Article: Agility to drive digital transformation

#CultureForDigital

Agility to drive digital transformation

Can an agile work culture help businesses unlock the true potential of digital transformation?
Agility to drive digital transformation

The benefits of transforming business processes using a digital-first approach are many. It enables companies to create better value for their customers while improving how effectively internal functions of the companies operate. It increases the effectiveness of business processes and ensures they are better tuned to meeting customer needs. 

Digital Transformation — the use of such technologies as digital platforms, analytics, social media and Internet of Things (IoT), etc to improve enterprise effectiveness — is revolutionizing how businesses operate and the ways project teams do their work. By employing a host of technologies, businesses today can predict customer preferences better and in an age where customers themselves are increasingly becoming digital natives, it also helps companies to connect with their customers more holistically.  In retail, for example, Amazon is digitally transforming the industry with data, AI, and network effects. Its share of the US e-commerce market is 34 percent and could increase to 50 percent by 2021.

But such benefits have been noted to not accrue asymmetrically. Not all companies that undertake digital transformation benefit evenly from the process. As a matter of fact digitalization of processes remains an investment which has a chance of not yielding the right or intended results. More often than not, the reason for this lies less with the technological side but more with the organizational culture and the employees who are at the helm of running such processes.

Building a case for agile culture 

The importance of building the company’s digital capabilities is not lost on business leaders. Reports from across the board show how CEOs rate digitalization as a future imperative for their companies. But still, the chances for businesses being able to make the best of such efforts and survive in a largely digital age remain grim. In a recent Mckinsey article, John Chambers, of Cisco Systems, predicts that 40 percent of today’s businesses will fail in the next ten years; 70 percent will attempt to transform themselves digitally, but only 30 percent will succeed.

To support businesses today in their endeavor to build better and more impactful digital capabilities, company culture has to be key consideration; one that requires careful attention and fine-tuning. It's here that building the ability of the company’s workforce to be agile comes in as a great advantage. It helps build two key attributes within the company

  • An agile work culture provides companies a framework to respond to customer needs on time and ensure customer feedback is used to improve services. This is vital as digital transformations are a dynamic process which is best used when it's constantly improved and to do so responding to customer needs in a timely manner becomes necessary. An agile work culture helps build the necessary foundation for employees to responsive at a much faster pace. To create powerful digital customer experiences means moving fast and adapting based on your customers’ likes or dislikes.

  • Agile work culture doesn’t just restructure customer responsiveness but brings in a larger cultural shift in an organization. It helps build a risk-taking ability within teams and facilitates cross-functional work while empowering employees to make decisions. It also helps build transparency and accountability.

Nuances of creating an agile work culture to support digital transformation

  • Create the right working environment 

A key part of creating an agile work culture begins with the work environment. When external change is rapid, enabling a risk-taking mentality is crucial. This has to be supported cross-functional competencies to ensure accurate and timely decisions are taken. Information is also key so people should have access to it promptly. This also involves rethinking traditional hierarchies and reduce bureaucratic nature of decision making. Since creating such changes require pivotal shifts this is important for everyone — from management to new hires — receive training, so they understand what the change means and why it is being implemented.

  • Make agile initiatives scalable 

Often the case with implementing agile practices is that they are limited to only a part past of the business. This might be the solution to meet immediate needs but to benefit from digital transformation in the long run, it needs to be scaled through the organization. A Forrester Research found 30 percent of respondents to its Agile survey had stuck to small-scale efforts “at the product level” rather than engaging in enterprise-wide transformation. 

  • Support agile business practices with an overall digital culture

Companies undertaking digital transformation today are actively shaping other parts of their culture and taking initiatives to boost risk-taking, agility, and collaboration among their teams while creating a larger sense of responsibility. This is needed to support an agile work culture. Hiring the right talent, creating a digital-first culture, ensuring teams are motivated and compensated adequately, and supporting employee needs through learning programs all enable agile work culture to be more successful in leveraging digital services. 

An agile work culture provides companies with the right framework to respond to external changes in the business ecosystem. While that might be the most ideal case, it often depends on how effectively companies can envision of ‘being agile’ means and translate it effectively across their functions.

Topics: #CultureForDigital, Culture

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