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May 7, 2024

Ready for Digital Transformation? Invest in Your Culture First

Group of business professionals collaborating, holding puzzle pieces together.

It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in: Digital transformation is on the front of every business’ mind. While the definition may vary from source to source, the long and short of digital transformation involves a company looking at how it can utilize digital assets to drive improved business outcomes.

Digital assets alone don’t create great businesses, however. Technology is only a piece of the pie. Digital transformation breaks down into a people-led, technology-enabled process that has no endpoint – but is more essential than ever.

When talking about digital transformation, there’s one question I hear more than any other: “Where (and how) do we start our digital transformation?”

Most of the time, the people asking me the question want to know which technology they need. Is it data or cloud? Perhaps a mobile-first strategy? My answer, however, always surprises people: I tell them that it isn’t a tech-led activity. It’s tech enabled, but it’s people led. I always tell people who ask that question to start with their culture.

Small companies struggle to create strong cultures. It’s not because they don’t want to. In fact, many small companies set out with the best of intentions, and they work extremely hard to drive positive business culture.

With growth, however, comes new layers that are hard to continuously add. Things like professional development and successful implementation of new technology often suffer. Business owners and leaders get so caught up in working in the business that they struggle to work on the business. It sounds something like: “Sure, we need that new CRM solution. We’ll get to that tomorrow …” Often, tomorrow becomes a few months later – or sometimes never.

Perhaps you’ve read the studies about how 50% of IT projects fail. I often quote this statistic, and then ask the person I’m speaking with to think about it. Do 50% of software and hardware solutions not work? Of course not. But the business doesn’t have a change-ready mentality. People are scared of change, and threatened by the way new technology will impact the business. This doesn’t drive people to get behind projects – instead, it slows projects down. If the culture gets bad enough, it can grind projects to a screeching halt.

Whether it’s seeking successful tech projects, growing your employees, or seeking innovation in customer experience, these things happen most effectively when they’re incubating inside a company with people who buy into where the business is going. Too often, the way we seek transformation (digital or not) is by asking our employees to “just do it” because we asked them to.

If you want to transform your business for the better, and maximize the potential of your digital assets, you need to think about the people involved in your digital transformation. This starts inside the walls of your organization, and it comes from inspiring them by talking about what’s possible when technology is paired with a vision – and how to stay relevant in times of change, amazing customers through experiences that meet their needs and are worth sharing with their friends.

To do this takes courage to change the way you lead people, and to put building a change-ready culture ahead of throwing technology at people problems in hopes that it will fix them.

The companies that succeed in digital transformation understand this. They lead their change with people, they execute it with technology, and they run circles around companies that attempt to “manage people” into embracing change.

It’s culture driven. It starts with leadership, and the results are exponential. If you want to know where to start, start with people. Build culture and watch just how amazingly the technology investments will perform when people buy in to where the business is going.  —Dan Newman, Cofounder of V3*Broadsuite

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