Digital Transformation with CIOs & CTOs: Culture Shock or Team Strengthening

While, of course, technology has a starring role in digital transformation, organization culture and team strengthening are perhaps even more important. The idea of rolling out new tech and having the whole organization fall in line is compelling. In most cases, however, it isn’t realistic.

It takes planning, foresight, and skill to introduce digital transformation to your organization. It is not enough to introduce new tech and strategies without doing the work of getting the team on board, or you risk enough corporate culture shock that the entire project will fail. 

Many people don’t like change, especially when it impacts something as integral as their work. Digital transformation means a lot of change for everyone in your organization — changes in what they do, how they do it, and how that plays out with other staff, clients, and stakeholders, all of whom are undergoing their own changes, too. If people are not expecting this, are unprepared, or are feeling reluctant or otherwise negative, they won’t embrace those changes readily.

In an ideal world, your organization’s culture will, in fact, drive digital transformation, instead of responding to it. However, in reality, many companies and organizations forge ahead with digital changes, expecting corporate culture to follow. The end result is a lot of frustration and wasted time. 

As a CIO or CTO, what can you do to prepare for and ultimately avoid this culture clash? It takes effort, dedication, and tenacity, working to explain why and how your digital transformation will improve things for everyone, even if it feels messy at first. Here’s what that looks like in practice.

Determine What Your Digital Culture Entails

Just as digital transformation is not the same for every business, strengthening your team to implement a digital culture won’t look the same for you as it does for others, nor will the culture itself. To determine how to transform your organization’s culture, you first have to figure out what the required changes will be. 

As the CIO or CTO of an organization, your focus will be on the tech involved, so you should be working with human resources to translate how the organization’s mission, vision, values, and policies must shift to adopt that technology easily. Consider what the ideal worker looks like in your digitally transformed organization, then determine where you are at now. The gap in between is the potential for culture shock, and what can be mitigated through working with HR.

At the same time, be sure to pay attention to what is working in your existing culture. In most cases, there is no reason to dismantle your corporate culture. You can take advantage of its strengths. If you overtake all of it, your staff may end up feeling frustrated and like you are forcing things from the top down. If you note what is already aligned with your goals and build on that, however, your staff see that you are not changing everything, but rather working with what you have and making improvements. 

Be Transparent

Staff know when change is afoot, and if you want them to embrace it there is no point in trying to hide it. Transparency is key in establishing a digital culture, so as soon as you have worked things out with HR, let your staff know what is happening. Whether it’s open discussions, meetings that allow for staff input, emails, social media groups, or apps like Slack, allow the opportunity for staff to let you know what they are feeling and thinking so you can address any issues as they arise instead of letting it fester. 

Of course, for this to work, your organization culture has to be one that is non-punitive. People should feel free to share their misgivings or apprehensions without fear of reprisal. Your goal is to bring those people around to digital transformation, which can only happen if they are empowered to communicate with you and other key staff.

Moreover, do not just accept that input, but give it due consideration. Innovation is key to digital transformation, and if your staff have ideas that offer something valuable to your organization, listen to it. The goal of digital transformation is to innovate, and oftentimes, that innovation comes from within. 

People tend to work harder, and do better work, if they find that they are meeting the organization’s goals and values in a way that benefits them. Invest in your staff as you invest in digital transformation, with training and education opportunities, and through explaining how your digital transformation strategy will lead to more efficient operations and higher profits, and how that benefits your team in terms of customer satisfaction, pay and benefits, and the overall success of your organization. Instead of mandating that your staff change and deal with it, show them that the entire team and all of its levels are involved, and that it benefits everyone in one way or another. 

Find a Group of Leaders

Every organization has its strong leaders, whether they are in management or otherwise. These are the people all staff look to for motivation, reassurance, and of course, leadership. If they adopt something, others will follow, because they trust the core group. Thus, these are the people you need to tap to showcase how digital transformation will be a positive change. For a CIO or CTO, it often makes sense to work with your IT team first, ensuring that they know how the new tech will impact the department and beyond. 

Bring these people, IT or otherwise, into the fold as role models, and those who are sitting on the fence or otherwise apprehensive may feel more secure. While you are at it, encourage collaboration with your core group of leaders, so other staff will know that they have people to go to with their questions, insights, and concerns.

Don’t Delay

Faced with not only digitally transforming your business, but bringing your entire staff on board with policies, transparency, and role models, it can be tempting to delay your strategy until you feel like everyone is ready. However, if you do that, you may end up waiting for a very long time.

Implementing digital transformation does not have to be an overnight job, especially if you are planning ahead, working with stakeholders and HR, and empowering your group of selected leaders to pave the way. Fear of change is real, even for CIOs and CTOs who know the benefits of digital transformation, and it can hold organizations back for far too long. One aspect of digital transformation and digital culture is a willingness to accept a bit of risk, so consider what that looks like for you and your organization, and be brave enough to dive in when your organization is ready. 

Building Your Team with GroupLink

It’s always helpful to partner with experts as you work your way toward your new digital culture.

The GroupLink team is here to help you navigate digital transformation. Get in touch by calling us at 801.335.0700 or using our contact page

Next, look for our article on Overcoming Obstacles in digital transformation, followed by Baby Steps and Celebrating Successes, a guide to how other organizations have taken small steps toward digital transformation in a sustainable way.

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