Digital transformation: 3 ways to ease the fear factor

Change means embracing the unknown and that can be scary. Here are three actionable ways to ease the pain - even for the digital transformation skeptics
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As we enter the new decade, more companies are sharpening their focus on digital transformation. These changes are about much more than just keeping up with rapidly improving technology and trends; digital transformation is really about enabling customer intimacy.  Every successful business is customer-centric, and digital transformation initiatives are aimed at utilizing digital technologies to create new or improved business processes and customer experiences.

Undergoing a digital transformation is a logical strategy for any company focused on improving its customer experience, but some remain hesitant to commit. Most business leaders have encountered employees who are resistant to the changes new technology will introduce. After all, change means moving away from the safety of what is known and embracing the unknown, and that can be scary. IT teams, in particular, can be risk-averse as they are tasked to deliver stable operations.

Here are three actionable steps that can help you get all your employees excited for change – even the digital transformation naysayers.

[ Is your digital strategy prepared to handle the challenges of 2020? Read also: 8 digital transformation trends for 2020. ]

1. Commit to strong communication

Effective communication is the first and most important requirement for successful digital transformation. It’s even more essential when dealing with folks who adamantly oppose change because they are the ones who will speak the loudest, ask the most questions, and call out any holes or weaknesses.

Steady, comprehensive communication can help ease their anxiety. Create an open forum where employees can submit questions directly. This gives everyone, including the skeptics, a platform to contribute and ensures that everyone feels heard.

For communication to be impactful and help turn naysayers into advocates, go beyond explaining what changes are happening and instead address why they need to happen. Explain how these changes will benefit your employees and the customers they serve.

[ Read also: Change management: A better way to explain the "why" ]

Convey what the state of the business could be like without digital transformation. Understanding that the company’s future could be at risk and that their skills will become obsolete with antiquated legacy systems will likely have a significant impact on everyone.

Remind employees that digital change is about designing and delivering better products and services and that this is why many people get involved with IT if the first place – to make a positive change. Positioning change in this way can help everyone see it through a different lens.

Be direct and honest, especially with employees who actively oppose change.

Be direct and honest in all your communications, especially with employees who actively oppose change. State what the goals are, what the rollout will look like, and what the benefits will be for customers and partners as well as employees. Create a conversation and openly acknowledge concerns. Don’t shy away from difficult conversations – these are the ones employees will focus on, and failing to engage in them will drive the message that change is unpalatable.

Partner with resistant individuals and invite them to join more strategic conversations. Giving them a seat at the table will help to shift their mindset and create new ambassadors who can help rally others.

Finally, make sure communication around the digital transformation process is ongoing. A handful of emails or a company meeting won’t cut it. A steady stream of updates will help ease the minds of all your employees.

2. Understand that digital transformation is a journey

Digital transformation is a process, not a one-time project or a single event. It requires a long-term plan with many milestones and sub-steps. Part of the journey is getting everyone on board by helping them realize that embracing change is a win for everyone. Another part is testing tools and solutions to determine which ones to implement.

This is a perfect opportunity to connect with employees who might have a more cynical outlook. Ask them to join a pilot group to test new solutions. As part of this process, seek out technologies that will benefit employees by enhancing their skill set.

Customers and partners will also have questions along the way, so be sure to point out how the change will help your organization deliver better solutions and services that align with customer needs. Every step of the journey brings its own challenges, and it’s important to stay grounded, communicate often, and pivot when necessary.

3. Celebrate small successes quickly

Make it point to celebrate small successes early in the transformation process. Starting with an initiative that is helpful but not overwhelmingly difficult and time-consuming will help to ease concerns and generate broader buy-in. Be honest about the process – openly discuss what’s working and what’s not. Naysayers will be quick to point out when communication fails or the timeline falls behind. Get ahead of this by celebrating wins and being transparent about setbacks.

It’s important to show the initial benefits of digital transformation, so share testimonials from employees who have already benefited from small changes. In some situations, hearing positive updates from peers can be more impactful than hearing them from leaders.

With the speed of innovation and the pace of competition in today’s world, companies cannot afford to stand still – and that means embracing digital transformation. To overcome resistance to change, partner with the cynics. Talk through their concerns, involve them in the process, and reward even small successes. In that way, you will turn skeptics into supporters.

Remember: Change begins at the top. Leaders who are able to inspire and drive change within their organization will find success in digital transformation.

[ Culture change is the hardest part of digital transformation. Get the digital transformation eBook: Teaching an elephant to dance. ]

A 30-year veteran in the storage industry, Dave Russell is Vice President of Enterprise Strategy at Veeam, responsible for driving strategic product and go-to-market programs, spearheading industry engagement and evangelizing Veeam’s vision for the Cloud Data Management at key events across the globe and working with the Executive Leadership team in accelera

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