Digital transformation, digital growing-up or digital maturity

I have been talking about digital transformation as something every company should do or else they would fall behind others who had moved in that direction some time ago. Although most companies have more than enough space for improvement in the area of digitalisation, there are almost none who haven’t done something pertaining to this issue. The following question comes to mind now: who is digitally transformed and who isn’t? The implied conclusion is that digital transformation in organisations isn’t a project, but a process with no apparent end, at least so far.

Considering the fact that it’s a process, I am more inclined to use the term digital growing-up or digital maturity. As most companies are already in this process, we don’t think about whether one has started its digital transformation, but how digitally grown-up or mature it is.

When I was writing about the eWyse methodology for approaching a client prior to the implementation of the digital solution, I emphasised that the process of digital growing-up has to start with people, and not with products or solutions. Hence, it’s vital to first prepare an organisational culture that would make the process of digital growing-up more effective. Interfering in the organisational culture is a very delicate task and, before anything else, we have to be aware of why the organisation should grow up digitally, i.e., why make changes in the culture of organisation. Possible answers to “why” are:

a) Because being digital is trendy now.

b) Because our customers want us to.

c) Because.

d) For better business results.

If you had to make a choice, you’d probably choose c) or d). However, the only right answer is d). Organisations choose to change themselves only for business results. Of course, we could discuss what kind of results those are, but they are, in the end, results.

Many leaders, when faced with a discussion about organisational culture, become defensive and argue that their company’s organisational culture is very good. I often like to joke that we have nothing left to do considering their good results. I have already written about how the organisational result is brought by the organisational culture. If we want a different result (we do), it’s crucial to work on developing positive changes in the organisational culture.

Digital Maturity and Organisational Culture

For a moment, it seemed as though we have strayed from the original topic, however, we are coming right back to it. Digital maturity of an organisation means the organisation has a set of values at a high level. Below are several values I consider crucial.

  • Transparency. It used to be a risk, but it is needed today. It used to be important to hide information and be cautious of how far it spreads. Today, transparency is desirable because it creates a more complete picture of all of the organisation’s stakeholders and helps develop other organisational values. “Leakage” of ideas used to be a disaster, but today it doesn’t matter because of quick development – no one will catch up to you even if they try to use your idea.
  • Cooperation between sectors. Many organisations still work in the so-called silos – everyone does their own job and isn’t “nosy” about others’ jobs. Digital culture, however, doesn’t tolerate this. It’s desirable for everyone to know what everyone else does and what goes on in other departments. It is the time of all-directional cooperation, and companies often rotate employees in teams to avoid monotony and retain employees by giving them new experiences and education. So, being nosy is a good thing!
  • Creativity. Creative people used to be slaves to strictly defined procedures and “we’ve always done it this way” way of thinking. Idea proposers used to be laughed at and silenced by the pressure of organisational culture. The general rule was “don’t make waves”. Today, digital provides an excellent basis for extraction of creative ideas from all organisational levels. The culture only needs to adapt to stimulate creativity and to be more forgiving to mistakes. Some companies go as far as to reward the worst fail of the month – they do it because nobody sane would make a mistake on purpose. Mistakes are only possible if someone takes the initiative and tries out new creative possibilities.
  • Communication. Once upon a time, hierarchy was needed. Today, it’s a bother. Not long ago, I heard a story of an employee who got sanctioned for skipping hierarchy and e-mailing a manager directly, excluding her own boss. She did this in order to expedite things. Since the times of using clay tiles for written messages up until today, it took analogue communication centuries to convey a message. Now, thanks to digital, knowledge and information are available in milliseconds. However, strengthening the communicational technological platform is futile if our organisational culture isn’t ready for digital technology.

Digital growing-up and transformation of organisational culture go hand-in-hand. Changes in organisational culture take time because their basic aim is to change the behaviour. That is why preparation of an organisation for digital growing-up is unavoidable. If we fail to do this right, every investment in the digital development may be jeopardised. Digital maturity can be measured and improved.

We would gladly share with you the way we do it at eWyse.