Effective digital transformation has emerged as a significant concern for almost all organizations in recent years, expedited by a variety of pressures including a global pandemic that stressed company processes to their limits and shifting consumer demand for seamless service anytime, anywhere. While the term ‘digital transformation’ is about technology, it is often the adoption of and changes to processes and ways of working that are the key to effectively integrating new data and digital capabilities throughout an enterprise. This then unlocks the achievement of the transition’s real benefits. A smooth integration of technology that clearly improves operational efficiency can be overwhelming (and expensive), but the payoff makes overcoming the barriers to adoption worth the work. Leaders often find themselves stuck between two difficult roads: embarking on a bold path requiring significant change—or keeping the status quo and risk being outpaced by competitors or left behind by customers.
While the process often seems daunting, it can be a great opportunity for the company to come together and embark on a vital shift that ultimately benefits themselves, their customers, and other stakeholders. It requires a significant change management undertaking to enable the digital implementation.
The following are three key ingredients for a successful digital transformation initiative:
1. Diligent focus on outcomes over activities.
When embarking on a digital transformation journey, it’s easy to focus too much attention on the technology and not enough on the business outcomes that you are trying to drive. It’s a delicate balance–with large investments in technology, it is critically important to focus on implementation timelines, but at the end of the day, the technology must be an enabler to the business transformation that the organization is spearheading. Hitting the “on” switch alone is not success; success comes from leveraging the investment to its fullest extent. Leaders must keep a keen focus on identifying the critical strategic outcomes and design initiatives to show progress in executing the strategy more broadly than simply the technology. Engage the organization with the end in mind.
2. Engage as many people in the process as early as possible.
A critical part of the digital transformation process is the ability to facilitate a smooth integration of new technology, software, or processes (sometimes all at once) into the day-to-day operation. Sharing the “game plan” well advance of launch for digital shifts alleviates anxiety and uncertainty about changes to routines and workflows, as well as how they can anticipate and make the most of the changes. Communicating timing, trainings, and how to begin weaving the new solutions into processes can help alleviate concerns and show direct applications of the solutions to streamline efforts across the organization. Don’t try to “minimize the impact of the change”–instead maximize the impact of the change by involving people way in advance and encouraging the adoption of new ways of working well ahead of the technology.
3. Comprehensive reskilling and upskilling programs.
If the case for reskilling and upskilling programs hasn’t been made already, prioritizing learning and development can make the digital transformation process exponentially easier. Providing opportunities to understand the technology, improve project management, and find data-focused ways to leverage the new software or platform being introduced can both empower teams to embrace the change and make them feel confident about weaving new tools into their day-to-day work—while also tactically providing additional support for team members less versed in the technology. Providing such enrichment opportunities to employees can help them focus on more thoughtful, efficient, and differentiated work that lends itself to higher value outcomes—something that can often be difficult to maintain during a digital transformation.
Recent news stories—the Federal Aviation Administration’s coding error, the Southwest Airlines holiday meltdown, Microsoft cloud outages—demonstrate the impact outdated or not properly executed technology solutions can have on business operations, employees, consumers, and other stakeholders. Understanding the true change management elements of implementing upgrades and shifting the way employees approach the new strategy can help them embrace it in an impactful way. Incorporating well-timed adoptions with a tight implementation process, and training and development to best equip teams to embrace the change will help your organization’s updated operations proceed smoothly.