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Cisco: what is a successful digital transformation?

Alison Vincent, CTO, Cisco UKI
|Jul 29|magazine15 min read

A quarter of a century since the birth of the web, it’s hard to imagine our lives without digital technology. The potential benefits of digitising, and risks associated with not adopting new digital technologies, are fast becoming more apparent. We predict that by 2020, 75 percent of companies will be digital and those that haven’t transformed, risk being left behind. Disruption of this kind is happening across every sector and every aspect of business and governance. Staying productive in this world, therefore, is a critical concern across the board.

We see many organisations that are still struggling to find their feet in this new technological landscape, where digital technologies are revolutionising everything from the way we work, live, play and learn. The impact is being seen across businesses of any size, from established organisations looking to retain their identity while ensuring they can remain agile and efficient, to new start-ups looking to scale and grow. The ultimate challenge is to stay relevant and competitive.

The key to successfully digitising comes down to more than introducing shiny new technology and hoping it will instantly solve a business’s digital woes. Relying on a younger, more tech-savvy workforce is also not an answer in itself. Transforming the way digital technologies are adopted within the workplace is essential to a successful digital roll-out, as we reveal in our recent Digital Culture Clash report, produced in partnership with the Institute of Cultural Capital.

We gathered insight from 3,000 employees working in the UK. Our aim was to better understand their experiences with digital technologies.  Specifically, we were looking to reveal whether businesses have the relevant processes in place and support from employees to successfully digitalise.

We revealed that improving employee confidence in digital technologies used in the workplace is essential to the success of a digital roll-out. Confidence in digital technologies outside the workplace had little influence on how confident someone is likely to be with the digital tools they are required to use at work.

Most importantly, we revealed that encouraging a positive digital culture by leading from the top was essential to success. In terms of factors, a company’s digital culture ranked far above an employees’ IT experience, company size or the sector in which they operate when determining attitudes to digital roll-outs.

From the findings, we identified the most important considerations for businesses to bear in mind to help them to build a positive digital culture. The first of which is demonstrating a clear digital vision.

Vision and leadership

Rather worryingly, we revealed that only a quarter (24 percent) of employees are confident in the digital vision put forward by senior management and around a fifth (19 percent) stated that they are actively concerned about their company’s digital future. For any digital roll-out to be a success, it is vital that leaders share their digital vision with the wider organisation, so employees understand why changes are being made and how they relate to the future health of the company.

Our research also found that 29 percent of employees believe that their leadership team is struggling to push through new digital ways of working, with the same number stating that culturally their organisation is not ready to embrace digital solutions. Employees are craving clear digital leadership. The boardroom must ensure it delivers on its promise to help drive productivity and organisational effectiveness, as well as demonstrate how digital technologies will play a key role in this.

Communication is key to a positive digital culture

It’s not just essential to communicate the high-level vision. We found employees are hungry to better understand how new digital technologies will impact their role in the workplace and to receive the adequate training to ensure they get up to speed quickly. We found this to play a key part in employee’s perception of how successful a digital roll-out had been.

We also revealed that employees who are fully engaged with new digital ideas were not necessarily being listened to. Around a quarter (26 percent) of employees had suggested a new digital technology to their leadership team that they thought would benefit the organisation, but that nothing came of it. In addition, a concerning 64 percent of employees stated that they weren’t consulted prior to the provision of new digital technologies.

The fact that employees are engaged and largely positive about the potential of digital technologies to drive positive change within the workplace is hugely significant. Harnessing that enthusiasm to deliver success requires the business to invest in clear communication and training to ensure employees feel listened to and confident. If they are armed with the right knowledge and skills, they are best equipped to play their part in ensuring the digital roll-out is a success.

Remove organisational barriers

Finally, it is essential to fully prepare the organisation before starting a digital transformation project – clearly assessing any potential barriers to success - to ensure they are resolved before you start. Organisational barriers could be pre-existing and out-of-date processes, migrating from restrictive legacy systems or even addressing a pre-existing negative digital culture within the company.

Fundamentally, our research proved that improving  the success of each and every digital roll-out is within the grasp of any organisation if the right considerations are taken into account early enough. Changing the digital culture of an organisation won’t happen overnight, but we have proof that it plays a fundamental role in ensuring digital roll-outs run smoothly. So if you’re looking for that competitive edge, it’s worth being one of the 71 percent of business that are currently bringing in digital technologies, not the 29 percent that, shockingly, we revealed are still yet to adopt digital technologies in the workplace.

The risk of digital disruption isn’t getting any smaller, but our findings demonstrate that realising the benefits associated with digitising a business is definitely within reach. 

Read the July EURO 2016 issue of Business Review Europe magazine. 

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