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12/1/2011
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Biggest Digital Transformation Hurdle: People, Not Tech

Old habits, weak skills make integration of social, mobile, and other disruptive technologies a continuing challenge. Here's some advice to ensure progress.

10 Smart Enterprise Uses For Twitter
10 Smart Enterprise Uses For Twitter
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
A recent report finds companies still have a long way to go in their digital transformation journeys, and that the challenges are largely management and people, not technology.

The report, Digital Transformation: A Roadmap for Billion-Dollar Organizations, is based on research done by the MIT Center for Digital Business and CapGemini Consulting in the first phase of a multiyear study. Executives at 50 companies in 15 countries were interviewed for the study. About half of the interviewees were business leaders such as CEOs, line-of-business managers, marketing heads, or COOs, while the other half were with IT and technology leaders.

In the study, which focused on culture-shocking technologies including analytics, social, mobile, and embedded devices, executives on average rated their innovation culture at only 4.2 on a seven-point scale. None felt that their innovation culture was as strong as it could be. They cited as impediments missing skills (77%), culture issues (55%), and ineffective IT (50%).

Companies have always had to adapt to technological changes in order to successfully compete. What's different now, perhaps, is the scope of change that technologies such as social and mobile are engendering.

Ari Lightman, professor and director of Carnegie Mellon University's CIO Institute, said social is especially difficult for businesses to adapt to because social networking products were not built initially for the enterprise.

[ Are people balking at your enterprise social media plans? Learn 11 Ways To Explain Social Business Benefits. ]

"In typical enterprises, there is embedded technology built around taxonomies which predicate rules around data classification and storage," said Lightman. "Social technologies are unusual in that they are built around folksonomies, or rules that are dynamic in nature and built by users. Sharing information and lack of control are two things that enterprises continually struggle with."

Adding to the challenge, said Lightman, is the need to integrate these social technologies into legacy applications and processes.

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