Mind the digital gap

In a previous post I mentioned an Accenture study issued this summer. My point was to say that many businesses made their digital turn with a brand-centric approach, often with sound and bold strategies, but when the brand lives in its bubble, isolated from the enterprise that’s delivering behind, it often causes memorable accidents.

That’s what this study confirms.

No customer centric strategy without an internal strategy

We all experience digital transformation as customers. New promise, seamless experience, onnichannel, on demand services and recommendations, “Wow effect”. And the result is often disappointing when the logic is pushed too far, when we leave digital channels to step into a store or branch : the beautiful façade cracks and dysfunctions appear in broad light.

Hiding old operating models behind a shiny digital façade does not work. A lesson to learn for the too numerous businesses that don’t dare to put their hands into the complex and dusty internal engine. But it’s clear that if one designs a promise for a fast flexible world and a customer looking for personalized and seamless experiences, an operating model designed for mass standardization that moved decision making and accountability from the people to the process will, at best, cause discontent.

Toward digital operating models

So there won’t be digital brand strategies without organization strategies. Accenture identifies the 4 building blocks to build this strategy upon :

• Organization : it’s all about speed. 15% of incumbents think their operating model is fast and agile enough to respond to the market vs. 63% of disrupters. Speed in design, decision making, fund allocation. I would suggest agile management as a credible option to move forward.

• Incentives : the adage saying “tell me how you measure me I’ll tell you how I’ll behave” still works. Incentives lead to behavioral changes and not only at the employee level ; it should start with leaders and even boards. A bord that has no interest for long term won’t buy a sound digital strategy and won’t allocate the adequate funding. What mean that CFOs and CHROs are key in this process.

• Culture : a digital operating model must be as little hierarchical as possible and tolerate risk, collaborative and customer oriented. The exact opposite of the DNA of incumbents. A suggested possible approach is to root design thinking in the corporate culture.

• Capabilities : mostly on the three following dimensions. Being able to source, attract and retain talents. Develop a partners ecosystem. Drive a smart automation of internal processes.

Mind the digital gap between leaders and employees;

If the operating model gap is a real barrier to digital transformation, another one looks at least as dangerous : the gap existing between employees and leaders regarding the company’s ability to succeed in a digital world. I’ll refer to a recent Cap Gemini consulting study titled “The Digital Culture Challenge: Closing the Employee-Leadership Gap

Let’s start with a number that won’t surprise anyone. 62% of leaders consider that culture is the main hurdle to digital transformation. And, with no surprise, this feeling is the strongest in France.

As usual, leaders are wrong about how employees share their understanding of the maturity of the organization. We already saw that businesses think they know their customers while the latter feel the exact opposite, and it’s exactly the same with the organization’s digital maturity.


If in the US, in Sweden, in the UK or in Spain the perception gap between employees and leaders is small (no matter the perception is high or low), it is huge in every other country.

With 45% of leaders convinced that their company has a good digital culture and only 3% of employees, french companies are sending a very worrying signal and saying that the situation is comparable or worse in others countries is not a an acceptable answer.

That said we need to understand the cause of such gaps. “Perception is reality” : no matter something is true or false, the way people perceive it becomes their reality. So gaps may be the consequence of a too optimistic vision from leaders or a too pessimistic vision from employees.

In the current case we can notice that :

• leaders and employees don’t agree on the fact a digital vision exists and is shared within the organization.

• except in the US, leaders are not seen as being exemplary, contrary to how they see themselves

• except in the US, roles and KPIs are not seen as aligned with the transformation challenges

• except in the US, leaders are convinced they have successfully reorganized their organization while employees don’t see any change.

The study shows a detailed analysis of the leaders/employee perception on many points. The only one where employees and leaders converge is the use of technology for customer engagement. For the rest it’s rather the big divide.


Behind all that there is a real concern that goes beyond the perception gap :

  • leaders that don’t create the impression that they have done their job or who underestimate the expectations.
  • a failure to communicate on what’s done.
  • a lack of trust.

The last point may be the most important. No matter the employee perception is right or not, the concrete consequence is that they don’t trust their leaders to drive the digital transformation.

Gap between the brand and operations. Gap between leaders and employees. That’s not the best context to achieve anything.

Photo Credit : Fotolia

Bertrand DUPERRINhttps://www.duperrin.com/english
Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler
Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler

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