What’s the Digital Culture of Your Organization?


The digital transformation revolution has left few organizations untouched. The vague term is interpreted differently depending on to whom you’re talking, but a general consensus leads us to a definition of the integration of digital technologies into the everyday mechanics of how organizations operate, supplanting previously manual processes. A basic example is transitioning financial transactions from a handwritten ledger to accounting software accessed via the cloud.

Every organization’s digital transformation is unique; our focus is what BrandCulture refers to as the digital culture of your organization. In the past few years, we’ve focused frequently on this concept with our clients, seeing patterns emerge and revealing shortcuts that we think can be of great value. These techniques apply to all facets of the organization, from the onboarding period of new hires, to obtaining employee buy-in for strategic pivots, to simpler tasks like file storage.

Digital Transformation Versus Digital Culture

While some see digital transformation as a one-off experience, our concept of digital transformation is a mindset, a philosophy guiding the evolution of your organization and its client relationships over the long-term.

By “digital culture,” we refer to how your organization interacts conceptually with technology and the organization’s overall relationship to new tools, systems, ethical challenges, regulatory frameworks, etc. This is not simply the IT department’s decision to store data with an external cloud provider, but rather how the process of making that decision took place, the message that the particular choice of cloud provider sends to the market, the mental transition long-term employees need to move on from legacy software, etc.

Digital Openness

Our most important takeaway from our client experiences is the importance of inculcating a culture of digital openness.  This doesn’t mean you need to go buy a new CRM system immediately, but rather that you should be actively conscious of and receptive to evolutions in digital opportunity that could bring value to your business.

Although most perceptual shifts at an organization begin at the top, a culture of digital openness is inherently democratic, in that it doesn’t necessarily rely on depth or breadth of experience in an organization or sector; any one employee may provide a catalytic idea for improving your digital culture.

Digital openness is imperative, but the adoption of any new system will still require the prudence of a cost-benefit analysis in terms of both time and dollars.

What to do with Your Millennials (Or: “Can I Snapchat a Client?”)

Many of your youngsters will be at the vanguard of these digital evolutions, spilling over with suggestions, apps and platforms. While you should encourage this as it may foment an enhanced digital culture, laying down some ground rules that also apply to other employees, regardless of age, will serve to keep your friskiest in check.

There should be no pictures of clients on social media or openly maligning the organization online, for example. For many employees, platforms like Instagram and Twitter (apparently Facebook at this point is only for the aged and infirm) are so seamlessly integrated into their daily lives that the differentiation between professional/private can become hazy, especially if you’re in a visual business that benefits from that type of platform. In parallel, a platform like LinkedIn can be a powerful networking and promotional tool, despite any perceived fustiness. Talk with your team and be clear about what is and what’s not acceptable.

Concurrently, be careful not to alienate your older workers. Take into account that modern digital tools may take time for older employees to learn and may actually hamper productivity in the short-term. Aim to avoid losing out on their experience and accumulated knowledge just because there’s a new digital collaboration tool in the office.

Digital Culture as External Brand

The outside world will take note of your digital culture. Even subtle cues such as which mobile phones your employees  use (snazzy iPhone or basic Samsung J5?), or which platforms you use for collaboration (Amazon’s Chime is simply adorable, Cisco’s WebEx connotes functionality and seriousness but often frustrating, and Google Hangouts is, well, hanging), will be interpreted by the market. Maybe you’re Skype-based with Gmail accounts (hello, bootstrapped start-ups)? All these signals send digital culture messages to the greater world about who you are as an organization, so take time to think about how they impact your greater brand.

Digital Ethics

There’s been constant hubbub recently about data privacy, with multiple brand-reputation-affecting breaches such as those of Facebook and Marriott.  Have you thoroughly scoured your various digital platforms for weaknesses and understand your organization’s treatment of data? Do you have an emergency response plan in case of a data leak? If not, don’t leave it for an emergency. Some organizations are required by strict legislation such as GDPR in Europe to protect data in a certain way, while the rules are more lax in other jurisdictions.

Regardless of requirements, think about what you *should* do. Quick Litmus test:  How would you want other companies to treat your personal data?

Apart from data privacy, there are increasing trends in digital ethics related to freedom “from” technology. France, for example, banned work emails after 6pm, considering that employees have the right to disconnect digitally. Your digital culture may include the right for your employees to separate from their technological tools and reserve time for the things that really matter, like family, friends…and Netflix.

In Sum:

  • Digital culture should be at the forefront of your organization’s strategy, not an afterthought, and – different from a more short-term digital transformation

  • Involve all employees in digital culture development, not just the C-Suite

  • Appreciate the digital insights from your millennials and other tech-savvy employees, but set behavioral ground rules, and also don’t forget to be inclusive of your older workers

  • Be careful how you present your digital culture to the outside world

  • Digital culture comes with digital ethics- be aware of how your organization works with data privacy and also know when it’s time to press pause on your devices


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