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Do many ways lead to Rome? The different pathways to IT satisfaction and successful digital transformation

Datum:26 januari 2023
Khoi Nguyen (left) and Thijs Broekhuizen
Khoi Nguyen (left) and Thijs Broekhuizen

Digital transformation is crucial for organizations to stay relevant, but the road toward employee IT satisfaction and a subsequent successful digital transformation differs for the type of organization in question. That is what Thijs Broekhuizen, Associate Professor of Innovation Management & Strategy and Khoi Nguyen, who recently obtained his PhD at the Faculty of Economics and Business, have found. In this article, Broekhuizen and Nguyen elaborate on the outcomes of their study in collaboration with Anton Dijkhuis, owner of IT’S Teamwork and the developer of the BusinessITScan.

Main findings

The BusinessITscan measures IT satisfaction based on six success factors of digital transformation. In their research, Broekhuizen and Nguyen, who currently is an assistant professor at Open Universiteit, discovered that there are three types of organizations that each should follow a different ‘pathway’ to achieve high IT satisfaction.

They also found that technology in itself is not the holy grail. “It is about how to empower the employees to make good use of the technologies and that they feel confident about their capability to work with them,” Nguyen says. “This digital readiness is the key to improving productivity, IT satisfaction and the effective use of these systems.”   

Many ways lead to Rome

“There is no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to strategies to come to a successful digital transformation”, the assistant professor states. For strategies to be adjusted accordingly, which organization type (of three) a company is most related to needs to be identified first. Companies can either be demand-driven, supply-driven, or so-called allrounder organizations. The type of organization determines which pathway fits best, and how distinct factors may contribute to realizing higher employee IT satisfaction.

“It is important to note that not every factor needs to be present to reach IT satisfaction. “You could compare it to a football team”, Broekhuizen says. “If you have a weak defense but strong midfielders or strikers, you can still be a successful team”, he explains. Similarly, if a company does not score high on all factors but optimally leverages their strengths, IT satisfaction can still be high.

In essence, Broekhuizen and Nguyen’s findings help organizations to make better decisions. The analyses provide CEOs and CIOs insights on what type of firm they are and how they should behave. “Our approach can contribute to predictive validity in the sense that companies can now predict how they should operate without even having implemented new technologies yet”, Broekhuizen states.

Human capital

The researchers want to highlight the aspect of human capital in relation to digital transformation. They stress that the employees, and how organizations empower them to use the technology meaningfully is the key to a successful digital transformation.  “Whenever you want to implement digital technologies into an organization, you also have to pay attention to your employees, because they are the ones who are going to use the technologies. Despite its importance, there is still not much talk about how organizations can accommodate employees in the process of digital transformation”, Nguyen points out. If employees have the right facilities at hand, know how to work with them effectively and are satisfied with the IT support they get, digital transformation leads to increased productivity at the employee level and collectively contribute to the firm’s success.  

Unexpected findings

According to Nguyen, the most surprising detail in this research was that there are many different ways that lead to successful digital transformation. The assistant professor suggests that, instead of giving a general advice to score well on all factors that might contribute to IT satisfaction, organizations should first establish what their important improvement points are that can effectively contribute to a successful digital transformation and adjust their operations accordingly.

Broekhuizen was struck by how much more organizations could discover by means of proper data collection and analysis. “What was most fascinating to me is that many business people do not realize that they can attain so much more if they collect data and analyze it. Organizations often have the analytical tools available, so why not use them? If you build sufficient data, you can predict what category the organization belongs to, which in turn helps them understand how to operate”.

Little attention to big aspects

One of the main reasons for Broekhuizen and Nguyen to research this topic, is that the human aspect in digital transformation is underexplored in research so far. Although an organization implements new technologies with the aim to help employees improve their productivity, this might actually cause them stress. “It is the role of the organization to communicate, facilitate, and then empower their employees to effectively use new technologies (i.e., through increasing their IT satisfaction), rather than just adopting a new tool and letting the employees figure out for themselves how to work with it”, Nguyen explains.  

Future endeavors in digital transformation research

Nguyen looks forward to further investigating the human perspective on the digital transformation on the employee and firm level. “We need to know how employees perceive technological innovations and what they feel about them, but should also understand how organizations can implement human resource practices, communication, and strategies to facilitate the employees in using new technologies”. Broekhuizen adds: “We would also like to investigate how an individual operates within a team and learn more about individual outputs as well as collective outputs on team and organizational levels in terms of digital readiness”.

More information

If organizations are interested in reading more about this research and what it could mean for their company, they are free to contact Thijs Broekhuizen (t.l.j.broekhuizen or Khoi Nguyen ( Khoi’s dissertation can be downloaded on the website of the University of Groningen, or a more recent publication on employee and team digital readiness can be found on the website of GDBC.