People power: 10 steps to achieve successful digital transformation

People power: 10 steps to achieve successful digital transformation
Businesses must prioritise the role of employees when trying to deploy new technologies

Elly Yates-Roberts |

Many businesses are struggling to capitalise on their technology investments to improve business effectiveness. In many cases, that failure comes down to people. According to McKinsey & Company, it’s estimated that nearly 70% of transformation projects fail due to employee resistance. 

Too many businesses are stuck in the outdated view that digital transformation is primarily a technology deployment exercise. They are ignoring the fact that most technology projects aimed at solving business problems, improving productivity or driving value, require users to alter their behaviour in order to be successful. As a result, businesses are likely to fail on their original goals. 

To realise true business value from technology transformation programmes, companies need to place people at the heart of the change. Here are 10 steps to reach successful transformation:

1. Clearly identify the business outcome you are seeking to achieve
Start with ‘why’. It is important to understand what you are trying to achieve as a business. Technology should support the business and the users, so understanding what success looks like, and creating a business value case is fundamentally important as you start on your journey. If you don’t know where you are heading, you've got nothing to measure against.

Is the project all about cost savings? Are you trying to improve efficiencies and productivity in the workplace? Or is the driver behind this to improve customer experience? Understand the ‘why’, set the milestones and focus on the end goal. Understanding your business goal requirements is key to success.  

2. Consider the people who will be impacted by the new technology 
If your aim is to transform the way people work within your organisation, it will involve a major cultural transformation. Cultural change is not a top-down process. While your vision and strategy will have been born in the boardroom, cultural transformation needs to infiltrate every level of the business if it is to succeed in the long term.

3. Involve your staff early on 
Understand how your users work now, and most importantly, how they want to work. Get them involved in redefining their working processes. Set out clear goals and reasons for the transformation but invite them to experiment and contribute to an inclusive solution. 

4. Anticipate the change curve
Your employees will have different reactions to change. Some will fear and resist while others will embrace and thrive on the change. Identify and support natural innovators and encourage them to inspire those who lag behind.

5. Recognise the generational divide 
Millennials (those born between 1980 and 1996) and Gen Z (the generation that was born between 1996-2010) have grown up with ever-changing technology and are used to communicating via multiple tools and media. For them, doing things on the move, hot desking and agile working is likely to be seen as a more attractive option than a traditional set up. Employees in their 40s and above may be less enthusiastic about new technology. They may need additional training to ensure they feel comfortable and fluent with new platforms. Older habits can be harder to break and the propensity to change does vary across generations. Support training and adoption through mentorships and partnerships. Match baby boomers with millennials to speed up the learning process and break down inter-generational barriers. Build a culture of encouragement and inclusion.

6. Streamline, automate and transform processes
Make sure other organisational aspects are aligned to drive the right behaviour. This includes refining or modifying business processes and looking at any necessary governance to support change, including policies around areas such as travel, for example. Improving the way people work through streamlining, automating, and transforming processes with rich forms, workflows, and custom applications empowers an inclusive modern workplace culture that benefits users and the business.

7. Introduce technology in phases with maximum support and clear feedback processes
Business change projects should be managed with care, as it can be hard on your users and increases the risks of poor user adoption. In many cases, it is wise to transition to new technologies or ways of working using a phased approach, which will help to manage the change over time.

8. Invest in change
So many times, technology change projects fail due to investment in devices, such as headsets. Often budgets are not fully forecast so, when it comes to the right device for users, these are often an afterthought. Don’t short cut on devices or you won’t get the utilisation you want; user uptake will be low, and you run the risk of introducing a shadow IT and bring-your-own-device culture. 

9. Don’t relax too soon 
Even if you engage people around the launch of a new technology, if the user experience is poor and it isn’t accompanied by a change in culture, there is a strong possibility the business outcome won’t be realised. 

10. Map and monitor usage
Identify what is being used, where and when. Build on engagement and look for continuous improvement areas. 

Louise Mahrra is the head of marketing at Core

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