Successful Digital Transformation Begins with a Cultural Transformation

BrandPost By Tom Schmidt
Jun 12, 2019

istock 1073365220
Credit: iStock

Digital transformation marks a radical rethinking of how an organization uses technology, people, and processes to fundamentally change business performance.

It’s also a rethinking that’s gone mainstream pretty quickly. According to IDC, 40% of all technology spending will go toward digital transformations, with enterprises spending in excess of $2 trillion through 2019. 

But as observed recently, digital transformation doesn’t come in a box—or a cloud. People and processes have equally important parts to play in the undertaking.

So what are IT leaders today actually doing to position their companies—and the people they manage—for digital transformation success? That’s the question that was posed recently to members of the IDG Influencer Network, a community of industry analysts, IT professionals, and journalists.

While the examples these influencers cited range from the specific to the general, one observation in particular encapsulates the sentiment of the group: “Successful digital transformation begins as a cultural transformation,” said Jason James (@itlinchpin), CIO at Optima Healthcare Solutions. “When focusing on changing culture, start with your own team. IT must understand how these changes impacts not only their team, but the overall organization.” 

It’s a viewpoint that resonates with Larry Larmeu (@LarryLarmeu), an Enterprise Transformation Leader based in London.

“The top things that need to be done are having a vision for what is possible, aligning your culture to be able to move quickly and take advantage of those opportunities, and providing adequate training to allow your people to be able to implement solutions while also identifying additional opportunities,” he said. “These are all hard things to do because for years the core competencies for IT have been to reduce risk and reduce cost, much of which comes from the traditional top-down management style that is not conducive to moving quickly, empowering people, or being inclusive.”

David Geer (@geercom), a Cybersecurity Content Marketing Writer and Journalist, also puts culture first.

“IT leaders need to garner support from the top (i.e., the board and the C-suite), use that support to foster a culture of digital transformation, and ignite a first project by focusing on the most promising department and use case for DX to set the company up for success on its first outing,” he said.   

Four at the forefront

Marc Wilczek (@marcwilczek), COO for Link11, offered four no-nonsense examples.

“First, bake cybersecurity into the company’s DNA,” he said. “Savvy IT leaders no longer see security just as a cost item, they bake it deeply into their value chains and use it as a differentiator against their less-secure rivals.

“Second, put more emphasis on business outcomes. Rather than focusing on gaining efficiencies and contributing savings to the bottom-line, the focus lies more on building, enabling, and implementing new digital use cases that lead to top-line revenue growth.

“Third, embrace new leadership styles. The new reality is that hierarchical thinking no longer works in today’s disruptive world. Successful IT leaders create work cultures where employees feel encouraged to try to solve small problems with iterative experiments. Employees’ willingness to experiment and improve is part of the broader phenomenon of ‘humble leadership.’

“And fourth, drive transformation and excel in change management. Maintaining agility is key when it comes to keeping up with the rate of adoption and meeting increasing customer demands. Smart IT leaders therefore implement and champion agile methodologies such as DevOps, continuous integration/continuous delivery (CI/CD), and simplified governance.”

Tyler James Johnson (@Tyler_J_J), CEO and Co-Founder of PrivOps, cautioned against “starting with the technology stack instead of starting with business goals.”

“IT leaders who start with business objectives, and then tightly couple the rest of their business strategy and supporting technology strategy around those business objectives are far more successful than those who don’t,” he said.

‘Jump in while aiming to hit a moving target’

“Companies cannot wait for the high-tech merry-go-round to stop or even slow down,” said Scott Schober (@ScottBVS), President and CEO of Berkeley Varitronics Systems Inc. “So IT leaders must jump in while aiming to hit a moving target in order to achieve higher revenue growth by increasing business efficiencies.”

Schober cited two well-known brands as examples.

“Home Depot’s CIO allocated $1.5 billion to a ‘buy online and pick up in-store’ system that led to significant revenue increases without opening any new stores,” he said. “The CIO of Domino’s Pizza instituted advanced pizza tracking technology benefiting both retail stores and their customers, delivering double-digit percentage growth year-over-year. Success stories like these rely on the CIO’s ability to gauge their company’s ability to sustain major disruptors while pivoting towards digital transformations.”

Kayne McGladrey (@kaynemcgladrey), Director of Security and Information Technology at Pensar Development, observed that IT leaders are recognizing that building and operating on-premises servers is not a competitive advantage.

“As part of the purchasing cycle they’re replacing outdated infrastructure with infrastructure as a service,” he said. “This gradual transition to the cloud lowers risks and makes disaster recovery simpler and more reliable than in past years. This strategy also significantly lowers the threats of a physical site compromise by threat actors.”

For Siobhan Climer (@techtalksio), Technical Writer at Go Mindsight, it’s all about listening to your users.

“For IT leaders, it’s about planning a step-wise process with their needs in mind and demonstrating how users can leverage technology to impact the status quo,” she said. “If you don’t engage people at the start, you will fail to implement a successful digital transformation. Guaranteed.”

Philip Kushmaro (@PhilipKushmaro), Founder and CEO of PKDMA Inc., cited the need to overcome employees’ fears that “robots are taking our jobs.”

“If you want to be relevant, educate yourself,” he said. “Give training opportunities to anybody that is willing to ride the wave and realize that people will complain that jobs are being taken by machines no matter what. You can’t please everybody. All you can do is stay relevant.”

Robin Austin (@robinmaustinceo), CTO/CISO at Colliers Group, said vendors and colleagues have been invaluable resources in her own transformation.

“I have ultimately benefited from every opportunity I have taken to help another colleague or better understand their focus,” she said. “Frankly, I believe I have benefited more from the relationship and the opportunity to help than they have.”

Thomas Willingham (@GotTWilling), Product Marketing Leader and Evangelist, may have been the most straightforward. IT leaders need a “strategy for success,” he said. Otherwise, they’re “just throwing services against the wall to see what sticks.”

To learn how Domo is helping CIOs and transforming the way companies do business, go to