Building a Culture of Disruption

It should be clear by now that digital technology accelerates business cycles. Things that used to take place over days or weeks now occur in minutes. Not surprisingly, this changes everything about IT, and it extends far beyond bits and bytes.

One of the biggest obstacles on the path to progress, observes Mike Sutcliff, group chief executive at Accenture Digital, is the common refrain, “That’s not the way it works.” But this misses the point. “In the digital age, things don’t have to work a particular way,” he says.

In order to become an innovator and disruptor, an organization must adopt a risk-tolerant culture—one that spots possibilities and opportunities. That starts at the top. “You have to have a leadership team willing to test and learn with things that do not necessarily feel natural, if you actually want to gain a competitive advantage,” Sutcliff explains.

Senior executives across different groups and domains must work together, and they must understand the mechanics of business in ways that they may not have previously considered, he says.

All of this spans people and systems. “The traditional side of the business must learn to go faster,” Sutcliff says. “That’s unconformable, but it isn’t a choice. If the traditional systems of transactional processing and control can’t operate at a faster cycle, then someone else will be leapfrogging you in the marketplace.”

A key point, he says, is to understand that getting people in sync isn’t just a digital problem, it’s a general business problem. Different parts of the organization—sometimes serving different customer segments or constituencies, and with different levels of funding and expertise—typically attack the same problem on different timelines and from different angles.

That’s fine. Sutcliff says that it’s probably not possible, or even desirable, to sync the entire organization. “The real issue,” he says, “is, Does the management team have a process that can spot, react, and leverage ideas, breakthroughs and success stories in the fastest way possible.”

How can an organization accomplish all this? How can it transform the culture to support digital disruption? A strong governance model is critical, but it’s also important to introduce a high level of flexibility—including microservices, APIs and open architectures—so that it’s possible to spur innovation internally, but also build an ecosystem that extends to partners and others.

That, in the end, makes it possible to plug in technology and solutions in the most agile way possible and move your company at digital speed.

Samuel Greengard
Samuel Greengard
Samuel Greengard writes about business, technology and other topics. His book, The Internet of Things (MIT Press) was released in the spring of 2015.

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