People And Culture Are The Biggest Barriers To Digital Transformation

New research released by Capgemini/MIT shows that two-thirds of global enterprise companies are failing to evolve into digital enterprises–but using baby steps as opposed to overhauls can help them make the transition.


New research just released by Capgemini/MIT reveals that two-thirds of global enterprise companies are failing to evolve into digital enterprises.  According to the report, people and culture are the biggest barriers to digital transformation.


I totally agree.

While ineffective IT is also blamed, I think the term needs to be revised to “disruptive IT,” as the problem really stems from the issue that slick marketers have brainwashed senior execs into thinking that the path to digital transformation is a disruptive, revolutionary path, rather than an evolutionary process.

If the IT marketing people are to be believed, senior execs need to rip out their existing mission-critical tools like email and documents, and replace them with relatively unproven technologies such as blogs, wikis, and allied next-generation tools.

This is not digital transformation, but digital disruption, and it only serves to alienate managers and their staff, as this notion of upheaval is enough to scare off all but the most adventurous CIOs.

And, the larger the company, the more there is to lose.


Expecting workers, managers, and organizations to make significant changes in the way they work is a big risk, because people are reluctant to change. In the history of innovation, the “revolutionary” approach often fails, because it doesn’t take the human factor into account.

Even study co-author Andrew McAfee applies this aversion to change to the use of the new collaboration tools, saying “you should never underestimate the fondness of people and organizations for the status quo.”

The solution to this seemingly intractable problem starts with McAfee’s advice to technologists, which is to start thinking in terms of “busy people with short attention spans, who have a lot to get done and who can always reach for email.”

In lieu of a rip-and-replace strategy, companies should to take baby steps by building on the tools your organization already has, namely email, calendaring, and document management systems.

Building on people’s familiar’s tools is a great way of easing them into new technologies. Change is hard because people don’t like to change the way they work. And this is where the “baby steps” approach comes in–people need to learn to walk in the digital world before they can run.


One example of easing people into technology is using social email as a launchpad for integrating new collaboration capabilities. A case in point: research has shown that, whilst approaching 80% of firms have invested in Microsoft SharePoint, only 20% of staff use it on a daily basis (Source: Forrester). Using social email products like* to get people to automatically upload documents to SharePoint when they send email attachments is one very simple way to integrate two existing technologies to create a new collaboration dynamic, without changing user behavior.

By minimizing the need for workers to change their work habits, while mitigating the financial risk in investing in new and unproven technologies, a fail-safe methodology for embracing the digital transformation can be created and adoption barriers can be removed. As workers and managers see the value of digital collaboration, add functionality and social connections to the mix, enabling people to become more productive and find colleagues to help boost collaboration.

The psychology of evolutionary change is far more productive than a “rip and replace” approach, because it assimilates the worker psyche with collaboration goals. Minimizing the need for workers and managers to change their daily work habits, while mitigating the financial risk in investing in new and unproven technologies, is a better strategy for success and is a win-win situation for all concerned.

*Disclaimer: Author David Lavenda is an executive at

About the author

A technology strategist for an enterprise software company in the collaboration and social business space. I am particularly interested in studying how people, organizations, and technology interact, with a focus on why particular technologies are successfully adopted while others fail in their mission. In my 'spare' time, I am pursuing an advanced degree in STS (Science, Technology, and Society), focusing on how social collaboration tools impact our perceptions of being overloaded by information. I am an international scholar for the Society for the History of Technology.