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Mar 2017

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In the first and second articles in our S.P.A.R.C.S. series, we introduced you to three elements which form the heart of the S.P.A.R.C.S. framework: ambition, revenue and results.

In this article, we focus on the ‘C’ of S.P.A.R.C.S. – Culture and discuss five cultural barriers to digital transformation that we’ve seen across different organisations. We then offer some recommendations on how to overcome them.


So what are these five common cultural barriers?

The Awareness Barrier – Do we need to become more digital?

Your leadership may be asking themselves: “Do we need to do more digitally?”, but this alone is not enough to spur digital transformation. Throughout the company, the answer to this question might still be “I don’t think so” or “I wasn’t aware of the need to go digital”. Besides lack of awareness, there might also be considerable resistance to going digital throughout the company – the typical why rock the boat mentality.

Our Approach – Illustrate the value of digital transformation to your team members responsible for going digital. For example, you could use internal and external case studies of digital transformation success to inspire and educate team members about the benefits of going digital. Plant the seed of digital transformation by showing stakeholders how their business can win in an increasingly digital world. Alternatively, why not ask them to imagine the risks of not changing with a world that is becoming more digital by the minute?  

Luncheon learning sessions and inspirational guest lectures are other interactive ways to raise awareness about going digital. These will allow your team to envision the power of digital transformation from those who have been in it and doing it for some time.

The Desire Barrier – Do we want to become more digital?

This is perhaps the toughest barrier to overcome. This barrier kicks in when people are aware of the need for digital transformation, but do not really have the desire to make that digital shift. Quite often, such a desire is missing because of some inner fear, uncertainty or anxiety over what the digital transformation may mean for them and their role. Outwardly, this anxiety can manifest itself as either passive inertia (“Yes, we must go digital. Let’s meet in the future to decide what to do.”) or mere ignorance (“Oh, was it my job? I thought it was someone else’s…”)

Our Approach – The best way to break the desire barrier is to calm your stakeholder’s anxieties. No matter how amazing the digital opportunity seems for the person championing it, it might seem like more effort than it is worth to other stakeholders. So, until you can truly discover and deal with these anxieties, digital transformation will not take place at scale.

Here’s how a world-renowned pharma company solved its stakeholder’s anxieties over going digital. This may seem counter-intuitive, but they started rewarding the ‘Greatest Digital Fail’ of the year. This encouraged a company culture of experimenting and overcoming fear. Anxieties were turned into a desire to innovate and learn.

The Knowledge Barrier – Do we know how to become more digital?

This is a classic case of “I know I have to do it (awareness), and now I’m a bit more open to doing it (desire), but I don’t know how to do it.” Awareness and desire to ‘go digital’ mean nothing without actual knowledge of how to digitise your current processes.

Our Approach –  To break the knowledge barrier, you could start by assessing your team members’ current digital capabilities vs. the capabilities they need to execute digital transformation. Once you identify these knowledge gaps, there are several ways to close them. You could bring in a trainer who is a digital expert. You could send your team members for courses or internships to learn particular digital skills. You could also outsource certain digital tasks to partners or agencies. In fact, if you have the resources, why not try a combination of all three?

The Action Barrier – Are we actually becoming more digital?

Even if your team members are now equipped with extensive digital knowledge, this knowledge may not necessarily translate into action. For example, many businesses have set up social listening command centres manned by employees newly trained in social media marketing. But how many people actually visit these centres and use the data to make real-time decisions?  

Our Approach – To spur action, your leadership needs to play a key role in igniting the spark, rallying people, devising structures and allocating budgets. The leadership team needs to ask themselves the following question: “Is our business setup in a way that enables putting plans into action?”

The Reinforcement Barrier – How do we continue to remain digital?

You and your stakeholders are aware of the need to digitally transform. People have the desire and know-how to execute this process. Your organisation might have even kick-started a few digital processes.

But the minute the pressure is off, people will default to their old ways. How do you reinforce the process of digital transformation to make it long-lasting and pervasive?

Our Approach – A way of dealing with this fatigue is to not celebrate victories too early. Wait to see whether the digital victory embeds deeper into your company’s culture, and then celebrate.

These are just some of the ways to tackle cultural barriers to digital transformation. A systematic approach to identifying and eliminating these barriers – based on the five approaches we have recommended – will go a long way in fulfilling your company’s digital ambitions.

We realise, however, that making cultural changes to become digital transformation-ready requires navigating a tricky path. After all, people’s mindsets are hard to alter. Our Digital Transformation course will help spark this process in your organisation and give you a systematic approach to transform the digital capabilities of your business. Feel free to drop us a line at [email protected] to find out more about this course. We would be happy to share some of our digital transformation experiences with you.

And stay tuned for our next article in the S.P.A.R.C.S. series, as we share more about how we help our clients drive digital transformation in their businesses.

About FutureMarketer

We are FutureMarketer – a digital marketing training and consulting firm. We are dedicated to helping business leaders and marketing practitioners win in a marketing world shaped by digital innovation and become future-ready.

Whether you want to digitally transform your business or excel at marketing in a digital age, we can help. You can learn more about the bespoke corporate workshops we offer here.

Taru Jain
Taru Jain
[email protected]

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