Digital transformation: 6 tips to stay on track

Is your digital transformation initiative lagging? Consider these expert tips to restore momentum
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Digital transformations are constant and ongoing – chances are, you’re undergoing some phase of one as you read this. Pre-pandemic, many transformations were progressing at a steady, maybe even relaxed, pace. Then COVID put them on the fast track.

If your digital transformation progress feels slower than anticipated, it could be because you’ve lost sight of one of the most important components: the human element. People need to adopt and use the new systems. Digital transformation changes roles, skills, capabilities, ways of working, and even the culture across large swaths of the organization.

This goes for your transformation team, your IT organization, your employees, and maybe even your customers. Each group needs to adopt and adapt to the changes you are instituting to keep the business on track.

[ Also read Digital transformation: 3 steps to enable innovation. ]

To ensure better outcomes, here are six critical components that should be integral to any transformation plan:

1. Clarify and communicate a compelling vision

Sharing the “why” behind your digital transformation helps employees understand how it ties back to business objectives and their work. Consistently reiterating the strategic imperative will keep employees focused on the big picture and give them less opportunity to see changes as random.

Sharing the 'why' behind your digital transformation helps employees understand how it ties back to business objectives and their work.

2. Align leaders, from the CEO to the 'magic middle'

Digital transformations are complex and involve collaboration and partnership across multiple functions. Equip middle and front-line managers with the tools to help them communicate changes to their teams in a way that is consistent across the greater organization. This will inspire action and commitment.

3. Engage key stakeholders along the way

Identify your key stakeholders and forge strong partnerships by bringing them on your journey. Invite them to provide input and share their perspectives. This not only gives them some skin in the game but helps them drive understanding and adoption of the changes throughout their teams.

[ Related read Digital transformation: 3 tips to minimize friction ]

4. Build new skills and capabilities

The tech teams driving the transformation will need the right people skills – including communication and engagement – to increase the adoption of new ways of working. Since many likely haven’t done this before, identify and develop the needed tech skills, as well as the soft skills that will foster stronger human connections.

5. Instill a customer-focused mindset in IT

Your job doesn’t end when you install the technology. People need to adopt and use the systems. Ensure that you have the right communications channels to monitor, communicate, and proactively address system and service issues that could create barriers to adoption. If end users have a poor experience, you may lose them.

6. Manage expectations

Despite everyone’s best efforts, things won’t be perfect right out of the gate. Communicate the long-term benefits for users but let them know they might not be in place on Day One. Get their feedback to make the user experience the best it can be. Consider communication tools that might help – for example, publishing an FAQ list, an implementation calendar, and even a glossary of terms they might encounter.

Digital transformation is a living organism; it requires care and feeding as adjustments are made based on feedback. While most of your team is focused on the day-to-day demands of implementation, don’t forget one of the key components: ensuring that all your stakeholders are on the same journey. Taking extra care of the people side of the transformation can help turn skeptics and nay-sayers into your strongest allies.

[ Where is your team’s digital transformation work stalling? Get the eBook: What’s slowing down your Digital Transformation? 8 questions to ask. ]

Andrea Grossman is a senior consultant at Notion Consulting. She has 20 years of experience leading complex, large-scale, cross-business change initiatives in a variety of functions. Prior to joining Notion, Andrea led change initiatives in the financial services industry.