Friday, 30th October 2020

Getting the buy-in of workers is vital for successful ‘Digital Transformation’

By Derek Lewis, Head of Customer Experience at Maintel.

Digital transformation has dominated the minds of senior management for a number of years now and this trend shows no signs of abating. According to figures from the International Data Corporation global spending on digital transformation will climb to $2.3 Trillion in 2023[1]. But is this investment a precursor to success?

While the deployment of new technology is crucial to businesses’ success, it cannot be the sole driver. In fact, if implemented incorrectly, it can be hugely damaging. So, what are the most common mistakes made during the digital transformation process and how can companies best avoid them?

Common pitfalls of digital transformation

While many technology projects start with initial excitement, they often move too quickly into the implementation phase. This rush often sets the project up for failure, as it is human nature to resist change, especially when forced upon them.

In addition to rushing implementation, workers may also push back if they feel the tech will not improve their ability to do their job. It can be extremely difficult for senior managers to persuade experienced employees of the benefits of new ways of working, as most think they’re already experts at their roles.

The ability of IT professionals to persuade the workforce to take up new technologies, has also been made more difficult by the growing knowledge of the general public. What previously had previously been complex scientific innovations such as artificial intelligence (AI), big data, and the Internet of Things (IoT), have now become the norm in everyday life. This has further fuelled the attitude of ‘I know best’ amongst workers.

The crux of the matter is, that to advance with digital transformation and guarantee it is a sustainable success, creating an accepting company culture is essential.

Breaking down the barriers to success

The first step to ensuring success during digital transformation is to create awareness across the businesses. This means when change does happen it is not a foreign system for workers to grapple with. The second is acceptance, where workers understand that there is a problem to be solved or an opportunity to take advantage of.

One of the keys methods to drive awareness across the company is to implement training, even for those not directly impacted. Therefore, digital transformation shouldn’t just cover implementation, but also offering learning and development. If workers have time to get to know the new systems and how they operate, it removes much of the fear surrounding change.

An approach which has been particularly effective is to include the workforce from the beginning of the digital transformation journey, and that means all the workers. It’s critical that companies have the support of those on the front line, right through to the Chief Executive. That doesn’t mean just a tacit acceptance, but a full acceptance of the way things will change, and how individual roles will change day-to-day.

Finally, one of the most effective ways to gain the trust of the workforce is for senior leadership to lead by example. In other words, if the boss walks the walk as well as talks the talk, people will embrace the change as an improved way of working, and they’ll change their own behaviours too.

These steps are not exhaustive, but they will begin to break down the barriers to change within the organisation. However, while this is key to success, it is just the first step of a company’s digital transformation journey.

How to ensure smooth implementation

Once the barriers are down, the key is to keep on doing things correctly – it’s easier said than done.

Even businesses who start the process with the best plans and intentions stray from them when the pressure is on.

Consequently, businesses need to follow strict processes and frameworks, just like you would with a ‘PRINCE’ (PRojects IN Controlled Environments) - delivered project. Whereby there are milestones, actions, timelines, ownership, deliverables, and executive sponsors.

With all of this in mind, it’s so important to have a change management specialist in place – whether they’re an in-house expert or an external advisor – to take responsibility for ensuring all the milestones are met, and all the deliverables are reached throughout the period over which business change is being implemented.

By taking the appropriate steps at the right time, and breaking down barriers to adoption, companies can transform the way they operate and drive real business impact. Most businesses are undergoing digital transformation projects, and some are likely to fail. But the successful projects will need employee buy-in, the C-suite to lead by example and deliverables to be set. By taking these steps, businesses would be well placed to reap the rewards of their investment.

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