Why Change Management and Adoption are Crucial to Successful Digital Transformation, by Tim Hiscox, Head of Digital Workplace, Maintel

You can’t go two paces in any business today without someone mentioning digital transformation, especially when your job title is Head of Digital Workplace!

And for many professionals these days, before you know it, you find yourself discussing amazing new technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), big data, and the Internet of Things (IoT); not to mention the fancy new device you happen to be carrying in your pocket.

The Potential Downside to Digital Transformation
The problem is that technology projects which start with this excitement then move straight into the implementation phase, according to leading change management consultancy Prosci, are doomed to have a less than satisfactory result.

Why? Because whatever the sound basis of the argument behind the new initiative – be it flexible working, wireless enablement, or a brilliant new application – many of the people within your organisation just won’t use it once it arrives unless it’s approached strategically. People are often reluctant to change their behaviour.

The result, according to analysts, is that you only achieve around a 20-30% adoption rate, which means your Finance Director will see just 20-30% of the ‘return on investment’ they were promised by the team who came up with the idea. Not a good result for anyone.

Most employees think they’re already experts at their jobs, and so act just like Victoria Woodhull stated, “I shall not change my course just because those who assume to know better than me desire it.” They’ll most likely just get on with doing their jobs as they always have, with no interest in the new and unfamiliar technology being forced upon them. So, with adoption being so important…

How do we Ensure These Digital Transformation Initiatives Succeed?
As many sages will tell you, the first step towards changing is awareness, and the second stage is the acceptance that there’s either a problem to be solved or an opportunity to be taken advantage of.

An approach I’ve seen be particularly effective is to start with the people when beginning a digital transformation journey, and that means all the people. It’s critical that you have the buy-in from the operational folks on the front line, right through to the Chief Executive. That doesn’t mean just a tacit acceptance, either, but a full acceptance of the way things will change, and how each and every day they’re going to play their own individual role.

This is especially true of your company’s leaders. Again citing Prosci, they’ve discovered through years of analysis that the first contributor to the success of a programme of change is senior leadership. In other words, you guessed it, if the boss walks the walk as well as talks the talk, people will embrace the change as an improved way of working, and they’ll change their own behaviours too.

So, is it the leadership? Is it the willing involvement of all employees? Is it the internal communication of the value of this new technology?

What Will Really Deliver Adoption?
The answer is, of course, that it’s a combination of all these things (and many more, in fact). The skill is ensuring you have a strategy in place to ensure you do all the right things first and then keep on doing them, which is easier said than done.

That’s why you need to follow processes and frameworks, just like you would with a ‘PRINCE’ (PRojects IN Controlled Environments)-delivered project, whereby there are milestones, actions, timelines, ownership, deliverables, and executive sponsors.

With that in mind, it’s so important to have a change management specialist in place – whether they’re an in-house expert or an external advisor – to take responsibility for ensuring all the milestones are met, and all the deliverables are reached throughout the period over which business change is being implemented.

As MIT’s Peter Senge stated, “People don’t resist change, they resist being changed.” If you can get your people on board with digital transformation initiatives before they begin, you’re already well on the way to success. The trick is getting them there.

Remember, You’re Not Alone 
If your organisation lacks the experience and skills in-house to guide complex projects of this nature, enlisting the help of a partner, who can act as a trusted advisor and handle the majority of the specialist responsibilities for you, could be the best approach to take.

If that partner can provide the solutions and services which will actually deliver the transformation, allowing your employees to become more effective and efficient through the digital technology they use in the workplace, that relationship will give your business the best possible chance of succeeding.

To learn more about the changing expectations of the modern workforce, and the role digital technology is playing in shaping the current business landscape, read our report, Bringing Order to Communications Chaos.