By Kathy Visser-May

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If you’re planning to change the way you do business, then you’re planning a digital transformation. For it to be successful, you need to not only adopt new technology but adopt a new company culture, as well.

Have you experienced the culture-technology connection? This connection is essential when you’re contemplating a complete digital transformation.

Your company can adopt technology to make certain processes or workflows easier, such as enabling managers to sign-off on vendor payments using a mobile app. Or, you can introduce new technology as part of a strategy to transform the entire business. Guess which approach requires a strong, carefully-honed company culture to propel its success?

That’s what we’re going to explore here today.

Culture and technology are inseparable in digital transformation

In a way, both scenarios benefit from a company culture that supports technology buy-in and adoption. But to achieve strategic digital transformation—and the business growth and competitive prowess that can go along with it—your workforce needs to do more than simply embrace new tech tools.

They need to be an active part of driving change, progress, innovation. And that takes a special blend of having a cerebral understanding of your company’s mission and a personal stake (an emotional connection) in what it takes to get to the next level, together, tech tools in-hand.

Implementing ERP technology as a “quick fix” for a specific business problem is different than setting up an ERP system; but often, companies (their users, more critically) fail to appreciate the difference. This explains why massive IT projects can fail. If everyone from leadership to rank-and-file employees isn’t in sync with the reasons for investing in technology solution—they don’t see it as a systemic solution to achieve greater transparency, agility, and growth—the whole endeavor can fall flat.

Toward a tech-forward culture

Let’s say you’re planning to implement an ERP solution. You know you’ll need to incorporate some change management into your timeline but don’t assume that a kick-off meeting and a couple of user training sessions are enough. Yes, they’ll be using new software tools and ERP applications that will change the way they work and even how their performance will be measured, so they’ll need some practical information and coaching. Go for it!

But what you’re also managing is a company-wide change in approach to:

  • Managing data
  • Making decisions
  • Setting (and reaching) goals
  • Pursuing opportunities
  • Providing customer service
  • Collaborating with vendors
  • And so much more

Automating processes and taking data out of silos are great things, but they won’t change the way your employees approach their work, individually or collectively. Employees have to make the mental shift that will cause the behavioral shifts that will drive the results that lead to progress—and ERP system ROI. In a nutshell, that’s a culturally-supported digital transformation.

But how do you get there?

Building a culture that welcomes digital transformation

 It’s well documented that you can’t just plug in new technology and watch change happen. According to a Gartner Group survey, the top internal roadblock to their success is “culture challenges to accept change.” This is seconded by the experts at Harvard Business Review, who say, “for organizations seeking to become more adaptive and innovative, culture change is often the most challenging part of the transformation.”

It’s not easy. But don’t let this discourage you—we’re just stressing the importance of taking a thoughtful approach to fostering culture change.

The latest MIT Sloan Management Review and Deloitte digital business study concludes that digital maturity (when a company has effectively transformed processes, talent engagement, and business models) is the product of strategy, culture and leadership. In fact, here are three of the characteristics shared by the most digitally-mature organizations:

  • More than 80% have a clear and coherent digital strategy (unlike most SMBs, who often do not have a corporate strategy or digital strategy)
  • Nearly two times as likely as less digitally mature entities to have a single person or group leading the effort
  • They’re four times more likely to provide employees with needed skills than are organizations with less digital maturity

 The must-haves for digital transformation success

Taking the cue from these more digitally-mature organizations, let’s explore three must-haves for fostering a healthy, tech-friendly culture:

 1. Set (and share) a digital strategyPut pen to paper and commit to implementing growth-enabling technology. Prioritize your initiatives and set them into motion. A third-party IT consultant or friendly tech vendors can help you assess your current situation and create a roadmap for moving forward.

 The key point is to have a strategy that you can communicate to your employees and other stakeholders.

2.Prime your leader(s). The C-suite isn’t simply there to approve the technology purchase and sign checks. Employees expect them to communicate the company’s vision and set the tone for the company’s culture. Strategic technology adoption signals a big change with widespread ramifications, and a strong leader is the right person to help pave the way for a smooth transition.

Harvard Business Review cautions that explaining a need for change isn’t usually enough. “To harness people’s full, lasting commitment,” they say, “they must feel a deep desire, and even responsibility, to change. A leader can do this by framing change within the organization’s purpose.”

Get this part right and your plans—or rather, the intentions behind them—will begin to take root in their minds (and hearts).

 3. Keep educating employees. The Society for Human Resource Management says, “Changing a culture can take anywhere from months to several years. It’s not a one-and-done exercise, so there is always more work to be done.”

How will your technology change the way employees engage, interact, and collaborate? Amidst your training efforts, it’s important to recognize that ERP implementations proceed at their own pace and to recognize your workers’ inherent readiness for change and comfort level with technology. Have they always used spreadsheets to manage data and run reports? Or are they relatively well-versed in the ways of cloud computing (the future for ERP implementations), mobile productivity, and digital collaboration?

Some individuals (or entire workforces) need more hand-holding than others, and if you tune-in to their communication preferences and learning styles, you can strike the right balance. You can get them excited about your technology agenda, motivate them to participate in your rollout activities, and teach them what they need to know to perform their jobs while shaping the culture in the process.

If you have any questions about how to help your company through a digital transformation, about ERP implementations, or about our cloud ERP solution, please contact us. We’re happy to partner with you throughout the process.