Digital transformation: 5 proven ways to get skeptics on board

Throughout this year, industries have had to completely change how they do business. To foster buy-in for large scale digital transformation, consider these techniques
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Today, we know that digital transformation is no longer a nice-to-have but a requirement in terms of long-term business success. Throughout this year alone, industries have had to completely change how they do business. The notion of digital transformation efforts isn’t new, but it can be challenging to foster a company culture that’s open to these large-scale transformations.

recent study conducted by Harvard Business Review Analytics Services cited “an organizational culture that doesn’t easily adapt to changing business conditions” as the top reason digital transformation efforts fail, beating out IT budget constraints and backlogs in operations.

This is huge. Throughout my career, I’ve worked at a wide range of technology companies, including many of the giants in Silicon Valley, and this sentiment rings true: Creating a culture that is primed for change is crucial to long-term success. Here are five strategies to help you do that:

[ Get answers to key digital transformation questions and lessons from top CIOs: Download our digital transformation cheat sheet. ]

1. Avoid the deadly disconnect in digital transformation

Organizations that do not connect teams or address disconnects head-on are primed to breed skeptics. One example is the disconnect between sales and engineering. When you’re looking to make large-scale transformations, it’s your job as a leader to make sure the entire organization is aligned at every level on what the change is, why it’s happening, and how it will impact the organization and its customers. This is the key to creating a culture of innovation and speaks directly to skeptics within the organization.

As a tech leader within your organization, what can you do to make sure this disconnect doesn’t happen and that the organization is continually reminded of the why factor?

2. Connect all employees to the overall goal of the organization

Make sure every employee in every department can answer the question "How does what I do all day play into the company’s overall mission?"

Motivating employees and aligning them with the company’s goals and vision is key for any organizations’ long-term success. You need to help employees connect their everyday job responsibilities to the organization as a whole and to the broader initiatives taking place. Make sure every employee in every department can answer the question “How does what I do all day play into the company’s overall mission?” This will enable your organization to withstand micro and macro changes and reduce skepticism. Zero in on a core principle so everyone knows what they’re working toward.

3. Have an outside-in view

Too often, organizations and business leaders get caught in the ivory tower of tech: They’re building new tech just for the purpose of making something new and exciting. With large-scale digital transformations, having an inside-out mindset is a surefire way to get sidetracked and become disconnected to the overall purpose of why you’re implementing new technology in the first place.

Businesses and customers want your help solving the problems they face now, not identifying problems they don’t yet have.

Remember that your job as a tech leader is to solve problems for customers. Creating something new and flashy for the sheer purpose of something new will not set your organization up for success. Businesses and customers want your help solving the problems they face now, not identifying problems they don’t yet have.

3. Manage how change is deployed throughout the organization

To ensure that everyone understands their role within the organization, it’s important to involve employees in these widescale changes. This can be accomplished through something as simple as holding regular town hall meetings and sending company-wide emails, and by meeting with department heads one-on-one to explain what this change means for them and their daily job. By being intentional about communicating with regular cadence, tech leaders can get buy-in from employees before new technology is implemented.

4. Get employees outside of their four walls

It’s easy to get caught up in day-to-day work and completing the tasks at hand. Throughout my roles as CPTO and leader, I have found it helpful to get people out of the four walls – literally or figuratively – they’re stuck in, especially those in engineering and IT.

To do this, consider doing “ride-alongs” with the sales team or shadowing calls with the customer experience team to better understand the product and customers. It’s important to get engineers and builders outside of their world and offer them first-hand exposure to the problems they are trying to solve. This will help clarify to them why your organization is uniquely suited to solve it.

Open the doors to external business leaders to speak directly to your staff about the problems they’re seeing in the industry and world. Hackathons are a great way to involve the engineering team and foster creative thinking.

5. Invest in your employees

You must connect the why to the people who are going to make the how happen.

Within your organization, you need to cultivate a culture that’s primed for change. Challenge employees to get out of their comfort zone. Whether you invest in LinkedIn Learning or promote other professional development tools for your staff, giving people the opportunity to actively invest in their development and skill-building will keep them primed for change. Investing in your employees has countless benefits, but it also grounds them in why they are doing their job and why change is important.

To truly drive a culture of innovation and prevent skepticism from within, you must connect the why to the people who are going to make the how happen. 

Ensure that everyone understands the business problem being solved and what they’re working toward. Laying this foundation is key to bridging the gap when there are widescale changes. Empowering employees will ensure that your digital transformation is successful and widely implemented from the top down and the bottom up.

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

Jay Jamison is Chief Product and Technology Officer of Quick Base, which provides a cloud-based application development platform that allows anyone to create, integrate and run business software applications that are tailored to the way their organizations work.