Building a culture of digital transformation

Tom Frame
Tom Frame
Group MD 21 Jan 20165 minutes read

Digital transformation is about business change and people.

Before looking at digital transformation, we must note that it’s a misnomer. The most important part of all of this is how you take your people along with you.

Over the last few years, I’ve had the privilege of working with some amazing, forward-looking organisations as well as the fair share of companies that, under what would be deemed to have been good management 10 years ago, simply cannot move forward.

I have come to realise that digital transformation is about building a culture where individual teams are empowered to make decisions within the context of a larger business objective or digital roadmap. Below I share the six main lessons in my journey to build a culture of digital transformation in Etch as well as with our clients.

1: Digital transformation is a culture that must be design-led.

McKinsey & Company recently published an insightful article on building a design-driven culture.

“It’s not enough to just sell a product or service — companies must truly engage with their customers.”

McKinsey & Company, 2015

While this sounds intuitive, something we’ve experienced in nearly all large corporates and SMEs, is that projects are far from being design-led, or even customer-led — more often projects are (at best) technology-led. Over the past three years, consistently focusing on the needs of customers and leading from the design customers will directly experience (not the back office that they won’t) has helped us transform how corporates approach large-scale digital projects.

It has also had the side effect of breaking down the all too common phenomenon of silo building within a company. The size of organisations is probably the biggest contributing factor to silo building. However, that particular train has left the station and is showing no signs of slowing down; companies aren’t going to get any smaller.

Therefore, we need to continue to help teams evolve and be better.

2: Digital transformation must come from the top.

For any changes to work, they must ultimately be adopted and championed by the board or senior stakeholders of any company before they can be effective. The delivery process is only made possible by the use of agile techniques and applying these to the entire product lifecycle of an organisation, not just individual projects.

Although internal teams are starting to work using agile techniques, they are still working in silos without a common vision shared by the organisation as a whole. The end result is an overall poor user experience, inconsistencies, and lots of tech redundancy.

A digital transformation team should help align the various internal and external goals, steering everyone towards a route map that follows long-term business objectives. This allows teams to overlap and work on a feature-by-feature basis, rather than project-by-project basis.

3: Digital transformation has one roadmap.

Too often, we see teams working independently on projects that will eventually need to be integrated, only to find — at the point of integration — that each team has different priorities. This causes complications and huge amounts of wasted time and money.

Travelex share their digital roadmap

Companies need to have a single digital transformation roadmap that allows everyone within the organisation to be visible in a single place — helping teams ensure that they’re executing against a bigger plan while still retaining autonomy — and pride — for their contributions.

Companies are starting to realise that they need to create better user experiences, meaning more value is provided by their products. Breaking down internal silos, and instead building a culture around communication, enables companies to generate products quickly (fail fast) and build the experience that their customers want.

4: Digital transformation helps create great products.

Companies need to be in the business of building great products. This takes many iterations. They must firstly expect change, and secondly realise thatthere is no end. True value comes from continuously improving your product, internally and externally.

5: Digital transformation creates a unified company-wide vision.

A digital roadmap needs to help build a common vision for the company’s future — a collective understanding of where the company is going. The strategy, design and development teams all need to work on this programme. Enterprise architecture needs to work alongside the UX teams. The products need to be unified across the organisation. Each team needs to know which features should come together when considered against the bigger picture.

Here’s a brilliant visual example of a simple digital road map that was recently published by Travelex.

6: Digital transformation can’t be outsourced.

This might sound strange coming from an agency that helps companies and internal teams, but both digital transformation and your team are core to your business — so make them work together. Your internal team is as important to your digital transformation as your relationship with your agency.

We’ve seen our fair share of unicorns parachuted into organisations over the last year, creating all kinds of unhappiness (but that’s a whole other story). But to balance things out, we’ve also had the privilege of working with some brilliant teams, CIOs and leaders who understand the impact an informed and motivated team can have on their business. In many cases, we’ve been totally accepted as part of the team. And together with clients and partners over the last year, we’ve built some amazing products and some awesome teams.

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