Digital GEMs
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Digital GEMs

Digital transformation & Interculturality (1/2)

What kind of relationship do they have?

Digital Transformation / Intercultural Communication / Change Management

Digital transformation is a particular type of transformation. It is not a strategy initiated by the company, but a global phenomenon imposed from outside. According to Vial, G. (2019) in Understanding digital transformation: A review and a research agenda, The Journal of Strategic Information Systems,

Digital Transformation is “a process that aims to improve an entity by triggering significant changes to its properties through combinations of information, computing, communication, and connectivity technologies”.

While digital transformation is a hot topic, nowadays, a majority of organizations share a digital construction that is most often enclosed in a short-term, local logic. In fact, while there are plenty of advantages to digital transformation, the implementation of the transformation remains a challenge for many businesses. With practice, the benefits of digitization have become more apparent: shorter processing times for customer requests, more relational channels, personalized targeting and actions, more fluid exchanges… so many advantages, especially in the context of companies with an international presence.

Disadvantages have also appeared: the need for ubiquity, the acceleration of time, loss of control of the discourse forcing employees to modify their practices, to train in new skills or to welcome new ones within their department, but also and above all to reconsider the company in a holistic approach. This is where the cultural factor of the company intervenes.

First, to succeed in the implementation of a digital transformation, there’s a crucial need for a corporate culture to establish a digital culture. The company of the 20th century is used to working in silos. Basically, this means that everyone works on their own and there is a lack of coordination. One solution is to set up a corporate social network to break down the silo work-and this may be the first major management project in digital transformation. The CSR can do this by exchanging know-how, improving coordination and strengthening group cohesion. But beyond that, it shows users how a digital tool can be fun and make work easier. CSR is a simple way to turn digital fear into digital love.

Second, the secret of competence is to train all the personnel. The example of Orange and its digital academy for all employees clearly illustrates this point. There are various e-learning approaches for efficient and fun pedagogy, which leads to a company employee’s mastery of new tools and progressively bridging the knowledge gap.

Third, internal resources. The best ambassadors on this subject are “generation Y” - the generation that grew up with the internet and smartphones are a strength companies tend to forget and not capitalize enough on. This is a truly unique opportunity to bring generations together and help them work as a team. The sharing of expertise is a two-way street.

Finally, in communications around the digital revolution, there are constants. The tools are changing; new applications are appearing, etc. However, the basics remain the same. Some champions of digital tend to overdo it. For example, some big names on the web are now opening physical points of sale, such as Amazon and its Amazon Go stores. Therefore, we come back to physical signs. These elements can reassure digital sceptics.

Nevertheless, we have to keep in mind that Digital transformation is not just a question of new tools. The modern corporation is an organization that reinvents itself, focused not only on the user but also on the staff. In fact, the digital company is a human-centred organization. Digital Transformation occurs at an individual, personal level. Therefore, it is essential to consider possible individual resistances and address them through change management communication.

The proper functioning of an organization relies on the quality of the relationship within it. This is exacerbated in multinational companies as well as in structures that make deals with foreign suppliers or partners. In this scenario, managing intercultural differences is a huge challenge - it must be considered as a major axis in internal communication strategies and adds to the complexity of digital transformation management.

Working with people from different geographical backgrounds not only tends to create cultural barriers but also involves more complicated matters related to cultural disparities. That is why it is necessary to give a proper place to interculturality within any internal transformation strategy.

Intercultural management is a core principle for organizations that confront various cultures. Rising mobility, the globalization of markets, and of course digitalization are rendering this idea an omnipresent topic in today’s business existence. While exchanges have increased thanks to new tools like the cloud, and online meeting tools (Skype, Join Me, etc.), they have not eliminated cultural differences, and major foreign organizations often see their output reduced due to poor management communication.

This is why international organizations have to face a double challenge while implementing internal digital transformation. For a Digital Transformation to be a success, they also have to think about intercultural management, to adopt the right stance according to different cultures within their employees, to adapt their communication and actions. But how to do that?

According to Schulz-Knappe, C. in The importance of communicating change — Corporate Communications: an International Journal,

“Change communication variables (e.g. involvement, participation, and appreciation) explain the largest share of variance, indicating that transparent communication and including employees in the process result in positive attitudes toward change and support”.

It seems fair to say that one of the starting points of any transformation communication plan is inclusiveness. Then how can international organizations include their employees all over the world in the process of Digital Transformation? More specifically, how can they tailor different communication approaches that will address the cultural disparities?

These questions will be addressed in an upcoming article, so do not hesitate to start following Digital GEMs, to be updated. And take a look at our other articles on Digital Business Strategy.

About this article

This article has been written by a student on the Grenoble Ecole de Management’s Advanced Masters in Digital Strategy Management. As part of a content creation assignment, students are given the task of writing articles based on their digital interests and disseminate the articles online. Articles are marked but we make minimal changes to the content. Thanks for reading! James Barisic, Programme Director, MS DSM.

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Sarah Croisé

Sarah Croisé

Hello there! If I were a cat, curiosity would not have killed it. But as I am a human being, I will just say that discovery is my main driver.