Making change stick: secrets for managing tech-driven change

Technology is transforming businesses at a rapid rate. Here, Paul Whitelam of ClickSoftware shares his top tips to cope with digital change.

Digital transformation is a crucial consideration for many SMEs in their business strategies.

With technologies emerging at a fast pace and business models continuing to evolve, new revenue streams and opportunities for previously technophobic companies are now becoming a reality.

For SMEs, digital transformation is seen more as a business transformation as it is not just about technology, but also people including staff, customers and stakeholders.

Research by IDC found that 70 per cent of digital transformation initiatives are likely to fail. The failure will ultimately come down to, for example, lack of clear definition of a digital strategy, insufficient collaboration among all stakeholders and limited skilled human resource capabilities.

Seventy per cent failure is a shockingly high rate, so to avoid your business’ digital transformation becoming yet another statistic, it is important to realise that it’s not just about the technology – although that plays a big part. It is also essential to engage everyone involved and plan for the pace of change after you’ve implemented your digital transformation initiatives, including consideration for future disruptions and tweaks.

There are several ways to strategically implement a change management process, and there are many ways it can go wrong, so here are just a few simple steps for making any digital transformations within your business a success:

Establish clear expectations up front

While leading a major technology transformation means cultivating enthusiasm and optimism among your team, hoping for the best is not enough. Set clear goals and realistic expectations.

Talk through worst case scenarios, likely and unlikely obstacles, and potential risks in order to develop a plan that can accommodate any disruptions and help prevent a disaster before one occurs.

Connect people and confirm plans via early buy-in

Progress will look different for each level of the organisation, so set meaningful milestones and have a clear scope of work to help manage expectations for what your business changes will look like. Facilitating change management requires developing a clear ‘why’ narrative, then explaining the roles and responsibilities of everyone involved, while pre-defining ownership at various stages throughout the transformation to ensure everything runs smoothly.

By proactively communicating at every stage of the process, you will allow your team time to get used to the idea and feel comfortable providing input, making the digital transformation process inclusive and open.

Run a pilot

Run a pilot programme at the earliest stage to iron out any initial kinks. Any problems found will be more manageable early on than when encountered at a later stage. By ensuring every member of your team knows what is happening and is working alongside one another during the pilot, you can generate a more efficient and comprehensive plan, which will provide a better offering and higher chance of success.

Remain agile

Plan a modular and staged delivery that accommodates unplanned work. Enable flexibility in your schedule to allow for changes to priorities if necessary, without having to restart the process.

See also:

Unlocking workplace flexibility in SMEs

Digital transformation: Innovation and talent management

Train to bridge any gaps

Train everyone from the ground up on technologies that have been implemented within your digital transformation and plan for more training as new innovations are introduced.

When possible, training on new systems should begin well ahead of going live, as this is critical for ensuring employees are comfortable with the technology and making the final switch as seamless as possible. Plan for periodic post-launch training to make sure everyone is using the system in the manner intended, as new processes or policies are added, and as new employees or contractors join the organisation.

Initial implementation and training programmes might need to be revised to include opportunities for improvement, identified through wide-scale usage, or usage patterns not captured in the original plans.

See also:

Five ways to support staff training and learning at work

Provide ongoing support tools

Even with all the time and resources invested in training, employees are still likely to fall back into old habits and will need ongoing support to change how they operate. Ensure that every user group has regular support and maintains the new ways of working.

Look past the finish line

Change management is a long-term effort – following up regularly with key stakeholders after project completion demonstrates ongoing commitment to digital transformation change, and that their opinions still matter.

Digital transformation within any business can become more complicated when many people are involved, especially when the change is organisation-wide.

Prioritising and planning for change management early on will give you the tools to tackle problems as they arise, and anticipate and neutralise them ahead of time.

Paul Whitelam is senior vice president at ClickSoftware.

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Anna Jordan

Anna is Senior Reporter, covering topics affecting SMEs such as grant funding, managing employees and the day-to-day running of a business.

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