“If we do not understand that digital transformation is a cultural transformation, we will not succeed” Sebastien Bazin CEO of Accor.
Start a digital transformation process within a company is often seen as a challange from an organizational and technological perspective. The reason why of this perception is that the people who will drive change are often experts in their field, and have already integrated and understood the advantages implied by this digital changes for companies.
Furthermore, the people the consultants meet in these companies are often the directors of companies or the Marketing Managers. These occupations are often already aware of the digital evolution, and are convinced of the interest to start this process.
This being said, even within these well aware companies, going through a digital transformation may lead to resistance. All parties who will eventually be affected by this transformation does not share the same enthusiasm, nor the same level of digital maturity. Integrating a digital culture in a company is a long process, which should not be underestimated.
Historically, in France, we have gone from a market where demand was higher than supply, after the Second World War, to one where supply exceeded demand following the 1973 oil crisis.
This paradigm shift has resulted in significant cultural changes inside the companies. Their main job was not longer to produce to meet demand, but to determine what the market expected in order to produce more differentiating and more innovative goods and services. This period saw the rise of marketing professions. They had to think first about new concepts such as customers’ needs and expectations, concept of segmentation, targeting and positioning.
This transition has not gone smoothly, especially in the industry world. The standard procedure would have technical services developing products, and then passing it to sales department to sell what they had chosen to produce.
In many technical services, the arrival of Marketing was seen as an interference in their decision-making fields. How someone who has no technical background could be entitled to tell them what to do. The industries that have managed to make this cultural change, which have managed to adapt, are the ones that have been successful then.
With the arrival of the new digital age, once again we enter in a new paradigm shift. Its fields of applications are numerous, from social networks, clouds, e-commerce, and they have entered the everyday life of most of the citizens. To give an exemple, French people have gone from being less than 1% purchasing online with their mobile in 2009, to almost 40% today. This growth is expected to carry on in the coming years.
In the same time, French Small and Medium sized companies are only 11% offering online retailing service, 25% less than the European average, and 50% less compared to Great Britain. We have here a discrepancy between consumers who have adopted this technology, and the companies who have not.
This paradigm shift often leads to resistance in the companies. This time, all the departments are concerned, including the marketing one. They must accept that digital is now inevitable in France and that it implies important modifications in customer’s purchasing behavior as well as companies’ organization.
Just like the exemple with the shift from a supply market to a demand market, managing a digital transformation must be done with a clear and honest explanation of the benefits for the company. This is particularly true if the company is doing fine. Why bother if everything goes well ?
This explanation is crucial, as it is the men and women of the company who are going to lead the change, and without their cooperation, it is doomed to fail. You cannot force somebody to adopt an attitude against its will.
To carry out this task, as mentionned in Didier Bonnet excellent book “win with Digital“ it all starts with the unwavering commitment of the company’s management. Without a strong will to make it happen from the head of the Company, it will be impossible to succeed.
If this support is badly needed, it is however not enough. It needs to be made clear to all stakeholders, that they are part of this change. Without a clear and detailed explanation on what is at stake, there is a risk that some misunderstanding happens. They would eventually lead to defiance which would put at risk a smooth digital transformation.
The project leader’s goal would then be to explain, with details and examples, to the employees, what this project is going to bring to them, for their work, for the company. He must give the most exhaustive vision about the changes it will mean. He must also explain what is not going to change, like customer service, innovation culture or corporate values (punctuality, , respect…) This work is not to be taken lightly. As the digital is fastly evolving, it is highly likely this kind of work will have to be done again in a couple of years. The digital age is upon us, and it brings with it changes in all professions. Today, it is very difficult to apply for a position in a Marketing department without notions of SEO nor webmarketing. (Jobintree study 2015)
Beyond jobs, it is an entire corporate governance model that needs to be established. Digital implies also new ways of communication within the company, with less hierarchical constraints. To accept this evolution will help the digital transformation of the company, and speed the implementation of a digital culture in the company.
« It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is the most adaptable to changes ». (Attributed to Darwin).digital-and-cultural-transformation