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7 Success Factors of Change Management in the Digital World

Digital Transformation and Change Management

Change management helps drive progress. Technology offers businesses so many amazing opportunities to grow and improve. It would be a waste not to take full advantage of those opportunities. And if your business doesn’t make changes to leverage technological opportunity, your competitors surely will, leaving you behind the curve. And your customers may leave you behind too, especially when their expectations grow while your capabilities don’t.

Transforming from old/legacy ways of doing things to new, digitally enabled ways of working – becoming more agile as a company – is not always easy. But it’s the most important and strategic initiative you can undertake. Here are 7 success factors to consider as you pursue change through digital transformation:

1. You Need a Map to Know What Success Looks Like

It sounds obvious to say that you must begin with a clear idea of exactly where you’re going in order to get there, but it’s true. Begin by knowing where you are, pre-change, so you can clearly see the subsequent steps during the change journey. Far too many companies forget to invest time and resources into creating a clear road map that everyone can follow. If you don’t develop a clear starting vision of what success looks like each step of the way, you’ll never get there.

If you don’t develop a clear starting vision of what success looks like each step of the way, you’ll never get there

Yes, it feels great to announce a big change management process, and maybe hand out t-shirts or coffee mugs to all involved at a big meeting in the conference room, but that initial rush of enthusiasm won’t be enough to get your people through the inevitable rough patches in the middle of executing the process. If your people don’t have a clear idea of the tangible things they need to do from kick-off until completion, then you'll all struggle to get there, losing momentum, especially when “the muddle in the middle” arrives and nobody knows what to do next. Does this really happen? All the time.

2. Supportive Communication and Culture Are Essential

If only the C-suite has the road map and knows the next steps, then the people expected to implement the change won’t take ownership of the process and may even begin “finger pointing” when things get difficult (and things always get difficult during change management processes). A top-down approach is asking for trouble: if everyone is expected to change, then everyone should be involved from the beginning and should “buy in.”

Team dynamic is key to change management

Obviously, the leadership team needs to model the new behaviors and ways of working that they want the organization to adopt, but aligning all employees behind the change will be critical for success. So constantly share the why, the how and the results –how we’re doing – with everyone, from the kick-off to the finish. Err on the side of too much communication, rather than too little. The result will be a culture that supports the change you seek, which is gold for any change management process.

3. Pilot, Scale, and Keep Iterating

use pilots to build business cases for accelerating adoption of the change

Any change management process needs “success stories” and business cases to build momentum behind the change. Pilot projects are better here than introducing big changes across the entire organization. For example, if you’re seeking to use more data analytics across your company, hopefully with the help of abas ERP, then start with a department or business area where you’d expect to see the most benefits from data analytics. When your pilot shows clear results, share those results and use them to convince other departments of how data analytics could help them too.

In other words, use pilots to build business cases for accelerating adoption of the change, and then build momentum and scale as more people see the benefits and get on “the change train.” Better to make mistakes at small scale and learn from them, which pilots enable.

4. Create a Culture of Learning

Organizational agility requires that people feel comfortable with uncertainty and learn rapidly from mistakes. A mistake need not be a failure if you learn from it, which is what “the lean startup” movement is all about. Be lean internally. Fail small, fail fast, learn, and incorporate learning as you scale up.

Change management and the culture of learning

To do this, you may need a cultural shift about failure. So instead of punishing or shunning failure, you view it as part of the iterative, ongoing process of learning and improving your products, processes, and systems. Leadership should model a learning culture by always seeking to learn themselves, sharing both their struggles/mistakes and what they’ve gained too. People who refuse to learn and adapt (i.e., those opposed to change) need to be dealt with, because their example can erode any momentum you’ve developed for the change you seek.

5. Build the Change Management Triangle

You can precipitate change in your staff through training and culture, but if your processes and systems don’t also adapt to the change, you’ll fail every time. You can also upgrade your processes and systems, but if your people don’t adapt, you’ll fail every time. Change management is largely about coordinating the change triangle –getting people, processes, and systems to align behind the change management process. Having systems like ERP that support agility is a major help, and will also enable you to be more agile with your business processes, for example through BPM, but keep your focus on your people too in order to complete the triangle.

6. Digital Maturity and the Data-Driven Business

No matter where you are today, you will need to keep moving as digital technology – and its accessibility – continues to evolve.

Digital transformation won’t happen overnight. For example, you might have a well-developed capacity to capture all your operational data. But how do you filter and analyze all that captured data? And even if you have mature analytical capacity, how do you use analyzed data to inform strategic decision making? And can some data-driven decisions be made by algorithms, while others would be better made by your leadership team? Which decision should people make and which ones should AI be making? Are you using the latest predictive analytics to anticipate changes like market demand and machines that may break down and need maintenance?

All of these questions, and more, are really about digital maturity. You need to know where you are on this digital maturity spectrum. No matter where you are today, you will need to keep moving as digital technology – and its accessibility – continues to evolve. You’ll need a whole digital framework, including governance of your data and scalable architecture, to fully leverage data’s potential.

7. Get Help

Know what your in-house capabilities are, and ask for external help if you lack necessary capabilities. Part of being agile is understanding your core competencies and how to leverage those for a competitive market advantage. It’s getting easier, for example, to access cloud-based services for multiple functions. If it’s too expensive and time-consuming (and distracting) to develop those capabilities in house, go outside for help and better focus on what you do best. Having great partners for platforms like ERP will support your overall business agility, enabling you to successfully pursue change management initiatives as you need to. 

Need help managing your business' digital transformation? Learn how abas can help with our download, Selecting an ERP System in 7 Easy Steps

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