Digital transformation: Why this is a smart time to speed up

Will added digital transformation work overwhelm employees when they are already dealing with so much? No: In fact, organizations should consider increasing the pace
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You might think that a worldwide lockdown would slow the pace of digital transformation. And many are questioning whether this is the right time for change. It’s a fair question.

While some people are struggling with imposed change, there is no question that others are adapting, and at a pace much greater than anything we’ve seen in recent history. Necessity demands it.

The fact that we are so heavily disrupted makes us more alert and open to shifting gears in order to survive.

As an expert in change, I’m often asked whether the continuation of transformation projects will overwhelm employees when they are already dealing with so much. On the contrary, this is the best time to drive change, and organizations should consider increasing the pace.

[ Also read: Digital transformation: What CIOs are accelerating during the pandemic. ]

Companies are finding new ways to leverage existing technology to adapt faster. From tracing apps to nearfield proximity alarms, the necessities of our changing environment are driving everyone to adapt rapidly.

Help people become digital transformation champions

The fact that we are so heavily disrupted makes us more alert and open to shifting gears in order to survive. Presented correctly, change encourages people to envision themselves as champions of something new and awesome rather than powerless victims.

Never has there been a better time to spearhead digital transformation, our strongest source of connection today.

The demand is twofold: Every employee expects a suite of tools to enable safe work, and every organization needs IT to provide a strong foundation on which they can thrive during a crisis. These demands present IT departments with the opportunity to drive faster change.

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

Rethink the digital transformation roadmap

Every organizational strategy must be re-thought in the current environment. Consider how an accelerated timetable will enable a strategy that must be extremely flexible and adaptive to an unclear future. Strategies must build on an infinitely adaptable platform: Think playdough, not concrete.

Meetings become much more efficient when their time is cut in half. The same applies to plans. You likely have a transformation path already mapped out to introduce much-needed change. What happens if you shorten the timeline by half and push to achieve the same goals?

Force yourself to eliminate the “nice-to-haves” to get it done. Sure, there are risks in moving faster. Make those apparent to stakeholders so they can be active risk mitigators. You might be surprised at what risks they will accept. (When was the last time you read the fine print when subscribing to a service?)

Package solutions like a marketer: Tell a story

Nothing sells like a good story. What narrative can you tell to demonstrate what life is like on the other side of transformation?

Go beyond showcasing tools. Express emotion that executives and employees can relate to. Do employees feel safer? Are more customers smiling? Has one life been touched or saved in an extremely powerful way?

Connect the dots from app to impact and you will be onto something amazing! Now, the real trick:

Connect the dots from app to impact and you will be onto something amazing!

Tie every deployment to the storyline. Make your next rollout the first of a special series. Give them catchy names like Operation Skyrunner or ExtremePack Indigo. Work with your communications team to inject some fun into dreary corporate updates. And always demonstrate how you are fulfilling the vision.

People respond to influencers. Go out and gather testimonials from your user base:

  • What do you love about the latest JetPack we rolled out?
  • What surprised you in Version Vin Diesel?
  • How has your work improved as a result?

Capture the stories of success. Re-telling them will amp up support for the rest of your vision.

Practice agile deployment

Make it clear that deployments never assume perfection. Do your best to reduce risk, then set up a clear path to report issues rapidly – with your team ready to respond quickly. Agile balances the need for speed with the expectation of adjustment. Every organization grows stronger by learning from both hits and misses.

Rollbacks and recalls are not failures if they are normalized.

IT has been the savior for every organization shifting to new working strategies. Now is the time to accelerate the work of enablement. Make the digital personal and it will be more easily embraced.

Transformation is too slow. Start the revolution.

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

Jeff Skipper is an expert in accelerating change. Clients such as Shell, Goldman Sachs and The Salvation Army have engaged him to achieve dramatic results during strategic transformation by wrapping complex change in motivating mission. Jeff holds a Master’s degree in Organizational Psychology and is a Certified Change Management Professional. His first book will be published in 2020.