Businesses are fully aware of the importance of having leading-edge digital technology to provide an excellent external customer interface and experience. It defines and sets organisations apart and reinforces brand image. However the same cannot always be said of an organisations internal digital offering. In our recent European study, ‘The Digital Wave’*, we often heard the phrase “Internally, we are slow at responding to the opportunities that digital offers…”.

Internally, we are slow at responding to the opportunities that digital offers…

It seems obvious that organisation’s would prioritise digitalisation initiatives to deliver better customer experiences, however, in failing to think through the internal consequences of digitalisation, organisations face the following challenges:

1. The digital function finds it difficult to engage and influence the core business:

We need to ensure faster implementation and integration of digital solutions through building capability in digital talent. This could be through providing structure and process around ensuring a development programme aimed at creating greater digital capability. Alternatively, adopting a more natural approach, through allowing employees to experience and share digitalisation using up-to-date tools, but without the governance of a structured approach. The trade-off between approaches is arguably the speed of digital evolution vs. creating restrictive boundaries and controls to learning – see page 32 of the report for more details.


2. The culture/mindset inhibits informed risk-taking and/or fast failure:

And so we risk losing market share. Digitalisation requires different behaviours and characteristics including collective courage within teams to work outside of their comfort zone, allowing time for trial and error and embracing potential failure. This sits alongside developing cooperative collaboration within teams and across the organisation in order to share digital knowledge and experiences – see page 22 of the report for more on these key characteristics.

3. Leaders find it difficult to let go:

Digitalisation means that information is more readily accessible (and understood) at all levels and leaders are no longer always required to be the decision making point. Consequently, in order to ‘let go’, we need to develop values-based leadership, those who are more comfortable with risk-taking in their approach and competent in leading dispersed teams. Leaders need to think, act and react differently and this requires individual and collective development in order to achieve this. For example, thinking divergently about new ways of doing things, adapting to constantly shifting power and influence and showing resilience in the face of constant change.

4. Teams are not adopting new agile, autonomous ways of working:

Consequently we maintain ineffective and unproductive teams. Success in this area requires a holistic approach within the organisation, taking account of the eco-system (culture, hierarchy, and leadership style). This is underpinned by relevant buy-in from top management committed to providing higher autonomy and authority for such teams to make and take decisions. Also, establish a cross-functional group of people that have everything, and everyone, necessary to produce a working, tested increment of the digitalisation product. Dedicate these people to the team, and as a rule, do not move them between or across teams as demand ebbs and flows (see Autonomous Teams report).

Collectively, addressing these issues will smooth the digital chaos and lead to successful transformation.  Download the full research report here or email for more information.


* “The Digital Wave: Surfing through digital chaos for successful transformation“.  European research report from OE Cam and SPACE Consulting (2017).  SPACE Consulting Europe is a strategic alliance of leading European management consulting firms.  We help organisations work more effectively to deliver their strategy by improving their behavioural, cultural, structural and economic dimensions.  SPACE operates in nine offices across Europe, with more than 250 consultants, for both public and private organisations.