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Employees, not executives, pushing for more digital transformation

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No one disputes that any and all businesses need to move toward digital enterprises. Staff employees understand this, and are more likely than CEOs and executives to be pushing for faster change.

Photo courtesy of HubSpot

That's the conclusion of a new survey of 1,559 executives released by Capgemini Consulting in partnership with MIT Sloan Management Review.  The study, written by Michael Fitzgerald, Nina Kruschwitz, Didier Bonnet and Michael Welch, finds widespread agreement that the future is digital. Four out of five respondents agree that digital transformation will give their company a competitive advantage and be critical to their organization within the next two years. A digital enterprise is one that employs tools such as data analytics through and through to better engage customers and improve delivery of products or services.

However, 63 percent of respondents say the pace of technology change in their organizations is too slow. In addition, employees seem to be more impatient with progress toward digital transformation than their upper managers. "A third of C-level executives and board members think the pace of change is about right, and another 10 percent think it is fast, or even very fast. CEOs are particularly bullish — 53 percent think the pace is right, fast, or very fast."

Middle managers and staff employees say there isn't enough progress toward the digital realm. "Only 25 percent of managers think the pace is right, and only 22 percent of staff agree.  Management was guilty of “complacency, [and] ignorance of modern technology,” said one respondent. “Clueless management,” commented another.

The main obstacles to digital include competing priorities – “we don’t have time for this right now,” say 53 percent, along with lack of familiarity with digital – “we don’t know how to do that,” as indicated by 52 percent. Another 40 percent say there is resistance to new approaches – “this is the way we’ve always done it.”

The study finds only 15 percent of respondents could be considered "mature" adopters of digital technologies. As Kruschwitz, Bonnet and Welch put it, few companies rank in the same category as a Starbucks or Intel, which are held up as leaders in the field. Starbucks, for example, has a chief digital officer and enables customer mobile engagements. Another 65 percent of organizations have barely begun to tap into digital.

The study's authors identified the four stages of digital transformation:

  1. Beginner companies likely use email, Internet and enterprise software, "but they have been slow to adopt, or are skeptical of, more advanced digital technologies like social media and analytics."
  2. Conservative companies have a vision, but "deliberately hang back when it comes to new technologies."
  3. Fashionista companies "are very aggressive in adopting new technologies, but do not coordinate well across departments."
  4. Digirati companies have the vision, and are willing to invest what it takes.

— By on October 8, 2013, 4:26 PM PST

Joe McKendrick

Contributing Editor

Joe McKendrick is an independent analyst who tracks the impact of information technology on management and markets. He is a co-author of the SOA Manifesto and has written for Forbes, ZDNet and Database Trends & Applications. He holds a degree from Temple University. He is based in Pennsylvania. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure