Your Digital Transformation Strategy Isn't Complete Without Change Management
Jun 17, 2021
Company leaders everywhere are feeling the pressure of accelerated digital transformation. As they try to keep pace, however, they must consider more than just new tools and technology. Leaders also need to address the softer side of transformation — the people.
Consider two main stakeholder groups: The first includes any customers, members, or patients who will use the product; the second includes the team members assigned to effect the change. Failing to prepare these groups for change can lead to slow progress or even derailed transformation efforts.
Instead of assuming people will come along for the ride, earn their buy-in from the start to lessen digital transformation challenges along the way. A carefully considered change management strategy can set you off on the right foot and help guide stakeholders seamlessly through the process. Of course, successful change management won’t come without conscientious preparation. Implement the following recommendations to get everyone on the same page from the get-go and skirt potential bottlenecks in your digital transformation process:
Handpick digital champions.
In the face of any change, people naturally ask themselves: "What's in it for me?" Showing how each transformation effort addresses the needs of your stakeholders can help get them on board and excited about new processes. However, executive leaders may lack the time or specific expertise in day-to-day operations to answer the "what's in it for me" questions in a way that resonates.
Instead, handpick people across departments and levels who can serve as positive change agents. Get your change agents in on the ground floor to communicate specific benefits of digital transformation to employees and customers. Their input and assistance will help align your organizational goals and ROI without alienating anyone.
Engage stakeholders early.
No matter how much money you invest in a digital transformation strategy, it's the people who can ultimately make or break the initiative. I've seen organizations spend close to half a billion dollars on software rollouts that failed because frontline employees didn't feel engaged from the get-go. Actively soliciting feedback, and considering that feedback to inform your initiatives can help you succeed. In addition to mobilizing digital champions, surveys and internal focus groups can help employees share honest feedback and feel more engaged in the process.
Be sure to give customers a chance to weigh in as well. Engaging them will be important for securing buy-in. Consider healthcare as an example: Providers spend a lot of money rolling out new systems, expecting patients to take advantage of new portals or mobile apps. But if half of the patient population doesn't care about those things or understand how to use them, the initiative is all for naught.
Train for both learning and unlearning.
Learning how to do something new isn’t that difficult when it’s just a matter of swapping one task or function for another. However, digital transformation usually requires the entire unlearning of old processes to create space for new ones. It’s frequently not enough to train people on a new application; you must also change the way they think about it in terms of roles and responsibilities. Help your stakeholders understand how to revamp their thinking, not just their doing.
Share and celebrate wins.
A big piece of your digital transformation strategy should be to keep people informed of successes. Focus not only on the big, visible "wins," but also on the smaller processes and procedures that have been elevated through the change. Actively look for victories rather than waiting until someone tells you about them. This is another good chance to bring in your change agents. They’ll likely hear about the successes in smaller departments or for individual customers before you do.
Walk the walk.
From the very beginning, the executive sponsor—or the highest-level person responsible for a digital transformation strategy—needs to be part of the communication plan. The sponsor needs to be communicating with stakeholders in writing, in person, on video—in as many formats as possible along the way. They should show how the digital transformation initiatives are impacting their own roles and responsibilities as well.
Change management and digital transformation go hand in hand. If you start with the same level of focus on your stakeholders as you have on your technology implementations, you're headed in the right direction. Engage workers and customers early to gain more buy-in, reduce pushback, and ultimately reap the rewards of a successful digital transformation.
Executive Vice President, North America
Tom Niehaus was named Executive Vice President Operations, North America, in May 2019. He previously worked at CTG from 1999 to 2011 and was an integral part of establishing and growing the Company’s Solutions operations. Prior to his recent appointment at CTG, Mr. Niehaus served as Managing Member of TJN Advisory, a private advisory services consulting firm, President and COO of Encore Health Resources from 2012-2017, and CEO of Encore in 2017 through its eventual divestiture to emids, a global provider of healthcare IT.