How to approach digital transformation management across your organization

Change management for digital transformation
January 13, 2022


We have learned that the digital transformation process is a complex, long-term endeavor to foster digital innovation. While technology is the cornerstone of digital transformation, there is a human component of change management that evolves along with your technology.

A McKinsey & Company study found that while digital transformation change management initiatives grew over the last few years, successful change efforts declined. While there isn’t a cookie-cutter path for organizational change, McKinsey finds that there are tools and processes that help support the people guiding and impacted by digital transformation. They highlight regular feedback processes, personalized insights and directions, breaking traditional hierarchies, sharing progress, and building “empathy, community and shared purpose.”

Building a change management organization

As part of your digital business transformation, consider how you will create a change management organization to support this project. Who is your designated team to build and execute the project roadmap? Who makes up the team that understands existing business operations, the long-term organizational goals and how to source the necessary talent? Lastly, which stakeholders will be part of the decision-making process?

Change management must be the center of your digital transformation vision. With this in mind, change management responsibilities for a digital transformation should start at the C-suite level. Though there are many ways to begin divvying up responsibilities, here are a few ideas that touch on C-level roles and how they can work together for a successful output:

  • CTOs and CIOs share technological knowledge and competencies.

  • CMO, CGO, CIO, CDO, and the CEO share the responsibility of identifying the direction of enterprise digital transformation.

  • CDO, CCO and CMO share the responsibility for the customer-facing final product.

Sourcing talent for digital transformation

With C-level roles on board, how do you find the talent that will drive your digital transformation program? Organizations have a few different options available:

  • Building a change management team internally. Your people already know the business inside and out. They know the people, digital tools and project management workflows  in place. This can be a strong choice for the right candidates with curiosity, empathy and finesse to balance multiple inputs, programs, preferences and (often) agendas. However, moving or reskilling teams can be a difficult, resource-intensive and lengthy process. You risk reinventing the wheel for parts of digital transformation that more seasoned experts have already experienced.

  • Hiring external digital experts. For start-ups, small business organizations, businesses with lower digital maturity, a resistant old guard or simply a cultural unreadiness, this can often be a strong fit. The right people with hands-on experience leading digital transformation can bring proven project managementroadmaps and new capabilities . In the early days of digital transformation, it was popular to hire an external digital consultant to lead the charge. As an outsider, it was common for them to use textbook strategies and executions based on work they did with previous companies because they didn’t understand the business they were working with. This often resulted in a strategy that failed to acknowledge the real needs of leaders and customers. 

  • Building a hybrid team made up of current employees and new hires. McKinsey’s study discovered that across the board, pre-Millennial employees lack the understanding of and exposure to  new technologies required for a successful digital transformation. Your C-level, seasoned employees, and ambitious team members can bring their insider knowledge supplemented with new talent that bridges existing digital experience gaps and enables the business processes required for the change. 

A hybrid approach may be your most successful path. In a study conducted by the Harvard Business Review (HBR), insiders with little digital experience who are placed at the head of digital transformation initiatives succeeded about 80% of the time. Why? Because digital transformation is more than technology. It takes someone with in-depth business knowledge to undertake organization, which is what enterprise digital transformation is really about.  

Four steps to guide your organization’s digital transformation projects

  1. Make change management the center of your digital transformation strategy. One of the most important aspects of a successful digital transformation is encouraging an organization-wide paradigm shift from the siloed workstyle to a more collaborative approach. From the top down, all employees must both understand and cooperate with the change management process.

  2. Plan for long-term sustainability and demonstrate commitment to change. Once the idea of change has been communicated to employees, it is important for your organization to demonstrate its commitment to this change. Every employee should be aware of the company vision and why the successful execution of this change is important to the future of the business strategy.

  3. Put people first. Humans are creatures of habit. An interruption to our typical day-to-day routine at work can cause unnecessary stressors. It is imperative that you show empathy to your resources throughout the process and collaborate closely with them to encourage a willingness to change.

  4. Employ digital technologies to manage change initiatives and keep track of the metrics. Ensure that communication and transparency are at the top of your list when undergoing a digital transformation. Dashboards and communication platforms (i.e. Slack, Salesforce Chatter) are great ways to promote collaboration. These digital channels  can serve as a “home base” for employees to access if they have questions, concerns or simply want visibility into an enterprise-level change.

Further resources

Would you like to learn more about holistic digital transformation efforts you can employ in today’s digital age? In this on-demand presentation, Contentful CMO Bridget Perry shares some lessons from the disruptors on how to think, act and build with a platform-first approach. Consumers’ expectations of user experience and how they interact with brands have evolved. Learn how companies are adapting their organizations to move faster and prioritize the customer experience — to ultimately thrive in the economy of emerging technologies.

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