Why culture is key to success in digital transformation projects

Why culture is key to success in digital transformation projects

Mark Dyer

10 December 2019 - 7 min read

Digital Transformation
Why culture is key to success in digital transformation projects

Research shows that 70% of complex, large-scale change programs don’t reach their stated goals, with common pitfalls including a lack of employee engagement, inadequate management support, poor or non-existent cross-functional collaboration and a lack of accountability.

With many organisations now investing in new technology, it’s often the business’ culture that can make or break a project. Culture can be the difference between engaged staff who readily adopt new technology and a hesitant workforce that is resistant to change.

Audacia has delivered many successful digital transformation projects for businesses across various industries. Based on this experience, we have identified six key cultural factors for success.

Question and Listen Rather Than Tell

When staff are the end users, proactively asking everyone in the business what could be improved and giving a voice to all is hugely empowering. By carefully listening to and acknowledging feedback, a business is more likely to make well-informed decisions about what business requirements are needed from the technology and what will be most beneficial to staff – and to the bottom line.

In contrast, a ‘telling’ leadership style that issues demands might face resistance from employees. For example, ‘here is the new system, you need to use it and there’ll be no discussion’ does not endear staff to new technology. A leadership team that has spent time listening to its people and instead says, ‘you spoke, we listened, and here’s the new system you requested’, does. 

Involving the right people internally is critical as it will ensure you get insightful input and project buy-in, enabling you to analyse and dig into organisational need from different levels of the business. Combine this with the organisation’s strategic vision and you’ll be more likely to achieve intuitive and effective, future-proof software solutions.

An Agile Mindset

Regardless of size, managing digital transformation projects often requires a business to be flexible and open to change.

According to the latest global State of Agile survey, 98% of respondents felt their organisation realised some measure of success from agile projects, including better prioritisation, better business and IT alignment, reduction in project risk and improved software maintainability.

The agile methodology ensures you always start with the ‘why’ and the entire approach is aligned and responsive to business’ needs. Through regular communication, constant collaboration and feedback sessions, organisations are able to benefit from quick adaptations and the delivery of business value often, a key to surviving in an increasingly digital and competitive market.

An agile method also gives the ability to adapt to change throughout the development process. Whether this be a change in the marketplace, a change in your organisations processes or the result of feedback from a product prototype, adopting an iterative approach allows for you to plan for these changes and adapt as required, resulting in a robust and scalable end product.

A Realistic Outlook

A business that starts a project because ‘we need AI’, before it has all the behind-the-scenes systems in place, is likely not to add real business value.

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It’s good to have vision in terms of adopting modern technologies to improve business processes along with customer experience, however, often fundamental factors are overlooked that should be initially addressed in order to provide a platform for innovation.

Smaller projects lead to bigger things. Businesses should understand that they need to invest in strategic technology that will solve bottlenecks, such as a bespoke software project to upgrade legacy platforms that are a barrier to growth, before moving on to trial and test more innovative technologies.

Employ long-term thinking for technology that aligns with the business’ wider strategy and goals, rather than ‘innovating for innovation’s sake’ by adopting the latest trends.

A Highly Collaborative Approach

Whilst making a digital project collaborative by ensuring employees test prototypes, targeting usability to them, making changes quickly based on their feedback, and trusting what they are saying about functionality, this collaborative approach should also reflect in how you work with a software development company.

With a survey stating that 46% of CIO’s believe that one of the main reasons IT projects fail is weak ownership, businesses need to define and empower project owners in order to drive engagement with the wider organisation and work collaboratively with supplier teams to drive project success.

Complex projects can involve distributed teams with a high degree of stakeholder interdependency. With organisations that are minimally effective communicators reporting significantly fewer projects that meet original goals, communication is key to digital project success.

Ensure information sharing and communication happens in real-time, effectively transferring key information such as timelines, budget and documentation through collaboration tools, keeping all teams updated through status updates, dashboards with real-time performance indicators, best-practices and lessons learned.

A Focus on Communications

Aside from the business and technical aspects of digital transformation, businesses need to focus on employee experiences.

As with any business transformation and change initiative, communication is often cited as best practice, with success stories underpinned by engaged employees meeting business goals and driving success.

Throughout technology projects, communicate regularly and openly with employees across the business. This will promote a culture of continuous improvement and innovation, gaining company-wide buy-in to business and technological change.

Internal communications could include company-wide reporting of the results of a new technology project, rather than just the department using it, or by demonstrating the system to other departments with an explanation of it’s impact. Overall contributing to greater consideration for technology projects and how they could improve differing processes.

A Willingness to Identify Concerns and Address Them

There is often resistance to new technology. Rather than ignore staff concerns, proactively identify and address them with the right messages to alleviate opposition and encourage buy-in.

Concerns might include:

  • Job replacement, as staff think they are being replaced by technology. Many new systems actually improve ways of working rather than taking jobs.
  • Technophobia. Offer mentoring from those who are comfortable using technology to those who aren’t, offer training sessions on how to use different types of technology.
  • Intimidating to suddenly work in completely different way. Give extensive training on the new system before it goes live and show the benefits clearly. For example, use videos to highlight specific processes and how long they take with the old system versus the new system, to show the reduction in time taken.

Is Your Culture Ready for a Digital Transformation Project?

Assess your business’ culture when planning to transform your digital capabilities to identify if any of the above six factors can be improved or introduced. A collaborative, communicative and flexible culture will help support a successful project.


To find out more about how culture can impact digital transformation projects, contact Audacia on 0113 398 4199 or at info@audacia.co.uk.

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Mark Dyer is the Head of TechOps and Infrastructure at Audacia. He has a strong background in development and likes to keep busy researching new and interesting techniques, architectures and frameworks to better new projects.