April 22, 2020

Communication is key to cultural change in the digital enterprise

By Jan Wildeboer

The old saying ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’ rings true in all walks of life, but especially in large organisations dependent on complex digital infrastructures. Only by working together can we understand a problem and then solve it. However, times have changed. When discussing collaboration at an enterprise level the saying should read ‘a problem shared, discussed and analysed, is no longer a problem.’

In fact, it becomes the solution – a solution that benefits everyone from the developer right up to the end-user. 

Nowadays there is a tendency for businesses to address immediate issues rather than planning for the longer term. Why not? When you have a digital enterprise that is growing exponentially, it makes sense to select off-the-shelf software to address a specific need. Plus, there is an entire ecosystem of cloud-based enterprise resource planning, business process outsourcing and customer revenue model systems to choose from. However, there is a drawback.

Dependence on these proprietary solutions means valuable knowledge and experience is lost to third parties. Over time, this makes it harder to adapt and tailor solutions. 

Rather than going outside of the organisation, the business should pull together to develop positive and sustainable solutions that everyone involved can be proud of. 


This last point illustrates a new organisational philosophy and strategic process known as Culture-as-a-Service, or CaaS. Over the past decade, numerous cloud computing ‘as-a-service’ models have emerged. Culture-as-a-Service addresses the practical implementation of these solutions to provide a holistic framework that facilitates inclusion, discussion, knowledge sharing and best practice. Culture-as-a-Service helps to create an open organisation where ideas and collaboration flourish. 

CaaS doesn’t advocate throwing proprietary solutions out. Far from it. CaaS places new emphasis on investing in people and processes. By doing so, organisations use internal resources to build compatible solutions with the features they need. Augmenting and improving enterprise-grade software based on the collective knowledge and wisdom of the same people that will use it. The knock-on effect is that, eventually, the organisation will have the confidence and the capability to build its own cloud-native solutions. There will be a period of trial and error, but vital knowledge and expertise will develop in-house and remain there. 

CaaS: Driving innovation

There will always be a need to outsource some expertise. Businesses need specialist help across multiple disciplines. However, considering how integral the IT department has become to modern business, shouldn’t it be an innovation centre driving the company forward, rather than a cost centre, constantly having to outsource key functions? 

CaaS fundamentally changes the perception of IT so that it is seen as a driver of innovation. However, the transition requires both IT and the business to put aside their differences and get around the table to start planning and building for the future. Key to all of this is finding a common language they can use to address and solve problems together.

Also, the discussion shouldn’t be technology-led, or the conversation will break down. Once a common language and framework is in place, discussion should focus on the process and implementation, not on the product itself. That is the domain of the development and technical teams. If they want the buy-in of their business colleagues, they must talk in terms of the practical application of tools. 

Getting results

The outcome is staggering. Business teams feel invested in the development of the solution, they feel a sense of excitement and ownership. So much so, they go out into the corridors of the organisation to evangelise and promote the solution. Conversely, this improves the status of the developers within the business. It allows them to integrate with other stakeholders, contribute to new processes and help to achieve common goals. 

This is the result of a group modelling technique known as ‘event storming’ that accelerates learning and generates new ideas. Other methods include ‘open innovation labs.’ Both have been used to great effect at a software development level but can be applied to address any technical domain or business issue. 

The entire process is underpinned by closed feedback loops and decentralised systems, which maintain a constant flow of ideas. CaaS gives organisations the means to analyse the performance of third-party proprietary systems and then use the data to develop a new breed of services and applications based on open standards. In turn, they can select open source development tools suited to their requirements and create the infrastructure needed to create new applications. 

Culture-as-a-Service brings people together, helping them to realise they are working to achieve similar goals. Once people start talking, they start sharing ideas and collaborating. This creates common tools and platforms, driving down costs and speeding up time to market. Communication is key, because it allows people to meet in the middle. Once that happens, well, problem solved! 

Jan Wildeboer is EMEA evangelist at Red Hat, an American multinational software company that provides open source software products to the enterprise community. 

Read more: Three tips to create a culture of productive disruption from a Google exec

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