As businesses around the world transform themselves to catch up with the digital age, they are faced with the challenge of acquiring various capabilities before they can truly call themselves “digital companies”.
Firstly, companies should possess the capability to analyze big quantities of data and take decisions based upon that data.
Second, they should be capable of extending frontiers by leveraging the omnipresence of the internet, particularly with Internet of Things (IoT).
Third, they must acquire the ability and motivation to automate certain processes.
And finally, business must possess the capability to think and act in a way that seizes all these new resources, using them transparently, effectively, and efficiently as an extension of their employee capacities.
Most of the world’s digital transformation efforts are currently focused on the first three capabilities, with companies reshaping the capability of processes, the availability of information, and the tools to enhance decision making.
What we are hearing and seeing from clients is that the technical capacities are arriving much sooner than the capacity or the willingness of the people to embrace these new tools.
In this Commentary, I want to focus on that final competency, because this digital mentality and culture has not received too much attention of late, despite its importance for the success of the overall digital transformation.
Behavioral Data Consumption
Beyond the usual change management efforts, businesses need to work on the behaviors and the culture of the people within the organization to modify how they function in the digital business.
For example, you could start by instilling in your teams a behavioral and instinctual response to ask for any available data when confronted by a problem or a decision.
This is not the usage of the tool itself, but is the internal – or cerebral, if you wish – understanding that the company and its people should only take decisions or analyze a situation when relying on hard data and facts, not only on anecdotal information or beliefs.
This capability, if you can call it such, goes beyond the usage of any specific analytics tool; it positions people with the belief that “We only do things with the data we have on hand”.
Communications Behaviors and Location
When your teams can communicate seamlessly with others, independently of where they are located, it creates a sense that each person does not conceptualize himself or herself as ‘location based’.
We get into trouble sometimes because this capability is hard to conceptualize, but the lack of “it” is what prevents people from using videoconferencing, chatting, or other collaboration tools to expand their company network beyond their own location, despite already being trained and proficient in them.
I’m referring to a culture trait that enables the organization to leverage the communication and collaboration capabilities to obtain synergies from other colleagues or third parties anywhere in the world.
Sometimes, it is not the available technology that prevents this, is the mental framework – location based — that makes a difference between “us” and “them”, affecting cross-geographical processes, services, and products.
Finally, a third behavior that has modified how we function and easy to understand, but sometimes hard to implement, is related to being away from the office, either during work hours or outside them.
This is a controversial capability, as much has been written about the need to “switch off” from the office, as well as the work-life balance debate, but, from a behavioral standpoint, especially for those organizations that manage different timezones and/or locations around the globe, this is an important issue where there are many shades between two extremes.
While there are those who have embraced the new communication capabilities and the aforementioned work-balance challenge, there is another part of the population that goes in completely the opposite direction — if not in the office, it is as good as on vacation.
I’ve seen in our region some organizations that still struggle with this every time their managers and decision makers have to travel, even when visiting same-timezone countries nearby. The speed of process flows become sluggish and decisions are not taken at the same speed as when the decision maker is at the office.
This too is a matter of behavioral concern, although perhaps it’s slowly moving forward as we become more and more used to our friends and family members expecting immediate response in social media at any time (anyone who has heard a notification on Facebook or Whatsapp in the middle of the night knows what I am referring to). Eventually, this will modify office related practices and expectations in the same manner.
Embracing the New Order
If companies want to leverage all the power and possibilities of new tools, both current ones and those that have yet to come, then a new set of behaviors and values need to be implanted in the organization. This Digital Mindset and its impacts on the organizational psyche within the transforming company is crucial for the long-term health of the digital transformation initiative.
Sure, the change management folks will tackle the training, the resistance to the specific tools, and the stabilization of the specific change at hand, but it is this digital mindset that will actually make the organization behave in a way that embraces these new capabilities and leverage them long after the new tools have become obsolete.
If you are interested in reading more about this topic, I recommend you take a look at this book by Edward D. Hess and Katherine Ludwig. It presents very interesting ideas about the type of environment we need to prepare our organization for as robotics and artificial intelligence advance.