When you think digital transformation, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Like countless others, you probably think of technology solutions implemented by IT teams, serving as a foundation for future growth.

In truth, digital transformation is as much a cultural challenge as it is a technological one. It cannot be a “one and done” process, or owned by one team, either.

To adapt and ensure future successes, businesses must foster a “build-measure-learn” culture of continuous improvement. And that must apply across the entire organization, from IT to Marketing, and beyond.

Transformation drivers and barriers

According to Altimeter, most digital transformation efforts are driven by growth opportunities (51%) and competitive pressure (41%). Businesses undertaking a digital transformation are looking to join “the future” – with all the AI, automation, and data insight that promises.

But all too often, organizations are looking for a technological transformation without a cultural one, and get tripped up in their rush to meet their “go-live” date. Entrenched viewpoints and resistance to change (26%) are the biggest barriers to digital transformation progress.

This year has upended many aspects of normal business, but hasn’t dampened the energy being invested in digital transformations. An IDC survey of IT leaders in China earlier this year revealed that only 14% have downgraded their growth plans and, even then, only by 5%-10%. The same survey revealed that the pandemic has actually improved long-distance collaborative work, and widened recognition of the value of digital transformation. Shared challenges seem to have brought teams closer together in moving forward digitally.

Everyone should feel they have a stake in your transformation, because your transformation won’t succeed without everyone’s contributions. Over 70% of employers say their workforce is “very or extremely important” to their transformation.

Tip At Sitecore, we’ve seen first-hand what aligned and focused teams can achieve. Visit our Digital Transformation Hub to see for yourself, and get tips on breaking down your own internal barriers.

From “one and done” to continuous transformation

The agile principles that emerged in IT have spilled over into other lines of business, especially Marketing. With the growing acceptance that a digital transformation demands a business-wide effort, it’s vital that more business units adopt the “build-measure-learn” mindset (as we have previously discussed).

This “build-measure-learn” framework is about solving cultural challenges, getting human minds working in a way that encourages iterative thinking and constant creation. This is a framework for “continuous doing,” not piecemeal implementation.

Fostering this mindset throughout the business will be crucial to overcoming common transformation barriers. Teams should be encouraged to try new things that, even if they fail, will lead to learnings and improvements.

This change in strategy should start from the top, with senior marketers or IT leaders acting as risk-taking role models. It will then trickle down to the frontline, with teams putting forward bold ideas that could make their day-to-day lives – and the experiences of customers – better.

If everyone in the business is working toward the same digital-first future, and is encouraged to build-measure-learn (at speed and scale), then your digital transformation will be more likely to pay off in the long run.

To change is to grow

Real, long-lasting and sustainable change begins with changing mindsets, encouraging experimentation, and embracing continuous learning.

No transformation is easy. But it becomes more achievable when building on a solid foundation – one that consists of several important elements:

  • Communication – Inspiring and informative communication, from the C-suite to all relevant teams, is crucial to any change project. A two-way channel must be created, with teams free to share ideas and feedback to leadership.
  • Clear understanding of roles – Central to your transformation is the "Experience Dream Team”. Make sure everyone can collaborate easily, and that you have an executive sponsor on board. Other important roles include the “strategic thinker”, the practical “builder”, analysts, and experience designers. For more on this, download our ebook on building your Dream Team.
  • Honest and brutal self-reflection – If something isn’t going as planned, change gears. Reflect. Figure out what is missing. Try something new. Use your learnings from past successes to inform your next move.
  • A willingness to embrace change – No business stubbornly set in their ways can hope to move forward. Ensure that everyone in the business is on board with trying new technologies, processes, and techniques.
  • New technologies – It goes without saying that for a proper digital transformation, you will be implementing new technologies. Consider tools that will help teams collaborate and deliver better, more personalized customer experiences, and those that take the complexity out of marketing efforts.

Sprinting to achieve a new goal every few years is unsustainable and disruptive. Worse, it leaves you behind the curve. Instead, you should foster a culture of continuous transformation, one in which you build-measure-learn at every stage. Talk to us today to find out how we can set you up for success.

Continuous improvement is possible. But it can’t happen without a cultural shift. 

Pieter Brinkman is Senior Director of Technical Marketing at Sitecore, overseeing global strategy for its developer ecosystem, technical enablement of partners and technical employees, GTM strategies and Sitecore’s sales demos. Find him on LinkedIn.