Digital Transformation – Inside the Work in Progress

| By TMA World

Every year, Jane McConnell publishes the results of a survey on the progress of digital transformation in organisations. Her latest report – The Organisation in the Digital Age – is the tenth in the series. The data has been gathered from 311 people in organisations from 27 countries.

The survey divides organisations into three categories: Maturing, Developing, and Starting. Here is a description of each category and how the participating organisations were distributed across them:

  • Digital seen as a strategic asset
  • Digital embedded in work practices
  • Decentralised decision making a norm
  • Multiple cross-organisational information flows and collaborations
  • Extended enterprise (e.g. customers, partners) connected virtually
  • Strategic principles of openness, trust and entrepreneurialism supported by organisational culture
  • Vision for digital transformation is defined/communicated
  • Multiple digital initiatives aligned in a framework
  • Senior manager involvement
  • People and teams enabled to take initiatives
  • Self-organising communities and networks (some with customers and partners)
  • Little awareness of potential role of digital in the organisation
  • Ad hoc and infrequent digital initiatives
  • Little involvement of senior leaders
  • Initiatives tend to be between peers and colleagues
  • Virtual work spaces for teams and functional communities exist
  • Digital awareness being promoted by individuals


Some Key Findings

At the top of the list of challenges organisations face when defining their digital transformation strategy is competing priorities.

Forty percent of participants say “hesitation to rethink how we work” is a serious concern holding their company back.

The placement of the highest person responsible for digital issues is now the CEO or a direct report. This was the case for nearly 60% of the organisations compared with 40% last year. Fewer organisations, however, report that senior managers demonstrate a sustained commitment and conviction to the essential nature of ‘digital’ to how they work. Only 33% of participants say top-level managers understand and support digital initiatives.

While budgets and other resources are increasing for digital initiatives, the management mindset is still very much ‘show me quantifiable business cases’ before investments are made.

A starting point for digital transformation is developing a compelling vision and strategy which still hasn’t happened in most organisations. While some organisations have succeeded at this, many strategies do not have traction in the business units and with frontline people.

Many in the customer-facing workforce are disconnected from corporate systems and information flows. In 2015 and 2016, fewer than half of participating organisations said that was easy for their customer-facing workforce to find the information they needed to provide speedy service and collaborate with customers and colleagues.

The mobile workplace is developing rapidly by means of companies providing corporate devices; also significant is the growth in company policies allowing use of personal devices. Mobile workers, however, still rely heavily on email because of the lack of mobile applications and services available in most organisations.

The move to digital is enabling some process simplification. In maturing organisations, in particular, performance management is transitioning from a yearly review to an ongoing conversation between people.

Learning is increasingly being embedded in everyday work through e-learning, real-time access to experts, and communities of practice. Fifty-six percent now say it is much easier to learn in the workplace compared with 23% just three years ago. Fifty% of digitally mature organisations encourage employees to use Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) for learning.

Most transformation initiatives are focused on increasing efficiencies and improving existing business models and processes, rather than creating new business models. Forty-five percent of organisations, however, do ideation and crowdsourcing capabilities compared with just 25% in 2011.

Organisations are deploying digital capabilities widely as witnessed by the growing use of information sharing technologies, enterprise social networks and online communities. In digitally maturing organisations, work is conducted by self-managed teams with decentralised decision making, and working-out-loud practices. Eighty-two percent of organisations have deployed collaborative platforms.

While progress toward digital transformation is undoubtedly being made the biggest change influencer is behavior. Senior leaders can demonstrate a fear of losing control and a reluctance to rethink how work gets done. Most influential change agents are often people in the organisation who bring about change through actions not within their scope of work (and without the approval of management).

While there is very great value in Jane McConnell’s survey, let me just add that we live in times when the pace of technological change is outstripping the ability of managers to utilise it effectively across their organisations. While having a compelling overall vision and strategy is important, small experiments and small successes can contribute to the business case most senior managers need. Greater impact from smaller dollars spent.

Discover more about how our solutions can position you for success here

Keep in touch for the all the latest news and insights on getting results in today’s workplace

Interested in how introducing a cultural intelligence tool in your business could help to create a more borderless workforce? We’d love to show you our groundbreaking platform.