When transitioning to a digital business, culture is at least as important as business processes and technology. For many organization, culture shifts are among the most difficult aspects of undertaking digital transformation. For this reason, we must pay special attention to aligning the organization around key goals and principles associated with the change. Among these goals is the need to embrace experimentation to find better ways to achieve goals more quickly than in the past.

Culture Change and Digital Transformation

Eighteen months into being the Chief Digital Officer at SAP, I’ve learned that culture is at least as important as business transformation and technology in a digital transformation. We’ve identified a lot of cultural issues that have to change, but here are two simple examples.

One is, particularly in large companies you have to move to a model that is much more hands-on. Normally large companies look for experts when they have problems, and those experts often come from the outside of the organization; consultants.

And while there’s nothing wrong with consultants it often means that change doesn’t happen and the people inside the organization don’t change and don’t learn. And so we try first now to do it ourselves, even if that takes longer and we’re less successful.

Which brings me to the second learning, in Silicon Valley we like to talk about a culture of failure, but for many companies, the word failure is a bad word. And so we’ve re-pivoted the culture to talk about running experiments and running many more experiments, small ones. So instead of placing one big bet, we like to place 50 small bets. That’s the culture of experimentation.