across a range of industries and against a background of an evolving UK landscape, Microsoft reports on how encouraging and supporting cultural change is crucial to driving a successful digital transformation.

Key among the findings is that, while leaders remain pivotal to directing the transformation, it is essential to have buy-in across the business, with all employees “given the tools and support to innovate, fail, and collaborate with the new technologies”.

The report highlights five key challenges that organisations need to address when developing a culture supportive of digital transformation – organisations regardless of size, location or industry:

1. Collaboration not competition: the aim here is to emphasise to the business that the reason behind the introduction of the new technology is to enhance collaboration – across the business, with customers, third parties etc. – and alleviate concern of the ‘robots’ taking over.

2. Embracing fear: Microsoft reports that 49 percent of the employees questioned for the study fear change arising from digital transformation initiatives. It’s, therefore, essential for organisations to recognise that change arouses fear, particularly in the work environment, and put measures in place to proactively manage concerns.

3. Demonstrating value: to be successful long-term, digital transformation cannot be a top-down exercise, but must involve buy-in from across the organisation. Employees must therefore be given the resources and tools to experience the new technology, to feel ‘included’ and that feedback and input is valued.

4. Respecting the ecosystem: while internal factors will have a major bearing on any digital transformation strategy, organisations also need to take into consideration the wider ecosystem, affected by political, ethical, legal and regulatory factors.

5. Living agile: Microsoft heads the section looking at this fifth and final challenge with “Thriving in a digital world requires speed and constant adjustment”, and advocates replacing a “traditional command and control” format with more agile “networks and nodes”. The study reports business leaders citing lack of agility as one of the top two barriers to a successful digital transformation.

And to help organisations ‘live agile’ Microsoft advises looking at digital transformation as an ongoing process, developed through the implementation of overlapping phases. They also suggest developing a forum for feedback, particularly for comments on areas likely to create conflict, and to be seen to be encouraging innovation – while actively acknowledging that the response to innovation across the business with include a mix of those embracing and those resistant to change.

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.”

Yet many organisations are unable to take advantage of the benefits the new technology delivers, due to insufficient cultural change within the organisation. The study concludes with the finding that the majority of organisations are only now starting out on the journey – 23 percent of UK businesses, according to the report – while it’s clear that those that embark on a digital transformation strategy that incorporates cultural change are the organisations that are “getting it right”.

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

 

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