Big Data and organizational resistance

Few words on the importance of acknowledging potential resistance to Big Data

It might seem obvious that a firm needs both data and expertise to be able to execute a clear digital strategy. While acquiring the right technology is essential, an even more significant challenge lies within the management.

Statements such as “Everybody believes that if we’ve managed so far and so well without a robust strategic approach to data analytics […]” and “Unfortunately, the pain of declining profits and markets will have to take the lead before management will seriously look to analytics as a source of competitive advantage” are a clear example of a lack of motivation within an organization and inertia. It is easy to sit back and think that everything is fine, but others might not be taking a break from innovating. A company needs to keep at it if they want to stay competitive, Kodak learned that lesson the hard way. Without the management onboard and a clear goal, there will not be any change.

Harness the power of cooperation

Once management sets the stage to organize for digital progress, some managers might feel that their domain is threatened. They might refuse to collaborate and keep up a siloed hierarchy structure or even push against the adoption through internal politics. The recommended way to address that issue is to break down the walls and create cross-functional teams. A company can shift its employee mindsets by creating teams that are mixed from operations over to partner relations to help them see things in a new light and come up with new innovative ideas.

This, in turn, addresses another problem that companies who are not digitally mature face. That is the issue of keeping and retaining digital talent. These companies are likely to lose their new hires or current digital talent if they do not take steps towards digital development. By focusing on collaboration and encouraging risk-taking, companies will empower their current digital talent and become a desired workplace for interested applicants.

Management’s demography can matter

Management also needs to be aware that age can be a factor in how employees perceive the leadership ability to lead change through digital transformation. Management must make the roadmap clear and commit to it to combat the perception of age. The drive to change needs to be supported from the top down, and then management needs to unite the organization into that vision. To get a head start on the transformation a company should look to incentives its personnel through various tools such as promotions and bonuses. Companies that are at the infancy of digital change tend not to utilize these tools which might slow down the process.

Further readings on resistance to big data:

McAfee, A., & Brynjolfsson, E. (2012). Big Data. The management revolution. Harvard Business Review, 90(10), 61–68.

Kiron, D., Ferguson, R. B., & Kirk Prentice, P. (2013). From Value to Vision: Reimagining the Possible with Data Analytics. MIT Sloan Management Review, 54(3), 1–19.

Fitzgerald, M., Kruschwitz, N., Bonnet, D., & Welch, M. (2013). Embracing Digital Technology: A New Strategic Imperative. MIT Sloan Management Review, 55 1–12.

Kane, G.C.; Palmer, D.; Phillips, A.N.; Kiron, D.; Buckley, N. (2017). “Achieving Digital Maturity,” MIT Sloan Management Review and Deloitte University Press, July 2017.