Part 1: How to Ensure a Successful Digital Transformation Journey
By: Kathy Kent Toney, President of Kent Business Solutions
Since the advent of COVID-19, there’s been much talk about Digital Transformation and how it can help companies. But many aren’t even sure how to start transforming their businesses through IT technologies. They may be wondering…
Where do I even start?
What are the best steps I can take to ensure success?
In order to get answers to these questions, I recently interviewed my strategic partner, Michael Cantu’, a DT wizard with Accelerate. This is the first blog in a series of How to Ensure a Successful Digital Transformation Journey.
This week we’ll be talking about how businesses can prep for a successful implementation.
So, let’s get started!
Kathy: Michael, it’s great to have you with us today!
Michael: Great to be here!
Kathy: I'd like to cover how to plan for successful Digital Transformation efforts. You mentioned to me in a previous conversation that there are four steps involved with that.
But you also said that sometimes there are roadblocks to ensuring successful DT efforts which need to be removed first. One of those is not having the right culture that would embrace it. I know many businesses face this challenge today.
What can these organizations do to create a culture that embraces DT efforts, if they're not in that place?
Michael: The first thing is…
1. Encourage Your Team to Talk About Everyday Matters
Let them know there won't be any repercussions for doing that. They should feel good about expressing their opinion. Companies do best when they have created a culture where employees can come to management anytime and talk with them about those things.
A lot of times, top-level managers don't understand what's going on underneath…they just know what’s getting done or not getting done. They also may not know how it's getting done or how people feel about what they're doing. So, giving them that safety net to be able to do that is very important.
The second thing is…
2. Create an Expectation You Will Be Asking Your Team For Feedback
Encourage them to explore better ways to do their jobs.
For instance, you may ask your employees their opinion on the best way to go about doing something or if they’ve read books that gave them ideas on how to improve processes. This helps them understand that their feedback is important. It also requires them to be an active participant within the business.
The third thing is…
3. Act Upon Those items
Talk with your employees about why you can't necessarily do what they're requesting right now. Make sure you give them a why. You would still keep it up on the board as a valid option, if it’s not the right time to act on it. And then the next time you start reviewing those things, ask them questions like this:
If the answers are “no”, it stays on the board. If you can move the items forward, then make it happen.
Kathy: Those are some great ideas! Do you have anything else to add about creating a culture that embraces digital transformation?
Michael: Yes. There has to be radical acceptance of your employees. Listening is key to understanding that everyone is different. Everyone has different thoughts, everyone comes to the table with different ideas, and there are a lot of people that are afraid of ever voicing their own opinion or idea. So, it's really important to practice that radical acceptance on an on-going basis.
Kathy: I can see how "radical acceptance" is key, which leads to my next question...what happens when these efforts to create this culture don’t connect with employees who tend to be stuck in their ways and are not wanting to embrace Digital Transformation. Do you have any advice for that?
Michael: I believe it's a one-on-one conversation that needs to happen with certain employees, and it starts with leadership asking themselves why those within their organization are not wanting to change.
Then ask those them this same question. Sometimes leaders think employees don't want to change, but sometimes they may actually want to…there can just be a disconnect in leaders’ minds. Clearing up these misconceptions can prove helpful.
And so, it's really gets down to finding out which individuals are the roadblocks in the organization that you may need to talk with about being more flexible. Ask them what you can do to help them become more adaptable. You may get some answers that are out of their control, but if you can just redirect them to what is in their control, that’s helpful.
If they refuse to change, consider using the "Find and Replace" scenario. By bringing someone else in that promotes the type of culture you're looking to create within your organization, you’ll help make your DT efforts run smoother.
But before you do that, I just want to say that I have rarely seen anybody that has been closed off when you talk to them, from a managerial perspective, who didn't open up when they realized their job could potentially be on the line. Either they start looking for another job…because they really don't want to change and they don't want to do what's required…or they step up.
Another thing leaders can do is ask managers if their people are open and receptive to them. That may not always be the case, because if the manager has crossed them a number of times, sometimes there’s no going back…even if they ask for forgiveness, the employee won't forgive. So that’s when you can again revisit the Find and Replace method.
Kathy: Those are some great pointers!
Once these barriers have been addressed, how can leaders effectively plan for digital transformation initiatives?
Michael: As you mentioned, there are four steps. The first is to…
1. Conduct a Needs Assessment
This is really an open conversation about what the current state of the company is.
An important part of this is making sure you establish the right mindset of change that you're going to be implementing within the company, because if don’t have that…talking about why change is important, how the culture is open to change, and what they can actually do…then it's going to be difficult getting through any of the other steps.
It’s really great to have an outside person doing these assessments so people feel comfortable, in an anonymous kind-of-way.
This assessment can be done within an individual department, or it can be a company-wide approach, depending on how big the company is. If you’re shooting for enterprise-level implementations, you're probably going to have to stick with a particular business unit.
If you’re a medium-sized company, most of the time you can have these meetings across all departments and start talking through the needs that you have within the business.
The second step is:
2. Take an Inventory
This involves getting the actual support around the needs that were discussed within the assessment portion. So, that includes going out to the floor...talking with other personnel, asking about those questions, and really looking at what the current state of the organization is and bringing the facts back to the table.
The next step is:
3. Prioritize the Change
It’s really looking back at what you did from the needs assessment and looking at the actual data that came through. Then, schedule a meeting where you start to prioritize that change. It essentially involves working through prioritizing items.
During the prioritization meeting, you're really looking at the aggregate of all the data that you've collected and the needs that you’ve talked about. Then, you prioritize that based off of population and revenue impact.
When you’re talking about population impact, it's about how many people are actually impacted by this change, and why it is important for the organization to start undertaking this. Then pull this data forward to do the next step.
4. Make an Action Plan
This is where you really start to define actions you're going to undertake to achieve and solve for those needs that were discussed and prioritized.
If you have a large company with an enterprise-level implementation, you're probably going to have departmental action plans that roll up to a bigger company-wide strategy. You'll also have that at a medium-sized company, but those plans end up a little bit flatter.
Kathy: Sounds good, Michael! Do you have any closing thoughts for those considering DT implementations for their companies?
Michael: Yes. DT is a continuous process. If you think you need to wait to get started for any number of reasons, that will be the biggest roadblock to your success. Lots of companies are starting their DT journeys now, so my advice is to not fall behind…there’s never been a better time to get started than today!
Kathy: That’s great advice, and I think that’s a wrap! Thanks for joining me today. As always, it's been a pleasure having you, Michael!
Michael: Same here, thanks Kathy!
If you’re interested in learning more about Digital Transformation and what it can do for your company, check out this download that outlines some benefits in relation to remote working.
Thanks for tuning in!