There seems to be little question these days as to the increasing dominance of digital technology in virtually every sector of the economy. According to a recently released report from the consulting services firm Accenture, titled Technology Vision 2016, whereas the global digital economy accounted for just 15% of the world’s total economy in 2005, that figure jumped to 22% in 2015, and it is projected to reach a striking 25% by 2020.
Given the unprecedented speed and scale of change brought about by the digital revolution, it’s hardly surprising that organizations of all sizes and across all industries are struggling with what Accenture has dubbed “digital culture shock.” Faced with the sudden, urgent need to dramatically transform organizational culture models that are in many cases long-established and resistant to change, many companies are having difficulty figuring out how to make the leap from legacy structures to thriving digital cultures.
But while such paralysis may be understandable, it’s something that organizations cannot afford to get stuck on for long. And they’re certainly not unaware of this: of the more than 3,100 business and IT executives in 11 countries who responded to the Accenture Technology Vision 2016 survey, 28% expected that the pace of technology would increase in their industry at an unprecedented rate over the next three years, while 58% believed it would increase rapidly. In other words, business leaders know that they don’t have long to make a corporate cultural shift before the pace of technology begins to leave them behind.
So what touchstones can these leaders use in building a successful digital culture? Accenture identifies four core qualities that vibrant digital enterprises must encompass:
A digital enterprise is built for change
While tradition and consistency may have been strong and important corporate values in the past, change is the name of the game in today’s economy. Interestingly, what many businesses are discovering is that remaking themselves as adaptable, change-ready structures often involves fundamentally altering how the company itself operates. Keeping pace with the new speed of digital business requires new skills, products, processes, and a whole new approach to the work of the company. Flexibility and scalability become vital assets: companies turn to agile methodologies and DevOps models to drive continual delivery and continuous improvement, while platforms, service-oriented architecture, and SaaS applications allow for optimized efficiency and responsiveness. And most important of all, the people of the company must be ready to expect and accept change, understand how it will impact their work, and evolve and add to their skills as needed in order to cope with their shifting work environment.
A digital enterprise is data driven
In this context, data-driven means much more than a company simply using data and analytics, even at a very high level. Rather, a truly data-driven enterprise has—at the most basic level—altered the way it makes business decisions. Traditional experience, “gut instinct,” or even deference to the views of executives or senior leadership are replaced as the basis for decision-making in digital corporate culture by the insight that comes from analyzing pervasive, readily available data. This means that companies must have both the necessary technology to harvest and analyze relevant data on everything from customer behavior to industry trends, and a workforce that understands the importance of data in making sound business decisions.
A digital enterprise embraces and welcomes disruption
Truly thriving digital businesses don’t just use technology to keep up with what’s happening around them. Rather, they work to incorporate disruption into their corporate DNA. These businesses are front-runners in their fields, looking ahead and seeing not how things are done, but how things could be done, and then leveraging technology to enable their enterprise to follow a completely new direction. Accomplishing this involves listening to customers, partners, and employees to deepen their understanding of the emerging and changing needs and attitudes that drive disruption, and creating and embedding disruptive strategies in order to underpin their success. As a result, these vibrant digital businesses will be at the forefront of reshaping industry boundaries and forming brand new business ecosystems.
A digital enterprise is digitally risk aware
The rapid pace of current technological development brings enormous opportunity, but it also greatly increases the potential risk for digital businesses. Today, enterprises face risks and challenges that their non-digital predecessors scarcely imagined, much less encountered: new security vectors, demand for data transparency, responsibility for ensuring and safeguarding consumer privacy, and questions about how to use new technologies ethically and accountably. Furthermore, the risks are magnified by the very scale of technological use. When data and technology use pervade the fabric of an organization, potential problems are amplified. In response, digital leaders must be aware of the level of risks they face and work to combat them by building digital trust into all of their activities.