Thrilling our clients with innovation and impact – it’s not just rhetoric. This belief is instrumental for our clients’ success. Earlier this year, we announced the first class of Chief Strategists, who provide vision and leadership to help our clients remain competitive. Get to know each of our strategists as they share unique insights on their areas of expertise.
If you want greater user adoption, invest in your people. Our change management team fully embraces this credo. It’s what motivates them to help our clients achieve success with business and system transformations.
David Chapman, Organizational Change Management Chief Strategist, has 20 years’ experience in change management and leads Perficient’s practice that’s dedicated to this discipline. We recently spoke to David and learned more about his aspirations as a chief strategist, his perspective on organizational change management (OCM), and his life beyond the role of chief strategist.
David Chapman: It’s great to be recognized among an elite group of people that are incredibly smart. That means a lot. But more importantly, this role helps elevate change management from being viewed as a tactical discipline. It shifts the mentality of improving user adoption around any technical implementation to driving more strategic, front-end conversations with influential executives.
These types of conversations include how companies see their people as an asset, how they are making strategic decisions around them, and most importantly, address the people aspect of a transition much sooner than ever. I view this role as Chief Strategist as an opportunity to take part in those early conversations that drive influential impact for our clients.
What does your role as a Chief Strategist entail?
DC: Perficient has a great reputation as a systems integrator. Clients and prospects know we excel at that work. However, many clients don’t realize we’re really good at providing change management services.
My role as Chief Strategist is helping to bring visibility to that. We’re not only doers, but we’re also thought leaders. There are many advantages of that for our clients, especially when we can combine this with delivery of the awesome systems integration work for which we’re known.
What do you hope to accomplish as a Chief Strategist?
DC: Introducing change management to more of our projects is among my top goals as a Chief Strategist. Achieving high user adoption ultimately drives our clients’ return on investment. This is crucial because typically 75 percent or more of clients’ project ROI depends on people actually using [the system or process] they implement. It takes change management to make that happen.
The Chief Strategist program also gives us the ability to have more upfront conversations and to educate our colleagues on recognizing opportunities for strategic conversations around people.
When clients think about planning for the future, they usually think about processes and the technology they want to implement. People are enablers of those things. For our clients to make decisions around people – how to best structure their organizations and take advantage of their talent – these are conversations in which we want to participate. Being a Chief Strategist will hopefully open more doors to having those conversations.
What do you see happening in organizational change management in the near future?
DC: Our world is changing all the time, and the business environment is changing faster than ever. I’m only focused on one or two years in the future because that’s about as far as we can see.
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I believe we will see more companies build out their change management disciplines. As companies build this capability, it’s going to mean a couple of things for our consultancy. First, we’re going to fill the gaps for companies who haven’t previously invested in internal change management capabilities. I’m starting to see clients ask for our help to establish change management, and that’s a big deal.
Secondly, I think we’ll see fewer clients who need convincing of change management’s benefits and more who will say, “We’ve got to have it.” And the reason we’ll see this is because leaders at these companies recognize that without the return on investment their projects will fail – despite how well the technology works.
What excites (or scares) you about what’s happening in change management?
DC: It’s refreshing when I meet with clients, and the team starts talking about change management in ways that I know they get it. They talk about strategizing around their people, and not just making them pure enablers. They want to know how to make great decisions around their people and set them up for success. They want to provide an experience that will not only make the company better but also one that their people will embrace and enjoy. They want to give them an experience that will stretch their abilities and help them conquer new challenges.
My biggest reservation with change management is seeing engagements where it’s clearly under-scoped. I always believe some change management is better than none. However, I’m scared when clients who don’t understand change management come in and cut it back to a point that makes it hard to deliver anything that will prepare and benefit their people.
If you’re on the leadership team, why does strategy matter for your business?
DC: Strategy is where you’re going. Without it, you can’t look ahead, and inevitability, you’ll either continue on the same path or fall behind.
For any company to remain competitive, its leadership has to think way ahead of its competition. It takes time to implement any strategy. You have to be able to see where the market is going. You have to understand where your competitors are, and even where they are going, if you want to stay ahead of them.
People are maybe the most expensive asset that companies have. For companies to use their people more strategically, it’s a huge advantage over those who don’t.
Think like a Chief Strategist
How does your team help clients on their digital transformation journey?
DC: Digital transformation causes more change and disruption in an organization than most anything we have seen. It changes an organization holistically.
A digital transformation will impact the way people work. It will change the way a company operates and acts, and potentially will even change the culture. Change management’s role in all of this is to support that entire journey.
From my perspective, you can’t start change management work too soon, but you can start it too late, and that couldn’t be more true than during a digital transformation.
For digital transformation to succeed, people have to buy-in and then adopt the change – a new system, a new process – whatever is happening. Buy-in doesn’t happen because the project team sent a company-wide email to tell everyone about the change. People have to choose to buy-in on their own.
My team helps clients understand why digital transformation is a good thing for their organizations. And this education starts early in the process. Once we get buy-in, we can start going down the path of culture change, tactical change, or process change – whatever that change is to make digital transformation a reality.
Until people buy-in, digital transformation won’t succeed and that’s where change management can make a difference.
What else is important for organizations to succeed with a digital transformation?
DC: Executive alignment across a company is particularly important. The idea for a transformational project will be planted and start to sprout. As word spreads and excitement grows, then the project team may say, “We’re going to take this and implement it across the organization.” This is great if you work in an organization where you and your partners align.
However, what typically happens is there’s an assumption that other leaders across your organization, your peers, and even people more senior than you are aligned. This isn’t necessarily the case. In fact, I’m seeing more cases where executive alignment is lacking, and this becomes an obstacle to overcome.
Strategic alignment across an organization is critical, particularly when it comes to digital transformation, because this type of change impacts the entire company. Alignment starts with buy-in, and buy-in starts with understanding the rationale behind the transformation. You have to establish an understanding of why this transformation needs to happen and what’s in it for them.
Once you have that alignment and you’re executing the change management tactics, then you can (and should) leverage the executives or leaders in different business units to help cascade, support, advocate, and champion what’s happening. Other employees will look to them and be more likely to embrace it.
Alignment will always fall somewhere between strategic and tactical. At the end of the day, strategic alignment buys you nothing. It’s the tactics and getting the adoption that buys you everything. The prerequisite to all of that happening is making sure executives across an organization are aligned.
Beyond the World of Strategy
Tell us about yourself and your interests when you’re not wearing the Chief Strategist hat.
DC: My wife and I have three kids, one daughter, and two sons. They’re 13, 11, and 10 years old, so they keep us busy all the time with sports, dance, music, and other activities.
When I do have some downtime, my wife and I love to travel. Give me a warm beach and a book, and I’m pretty happy.
I do love to play and watch sports myself. I also get up at 4:30 in the morning three to five times a week to work out with a group of guys called F3 (Fitness, Fellowship, and Faith). It’s based out of Charlotte, North Carolina, and it’s expanding nationwide. I get a great workout with F3, and even better relationships, which is great for an extroverted Change Manager like me.
Learn more about each of our Chief Strategists by following this series.