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The Secret Ingredient to Digital Transformation: Your People

Digital innovation continues to disrupt industries at lightning speed. Today’s organizations are transforming their entire business – from strategy to operations, technology to culture – to better deliver value to their customers. In 2017, we compiled the top 10 trends leaders needed to know when it came to their digital transformation journey. In this 10-week blog series, we’ll further explore each trend and address how you can continue to modernize your business for success.

Think about your last experience at a high-end restaurant – especially one that has an open kitchen. This set-up gives you a peek at what happens behind the scenes. You can’t help but watch with fascination as the team works to carefully orchestrate and deliver dishes made to absolute perfection. Beyond the kitchen, there’s another team striving to deliver the best possible experience from the minute you walk in the restaurant to the moment you leave.

Some of the world’s most highly-rated restaurants are run by notable chefs like Gordon Ramsay, Emeril Lagasse, and Bobby Flay. These top chefs possess the essential skills to build and run successful restaurant empires.

In a recent article I read, “8 Skills that Make You a Chef (or Just about Any Other Biz Leader,)” I noticed that some skills closely mirror those needed to be a successful digital business leader, including:

  • Have a vision – “One of the most important things [a leader] does is see things that don’t yet exist, and find ways to bring them to life.”
  • Think and operate systematically – “Always look to make things more efficient and productive without sacrificing quality.”
  • Set and strive for a standard of excellence – “From company culture, to cleanliness, to customer service, to plate presentation, it all starts with the chef. If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?”
  • Be supportive, yet empathetic – “You need [the ability] to manage people, make them feel appreciated and valued, and that you have their back. Everything else may be in place, but without a solid, dependable team behind [your] mission, [you] have nothing.”

This last point is especially applicable if you’re wanting to digitally transform your organization. After all, digital business transformation isn’t solely about the front-end customer experience, the technology, or optimizing operations.

There’s so much more because it’s a cultural shift. And, what does it take to implement a cultural shift? People.

Prioritizing Your People

Bringing digital transformation to life involves an entire company supporting the changes to be made.

If your company is like most, change is feared rather than revered. Culture and organization are typically the biggest obstacles to a digital transformation.

Here are a few examples of how some businesses perceive digital transformation. Do any sound familiar?

  1. Let’s transfer our investment from traditional marketing to digital marketing.
  2. We need to shift our investment from brick-and-mortar to a digital store.
  3. We need to foster innovation to stay ahead of the competition.
  4. We need a customer-facing experience that forces individuals to change how they interact, track, and measure customer touch points.
  5. Let’s open up organizational data and systems to third parties via APIs or digital hooks.

Ignoring cultural and organizational challenges only diminishes your return on investment and will ultimately stall your digital transformation. The key to overcoming them is to make sure you’re prioritizing your people when planning and executing this change.

Thinking back to our earlier example: if you want your organization to run like an acclaimed restaurant, everyone on board – from the maître d and wait staff to the chefs and dishwashers – must work towards the same vision.

As a digital business leader, when you appreciate your people and value their roles, you receive collective commitment in return. This mutual appreciation makes it possible to endure any stresses that stem from wide-reaching change.

Getting Your People to Embrace Change

Change is hard. Humans naturally resist it. So, when your people hear “digital transformation,” they understand that it’s a profound shift from one stage of existence to another. Each step of the digital transformation process requires buy-in across the organization, not just within specific offices or departments.

Two-thirds of all enterprise-level projects fail to meet business objectives, bearing little or no ROI, because of poor adoption techniques rather than inadequate technology

Bringing a transformation to life requires careful attention to the way change is managed. To ensure digital transformation success, many businesses include organizational change management (OCM) as part of the process.

OCM is a structured approach for getting people ready, willing, and able to accept and embrace new ways of working that are critical to future-state performance. A good strategy motivates willing individuals, encourages those who have doubts, and aligns the motivation and encouragement to the implementation.

Transformation occurs one person at a time, especially at the enterprise level. For more on this topic, listen to our on-demand webinar, Why Organizational Change Management is Critical to Digital Transformation.

Avoiding Common Change Management Mistakes

Investing in organizational change management – and a commitment to getting it right – might be the most critical move your company can make to ensure digital transformation success.

One thing I’ve learned: change management isn’t easy. It takes a lot of effort, and obstacles can (and often do) arise at any stage of a large project, such as a new website or technology implementation.

– David Chapman, General Manager for Organizational Change Management, Perficient

In working with clients, we’ve observed common mistakes to successful change management. Here are the top five:

  1. Assuming change management is “just communication and training”
  2. Putting off a change management plan
  3. Lacking active and visible executive sponsorship
  4. Treating all stakeholders the same
  5. Underestimating the amount of work involved

Stumbling at any one of these mistakes during a large project or implementation can hinder your employees’ buy-in to embracing a new process or using a new solution. And, lack of user adoption can cause any project – or strategic initiative – to fail.

Learn more about how to correct these common missteps in: How to Overcome 5 Change Management Mistakes.

Getting Started with Organizational Change Management

Similar to chefs adding alcohol to a dish and creating a flambé, digital transformations temporarily cause a commotion or distraction within your organization. It will take time until the new system takes hold and gains momentum.

Change management strategies provide clarity to the levels of individual and organizational commitment needed for successful digital transformations. Where do you start? The keys to success include:

  1. Recognizing you need to change
  2. Starting at the top by engaging the C-suite to gain their buy-in and support
  3. Involving the CFO to help you build a case for change from a budgetary standpoint and show how it benefits the company
  4. Engaging the CIO to help implement this change more quickly
  5. Establishing a team/board/committee (cross-functional and regions) to make this effective

From Vision to Reality

Digital transformations are not quick fixes. They are expansive and a cultural shift from what employees consider “business as usual.”

When change management is done well, it’s a beautiful thing. People are engaged with the right messages, in the right ways, at the right times. They understand why the change is being implemented. They buy into what the new system or process means to them, why they should care, and what’s in it for them.

Change management increases the probability of staying on schedule and budget. This results in higher benefit retention and ROI, and ultimately, true digital transformation success.


Do you want to read more about the top ten digital transformation trends?

Click here to read about trend four: Mastering the Art of Data and Analytics to Transform Customer Experience

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