Organisational Culture: The Key to Successful Digital Transformation

According to IDC, most decision makers will have digital transformation at the center of their corporate strategy by the end of 2017. Yet, two thirds of digital transformation projects fail. One of the reasons behind this failure is due to the existing organisational culture and structure. Here Lawyer monthly benefits from an exclusive anaylsis by Matt Jenkins, Head of Consulting at Footdown, who give us the rundown on how and why a plan for digital transformation can mean the difference between living the journey and reaching a destination, for any business.

In recent years, digital transformation has been one of the main discussion topics within corporate circles.

New technologies have enabled business leaders to transform business models, engage clients and employees in a meaningful way and make operations more efficient.

According to studies, organisations that invest in their digital capabilities report revenues six times higher than less digitally mature companies. Furthermore, employees at digitally advanced companies showed a 50% higher index of well-being at work.

However, despite the business benefits and commercial potential, organisations are still struggling with digital transformation.

Over 80% of digital projects fail and that failure comes at a steep price. Research shows that large organisations invest over £258 billion a year in unsuccessful digital transformation projects.


The legal industry for example, has been primed to take advantage of digitisation for some time but many firms have struggled to deliver long-term benefits.

One of the main reasons behind this staggering failure rate is the assumption that digital transformation means making staff more tech-savvy and implementing new tools.

Working Together to Improve

In reality, digital transformation means embedding digital tools at the heart of every aspect of an organisation so all parties benefit – clients, stakeholders and employees. Therefore, digital transformation spans many disciplines within an organisation. It remodels daily practices, improves workplace structures, strengthens reporting relationships, enhances information sharing, drives client engagement and increases market competitiveness.

At its core, being a leading digital organisation means embracing a new culture and mindset.

Understandably, changing so many business processes and technologies means people must be willing to change and given the support they need. Employees should be shown the value of the process and why they should champion the transformation.

This places additional responsibility on managers. Senior leaders need to anticipate changes in skills, adapt organisational processes and create a strong sense of purpose so all employees keep pace. A successful digital transformation plan has a coherent vision, articulated in a way that rallies employees around the envisioned change.


However, organisational culture doesn’t change by decree. Managers need to keep a close eye on how changes are transpiring. This lets them identify potential blockages. It ensures that new values, behaviours and norms are adjusted in such a way that both technology and people shift in unison towards planned goals and emergent opportunities.

A firm’s strategic vision is only as good as the people behind it. If you don’t focus on behaviour, culture and decision-making, the digital transformation process cannot deliver the desired business outcomes.

Defining and implementing a cross-departmental collaboration framework is key to ensuring digitisation is effective, both in terms of bottom line and client value. This can be challenging for international corporations that have branches spread all over the world, but success is possible with a measured approach.

Rather than jumping headfirst into digital transformation, take time to understand the drivers of digital transformation and where you should focus your time and attention. This means proactivity. Truly understand what the current context of your organisation is and listen to your employees’ voices.

A Clear Pathway

Thanks to technology, business leaders can now use a variety of digital tools to connect with employees at an unprecedented scale and to quickly assess capabilities, resources and dysfunctions in a matter of minutes.

Bear in mind though, ambiguity is the enemy of execution, so if you want successful digital transformation you need access to razor sharp intelligence, both in respect to a team’s capacity and their readiness to digitally transform, and the critical pathways to reach your goals.

Once you are in tune with your organisation’s day-to-day needs, you need to know how to leverage the right digital strategy for your company.

Here are a few steps you should take into consideration when planning to take your organisation to the next level and lead it through a successful digital transformation process:

Science Meets Art

  1. Take the pulse of the business and staff. What are the problems each are facing on a daily basis?
  2. Listen to their issues, evaluate strengths and potential weaknesses;
  3. Set clear objectives and priorities;
  4. Communicate goals, objectives and performance to the entire team ;
  5. Secure support and generate engagement;
  6. Give staff the freedom and authority to innovate;
  7. Be prepared to make some tough decisions and demands;
  8. Break down silos and create a more flexible work environment;
  9. Establish a reward scheme and celebrate success;
  10. Re-assess your goals regularly.

Now that you have a clear strategy laid out, you need to win the hearts and minds of your employees. Get them invested and engaged in a shared vision regarding the company’s digital future.

Demonstrate clearly how they can increase the quality of their work with digital tools. Show how client relationships are improved with modern communications solutions. Build a better team spirit with applications that bring teams together.

Food for Thought

Ultimately, to make the new digital ways of working stick and increase your team’s productivity and performance, you’ll need to navigate the change process together with the employees. Develop a new set of leadership skills that encourages staff to experiment with digital solutions and allows them to adapt the new tools to their work practices.

Digital transformation is a journey, not a destination – a dynamic, constantly evolving process that needs regular evaluation and updating to ensure it keeps pace with market trends and the wider economic context.

Today’s business landscape is changing constantly, therefore building a culture that can cope with constant change and evolution is crucial for successful digital transformation.

Many business leaders believe that great technology leads to great organisations and great services. However, the high rate of failed projects and mediocre results have proved that organisational culture is critical to the success of digital transformation and is not just a feel-good factor or afterthought.

There is no proven recipe for successful digital transformation, but remember that employees are the main drivers and champions of this process. They are vital in helping you to refine your strategy and leverage the full potential of your staff.


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