Cultural Transformation for Digital Transformation by Antony Cousins

Building an environment for success 

Digital transformation is a buzzword that has increasingly been doing the rounds in business circles. The reality is that almost every true business ‘transformation’ taking place at the moment involves a large amount of digitising a process or stored information. If you’ve still got stacks of paper in filing cabinets, it’s guaranteed you’re not far off from a digital transformation.

The need for culture change

Building the right culture to enable a successful digital transformation is just as, if not more, important than simply reviewing the tech stack or digitising the paper. Digital transformation is still a form of change, and change requires a behavioural as well as process shift. The number of projects that fail to achieve their intended benefits has stayed the same since the 90s at around 70% because changing behaviours is still hard work.


Leaving out the behavioural and larger cultural shift is still typically the factor most likely to stall a digital transformation. Simply put, if you digitise the paper in your filing cabinets without getting your employees to stop creating paper, your change is going to fail.


How to change your culture

Get people involved: Not consulting your employees, or at least demonstrating you’ve consulted someone ‘like them’, means they’ll immediately have a concern that their issues have not been considered, raising a barrier to them supporting the change. Involving them will raise support and you’ll benefit from the broader engagement when it comes to implementing the change.

Appoint Champions: Sharing ambitions and plans company-wide is a much easier task when shared by people to other people like themselves. The language they use and the references they use to illustrate points will all resonate a lot more than someone from the ‘Ivory Tower’. 

Break down silos: It’s too easy in large organisations to have an ‘us’ and ‘them’ culture between departments or business units. This prevents any good ideas being perceived as valuable and crossing the boundary. Establish as many lateral networks as you can to ensure good ideas and new digital transformation agendas can spread virally throughout an organisation, not just top down.

Remove legacy tech: Legacy systems don’t talk to each other the way new cloud-based and API driven platforms do. This prevents network effects and slows down transformation. If your systems don’t talk to each other, your employees can’t either.

Foster a culture of continuous improvement: Establish a narrative for your business which makes clear change is a constant. It will never end and there will never be a ‘perfect’ time for any change. Getting your employees to believe that digital transformation isn’t a one-time activity, but a fundamental requirement of how they think and act is crucial to a business remaining agile and competitive.


Believing that digital transformation can be delivered without culture change is a recipe for disaster. Invest resources in changing the way your organisation thinks, as well as works, to get the most out of digital transformation.

This article is brought to you exclusively by The Business Transformation Network as part of our partnership with ProFinda and WoF Network. 


Ant Cousins is a communications and change management professional with extensive experience in delivering projects enabling technology adoption within complex organisations such professional services, construction and financial services firms. Over the last 18 years, Ant has worked in multiple roles within government across the Ministry of Defence, Home Office, Cabinet Office, British Army and, more recently, within the technology space for international talent intelligence tech provider - ProFinda.