How much does culture impact the success of digital transformations?

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Former Chief Technology and People Officer in Software, 1,001 - 5,000 employees
It is a common thread, culture is across anything a company's trying to do. And it's not a digital transformation or an IT transformation. It's a business transformation. But it’s like conversations about diversity: “Diversity's really important—HR, could you go fix that?” It’s like thinking of security as just an IT thing that you don't need to worry about yourself. 

There are all these elements of getting the right champions but if it’s not important to the highest levels of the organization, even culture won't make it happen. That's a key theme across all of these issues.
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Advisor | Investor | Former CIO in Services (non-Government), Self-employed

Amazon is known for its leadership principles. It was 14 but recently grew to 16. While that may be challenging for most organizations -- just try to remember 3 corporate values -- not so at Amazon. And the two additional leadership principles are, "Strive to be the Earth's best employer," and, "Success and scale brings broad responsibility." 

However, I've never encountered an organization that pays so much attention to their leadership principles as they are actively referred to each and every day during the course of conversations and meetings.

CEO in Services (non-Government), Self-employed
What we see across all the discrete process manufacturing companies that are clients, and even with some vendors, is that process has been flattened out and obfuscated as a competitive differentiator. Part of that process is the need to bring culture to a higher level, along with a holistic and strategic point of view. That's where we're seeing culture take a bigger role. At the beginning of digital transformation, the problem was people's reluctance to change. But it's not the people, it's the culture in which you can't change a process because it’s been done that way for 50 years, or it doesn't exist anymore. That's where we see the biggest impact of culture, because people will not be reluctant to adopt something new if you show them the benefit of it for themselves.

We're data-driven but people first, which can be an oxymoron because if you're data-driven, you'll remove part of your workforce by robotics, cobotics, and AI. You can't be both but you can elevate the level of thinking that you force people to do, which makes them happier. We saw a huge uptick in productivity because people in the US were isolated at home for different periods of time than we were. We're still just coming out of lockdown in Canada. People and culture came to the forefront in that we now have to think on our own, but we're more thoughtful about our work. That’s how a lot of companies started to overcome the change in culture, particularly in manufacturing. The highest selling technology in the last two years was industrial robotics and every robot displaces 10 workers on a factory floor. So because we do business around the world we’ve seen this in Germany, Spain, and virtually everywhere else. We're only now starting to see it in the US. But in my world it's not the people, it's the process. People will come along if they know what they're doing and you give them more intellect to do with.
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Former Chief Technology and People Officer in Software, 1,001 - 5,000 employees

I agree with a lot of what you're saying. What I've also seen is that it's all process and policy.

Advisor | Investor | Former CIO in Services (non-Government), Self-employed
Gartner did a report on CIOs breaking through culture barriers to enable digital transformation. They did this survey and 25% viewed culture as having a positive impact. 11% said culture had no impact and the remaining 64% saw culture as a barrier. So three-quarters of the companies out there have a culture that stifles their innovation. That’s going to cause companies to really struggle. 

We have to watch out for what I call the “cloud adoption antibodies.” It's a way of saying, "We've always done it this way, why do we need to change?" Culture is the number one thing that will either make or break a major business transformation enabled through digital.

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