What absolutely won’t work when it comes to digital transformation

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CIO Digital Transformation 2

Digital transformation is a hot-button topic right now. Most leaders of large organizations understand that this transformation is not only desirable, but also necessary for the long-term health of their companies. 

Yet, actually enacting transformation can be extremely difficult. It requires overcoming the resistance to change that surfaces every time you ask people to change how they do their jobs or what their priorities are. How do you overcome that resistance? In part two of a two-part interview, Justin Mennen, CIO of managed IT services company CompuCom, provides some insight. 

CIO_Q and A

The Enterprisers Project (TEP): What do you need to do to drive transformation in an organization, especially a large and well-established one? 

Justin Mennen: Start by bringing clarity to the strategy and vision of the organization. Identify the burning platform for change among the leaders and employees. With clarity comes a sense of "how my job impacts the bottom line" for your employees. Rally the organization and build excitement around the future.

Also, build a leadership team that models the change and transformation you are embarking on. With the right leadership and positive support for change, the organization will push through traditional barriers. Robust communications and change management are essential, just as with any large initiative. 

TEP: What form or forms of communication work best?

Mennen: Over-communicate in a variety of forums: all hands, brown bags, one-on-ones, informal walkabouts. Connect with the team and, most important, listen to their feedback. Identify and bring clarity to their roles within the transformation, and identify the decision-making process. Then publicize results to gain acceptance from skeptics throughout the process.

TEP: What are the biggest challenges to organizational transformation?

Mennen: Several challenges face any transformational effort. Change is difficult for many, and it will be met with resistance in a variety of ways. Without a strong change management lead and communication plan for stakeholders, this resistance can spread and disrupt progress. 



Obtaining buy-in at all levels of the organization and overcoming skepticism is a challenge, especially early in the process. It can be met with clear communication and early sharing of results. Finally, breaking traditional norms can be a barrier to change. Leverage frameworks such as design thinking to break through these norms, prototype the change, and showcase the future.

Transformation is difficult and requires a flexible and agile approach. What absolutely won't work: thinking you can do it alone!

TEP: When it comes to employees, do all of them have the potential to be innovative and transformational if they're in a culture that supports those qualities? 

Mennen: Of course, all employees have the potential to be innovative. The entire organization should be empowered to innovate. Now, that doesn't mean every employee should spend countless hours dreaming about the future, but rather they should focus on continuously improving. I've found that many times, innovation comes from unexpected areas of the organization. 

Transformation is difficult and requires a flexible and agile approach. What absolutely won't work: thinking you can do it alone!

TEP: What qualities do employees need to help create innovation and transformation?

Mennen: Traits that I look for to build on a solid technical foundation include curiosity, passion, and courage. The best innovators I've worked with are entrepreneurial in nature, have a network of peers across the industry to bounce ideas off of, and they are able to take experiments and make them real. Also, exposure to the industry, frameworks such as design thinking, and experience with rapid prototyping are always on my checklist when hiring for innovation. I look for people who can deliver and not just ideate. 

Minda Zetlin is a business technology writer and columnist for Inc.com. She is co-author of "The Geek Gap: Why Business and Technology Professionals Don't Understand Each Other and Why They Need Each Other to Survive," as well as several other books. She lives in Snohomish, Washington.