In the marriage of business and technology, strategy is the foundation of the most successful relationships. According to an extensive study, the strategic implementation of new technologies, rather than the use of technology as a problem-solving tool, is how businesses successfully evolve in digital environments.
The MIT Sloan Management Review and Deloitte’s 2015 global study of digital business conducted the survey last fall among a sample of more than 4,800 business managers, analysts and executives from around the globe.
Respondents were asked to describe a company that has most-ideally transitioned in its use of digital technologies and then compare the company they currently work for according to that ideal image.
From Early Stage to Digital Maturity
The study authors refer to that image of how the transition to digital technology usage becomes transformative to the business as digital maturity. Typically, what separates a digitally-mature company from one that is in the earlier stages is a clear digital strategy.
It may be a strategy that has been – of is being — championed by one individual from within an organization that has a culture of change leading toward innovation.
“In the early stage companies, we see them really companies focusing on the productivity-driven applications of IT,” Gerald Kane, one of the study’s authors said in a Podcast Interview. “The culture tends to be a little more siloed.”
Across all age groups, employees want to work for digitally-enabled organizations and are actively looking for opportunities those digitally-mature organizations provide.
“Among the more mature companies, the main goal of digital implementation is to change the way the company does business,” Kane said. “The companies tend to be more integrated and the employees are more collaborative.”
The study’s implications for B2B enterprises are numerous. Companies that are perceived to be reaching higher and higher levels of digital maturation attract talent and retain those employees because the opportunities afforded by higher productivity.
According to the study, digitally mature enterprises have several qualities in common.
1. Remarkable Transparency
The lack of strategy and lack of management understanding is the major barrier to digital maturation. Digitally-mature enterprises are open about their goals to transform business processes, their plans for implementation and about their metrics. This openness helps the leadership of the enterprise to separate those with real knowledge about implementing digital technologies such as social media, mobile, analytics and cloud computing from those who don’t really have the knowledge required.
2. Develop skills among employees
The speed of technological innovation is faster than the ability to train people to implement and use new technologies. Digitally-maturing enterprises provide their employees with opportunities to acquire skills and expertise that they will need as them follow the implementation – transformation trajectory.
For B2B enterprises, this can range from time during the work day to seek out and review summaries of new applications for business processes, to setting up and tracking alerts about specific technologies as they relate to business processes, to more formal educational offerings both in and out of house.
3. Culture of Risk Taking
Digitally maturing enterprises cultivate a culture of risk taking. While it’s often believed that young employees are not risk-averse while their employees are, such a claim is not necessarily true.
According to the study, if you you’re asking employees to work differently, then you have to protect them while they risk failures that – in digitally maturing companies – are considered likely to happen at some point over the course of adoption.
“No one is going to be fired for not using social media at their job,” Kane said as an example, “but they could be fired if they make a mistake.”
B2B enterprises can ask employees to use their best judgment, but protect them and their jobs not if, but when enterprise-mandated experimentation goes awry.
Digital strategies that lead to digital maturation are characterized by what the study authors called “irrational exuberance” for business and technology in general.
When faced with a new technology, the leadership of digitally mature enterprises are more likely to see and emphasize opportunities while those at the earlier stages are likely to see threats presented by technology and those threats present barriers to adoption.
Photo via sodahead.com
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