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How CIOs Can Remake Company Culture For Digital Transformation Success


Culture is frequently identified as a leading barrier to digital transformation. As technology lies at the heart of driving all digital transformation projects, experts believe that CIOs or IT leaders can lead culture change as they embark on their digital transformation journey. This means that the CIOs now have yet another hat to wear — remaking company culture to cope with an era of rapid changes.

recent Gartner report noted that in 50% of cases, CIOs report that culture turns out to be the main barrier, resulting into failure of transformational initiatives. Christie Struckman, research vice president at Gartner, said that by 2021, 80% of medium to large enterprises will change their culture to increase their odds for digital transformation success.

Struckman advised, in order to do so, it is the CIO who should start with culture change when they set out on digital transformation, not wait to address it later.

CIOs as the culture agent

At this juncture, the question that comes to mind is how CIOs can lead the cultural change given the complex interplay of culture, technology and leadership within an organization.

Needless to say, the CIO agenda today is getting bigger and bolder than ever, with a focus on automation, transformation, digitization, innovation and many more. Bringing about a culture change would certainly add to his already inflated portfolio.

If truth be told, however, the CIO cannot bring the cultural changes alone and needs an expert partner who will facilitate workforce planning to ensure that IT will have the talent and skills needed in today’s marketplace.

CIO meets HR

CIOs facing digital transformation challenges and realize the need to accelerate culture change, build an environment of continuous learning, drive internal mobility and improve employee engagement need HR partners that are energetically powering that same evolution. As noted researcher and author Josh Bersin,founder of Bersin by Deloitte, said, Along with the HR partner, the CIO can play an active role in driving digital transformation by helping to instill a more change-savvy, innovative culture throughout the enterprise.

Bersin also noted in his report HR Technology Disruptions that organizations need to invest in its IT-HR business partnership. Many HR leaders simply don’t get the nuances of IT. The need of the hour is to engage HR business partner in all phases of strategy including IT. HR needs a deep understanding of the IT strategy and the ability to translate it into a workforce strategy that provides the right culture, best talent, continuous learning, and internal mobility.

According to him, “Today’s CIOs should rely on their HR business partners to think holistically about talent and deliver a differentiated IT workforce strategy, including retaining, training and empowering its workforce with the necessary skills needed in the digital era.”

Agreed Elise Olding, research vice president at Gartner. “A partnership with the CHRO is the perfect way to align technology selections and design processes to shape the desired work behaviors,” Olding stated.

Creating a culture of diversity

Organisations should also look at making their workforce more diverse to drive business goals. Studies indicate that inclusion can improve performance by over 30% in diverse teams. This will help more organizations with front-line decision-making teams reflect a diverse and inclusive culture that will exceed their financial targets.

In such a scenario, CIOs should think of their culture as an “employee experience program,” according to Leigh McMullen, VP analyst at Gartner, adding that CIOs who embody new cultural attributes set a strong example for their direct reports and staff. When CIOs share their personal experiences making the change—and the challenges they’ve faced—they are more authentic, and their experiences dealing with difficult situations can help employees surmount similar hurdles.

Analyst suggests that CIOs have the means to create the right kind of business culture through the technology choices they make, and that CIOs have already picked up plenty of experience in leading cultural change as they’ve pushed through digital transformation. In other words, successful digital transformation projects are really about tweaking the personality of a business

That doesn’t mean that every CIO-led digital transformation project would be a success. Successful digital transformation projects are really about tweaking the personality of a business — and changing that ingrained character is tough, a job that CIOs should now seriously look into.

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Sohini Bagchi
Sohini Bagchi is Editor at CXOToday, a published author and a storyteller. She can be reached at sohini.bagchi@trivone.com