Intro to Digital Transformation
Digital transformation. Industry 4.0. Call it what you will, but what was once a buzzword is now very much a reality. All areas of industry are reaching a point where their current ways of working are under threat.
Economic slowdown, trade wars, and Brexit are all painting a bleak picture of the world where business as usual is changing. That is why the time to embrace the future is now. You need the competitive advantage along with efficiency benefits that utilising new technology can bring. As the International Data Corporation highlighted, almost $2 trillion is projected to be spent on digital transformation projects in 2022. By this point companies will no longer have the luxury of thinking about a transformation, it will be do or die.
One of the most difficult parts of a digital transformation is how to best prepare teams for it. People are notoriously resistant to change and the mention of company-wide projects often cause backlash before progress has started. That’s why we believe there are some steps you can take to prepare teams for a digital transformation project.
Planning Your Digital Transformation
Setting out a plan for a digital transformation project is vital to improve your chance of success. Change projects are large, complex beasts that have many things to consider.
The first is that new plans must align with employee values and behaviours. Having worked for your company they have come to expect a certain way of working and principles. New ways of working may feel like a departure from company values, which can result in harm to the culture that exists internally. Employees can also feel betrayed if the plan goes against how they view the company operates. Losing the trust of employees this early will be detrimental to project progression and can be very hard to win back.
Second, laying out a plan can help get higher members of staff on-board with a digital transformation project. It has been reported by CIBD that 51% of UK IT leaders struggle to get executive sign-off on their transformation strategies. Therefore, it is important to have a well laid out plan that tackles what executives are likely to question. Being clear when addressing concerns and explain why the change is a worthwhile risk to take all help to get executive team members supporting the project.
Last, when planning you should consider the key performance indicators (KPIs) for the project. Getting metrics in place early helps keep people accountable through-out and can help measure the success of the project once complete. Laying out targets also helps a team to see what they’re aiming for, keeping them motivated and working towards a common goal.
Working with Your People
To have the best chance of a successful transformation project you need to get everyone onboard. Communication with all team members is top priority to help reduce the fears they are likely to have.
The biggest concern that teams often have is what will happen to their job. That’s why you need to address these concerns upfront, being honest about what will happen to jobs and ways of working. Digital transformation projects are likely to cause disruption to several jobs so communicating this to teams is vital to keep them in the loop. This also gives them a chance to feedback with concerns and ideas that may help to shape the project as it moves along. It can be a difficult conversation to have but staff will respect you more for being honest and taking their feedback into account.
This level of team communication also allows you to lean into the reasoning of the project. It provides you with the chance to be clear about the risks in the project as well as explaining why they are smart risks that are worth taking. Just like with executives, helping employees understand that it is a smart business decision allows them to see that it is not change for the sake of change. Your aim should be to make them feel valued and involved with the project. After all, they are the ones who will be using the new, digital ways of working.
One final point, you can also take this time to explain how you plan to retrain team members. According to PwC, 73% of CEOs believe the lack of employees with key technical skills is a threat. A digital transformation project is the perfect time to address this. Staff will need training for new ways of working so why not extend it further for other skill areas that might be lacking? It shows you’re investing in your team beyond what is necessary, and you get the benefit of addressing skill gaps in your workforce.
Executing Your Digital Transformation
When it comes to the execution of a project you need to be ready for road bumps. Even if you have worked to build up trust and buy-in to the project you can still face unforeseen circumstances. Key members of the project can leave the company or have to shift focus back to their department if a crisis arises. That is why you should take an ever-adapting strategy to digital transformation.
By being flexible in your approach you open yourself up to new possibilities and opportunities as technology changes. Focus on keeping things simple and innovating. This allows team members to take an agile approach to working, taking risks and failing often but always being quick to recover. Easing the pressure of digital transformation projects can help encourage proactive engagement with challenges and boost your chance of success.
But how can you tell if your strategy has been implemented correctly?
You can start by looking back at your KPIs and seeing how your new ways of working are improving them. While these KPIs should show efficiency and cost-saving improvements, it is also worth looking at how the change has freed up teams. They should now have less repetitive tasks each week, improving job satisfaction and allowing more time to bring value to other areas in the business.
Digital transformation projects are always complex and difficult tasks, but companies can no longer afford to shy away from them. Change is happening around the globe and UK business must invest in more advanced technology to remain competitive. Overseas production leaders will have the benefit of lower costs and cheaper labour for the foreseeable future, making it impossible for UK business to outwork them. We need better ways of working that complement the higher quality products and that begins by getting your team working with you on a digital transformation.