Digital Transformation – A Project or a Mindset?

May 4, 2022 | 5 Mins Caitlyn Simons

Digital transformation is something of a buzzword and a lot of companies claim to be in the process of implementing one. Some companies hire specific digital transformation project officers and give them a major project like overhauling two or three business critical units within the organization and asking them to complete it within a fixed period of time.

So, for some businesses digital transformation initiatives are considered to be a project with a starting point, a finishing point and some clearly outlined results. But for others, it is more about mindset and culture, these people view it as an ongoing process of innovation and one that never ends.

In this article, we will examine whether it should be a project or something that should be embedded in company culture.

A finite project

With a digital transformation project, we can see the value in framing it in this finite concept and there is certainly something attractive about undertaking a digital project that will produce innovative results for an organization and then being able to celebrate the success of the project with your team and company when it reaches its endpoint.

A finite project is attractive: it calls for a digital transformation officer or project manager to come in, see the old way of doing things, and establish significant change in terms of innovative digital processes, that is also being backed up by stakeholder support and investment from the finance department.

This way a company would be able to transform a business unit with upgraded and new technologies, faster business processes, more innovation, and greater efficiency. It is certainly attractive to be able to compare the before and after picture, meet a deadline and exit the process and then reflect on a successful digital transformation.

The advantage of a finite project is that the digital innovation should be there for all to see once it has been finished and there is a further opportunity to create key comparison metrics that prove this new digital process is a major improvement on the previous way of doing things and increases business value. The project is validated, and success is achieved for the company and the project team. This would only enhance the operations of the business and with upgraded technology, these operations can be expected to run more smoothly.

Some digital transformation project officers and managers like to work this way- they come in, transform digitally, complete the project, and get out. It allows them to become experts in their field and state their accomplishments in interviews for jobs at a future date. It can also be a perfectly valid way of getting something done quickly and efficiently.

A culture and mindset change

This approach is much more about viewing digital transformation as an ongoing project-a cultural mindset, a set of attitudes and a specific list of behaviors that you attempt to embed in the wider international workforce.

This is much harder to achieve and there are many more variables involved. This is more focused on playing the long game and creating a transformation mindset in order to establish a new company culture that focuses on digital innovation.

In order to achieve the right mindset then a workplace environment needs to be created in which ideas can flow freely from all employees. Encouraging a curious state of mind in employees, alongside an adaptable management style is crucial when aspiring for a mindset change. People are always going to be at the center of a digital transformation strategy, so having employees that are at the center of everything that is happening and who understand the reason behind any mindset changes is crucial if innovative operations are to run smoothly.

With this mindset and culture change, you sacrifice the immediate short-term results and forgo the glory of project success because this is all about the long-term business outcomes. It is also very much an educational project as you want your global workforce to think differently and approach things with a digital and innovative mindset. This can take time and effort. Furthermore, it is crucial to make sure that the employees themselves have bought into it and desire it as well. Only when this has been achieved will you then be able to see a change in their behavior and approach. Only then will it become embedded in the company and workplace culture.

But, if this is all done successfully then it can reap significant long-term rewards because this time, it is not one small group of people involved in a project, but a global workforce operating from the same page and thinking in innovative ways, collaborating together, and doing things differently. This could mean that the positive results would be significantly higher if the entire operation is done correctly and the whole company is working towards a common goal.

Necessity might dictate approach

Businesses sometimes need to change in response to what is happening in the market and sometimes they simply find that their old, outdated legacy technology is no longer fit for purpose. It could be in urgent need of an upgrade and turn out to be so urgent that to not digitally upgrade would result in loss of revenue or loss of opportunity to take advantage of what is happening in the market.

This is a situation where necessity dictates the digital transformation approach. This is more likely to be a fixed term project, done at urgent speed with some very clear outlines for what success should look like, such as fully overhauling and replacing a legacy system with a modern and innovative digital cloud service. A digital project manager can also become involved, collaborate with key IT leaders in the business and make this happen.

This is likely to be the most common scenario, a digital transformation that happens because it has to happen, otherwise there are business consequences that affect revenue and the bottom line.

The other scenario relates back to culture and a digital mindset. A fully researched and considered approach to changing culture and embedding a new way of looking at things with a focus on innovation and digital success. This is more long-term planning and a series of projects that involve a larger number of stakeholders across the business, innovating out of desire and opportunity rather than immediate necessity.

Innovating to predict future trends and get ahead of the competition rather than waiting for something to happen that causes you to react could be a valuable and influential mindset change for companies to take. Some companies pride themselves on being innovators and getting there first- they believe embedding a culture of digital innovation is the best way for their company to both survive and thrive. They also believe that when a project becomes urgent and important, it may already be a little too late in some ways. This approach means that always having the mindset for digital innovation is key to ensuring your company is prepared and up to date with the ever-changing landscape of technology.


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