6 Change Management Strategies for Digital Transformation

Discover six change management strategies to support your digital transformation projects and nurture a culture that actively embraces change.

Table of Content

    Digital transformation fundamentally changes how businesses create value at every level. That, in turn, changes how work is done, what skills matter most, and how performance is measured.

    All of this, of course, can be pretty jarring, even for high-performers and “go-with-the-flow” types, who under different circumstances, take change in stride.

    As you can imagine, convincing an entire organization to part with old habits, overcome fears, and ditch deeply embedded feelings about organizational hierarchies, collaboration, and, gulp, failure is incredibly hard.

    It’s also incredibly necessary.

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    According to Deloitte, even well-designed, carefully planned digital transformation initiatives can’t succeed without stakeholder buy-in and consent. And, per HBR, most companies never achieve that initial milestone. Researchers estimate that close to 80% failed at past efforts to change the way they run their business.

    Now, that doesn’t mean you’re doomed.

    Here, we discuss six change management strategies you might use to support your digital transformation projects and, long-term, nurture a culture that actively embraces change.

    1. Align Change Management to Specific DX Goals

    If you want employees to drive outcomes, you have to show them exactly how to make that happen. The best way to do this is to look at the goals you’ve established for your transformation initiative.

    What you’ll want to do here is examine your DX objectives. Common ones include cost-savings, enabling remote work, improving compliance and governance, and increasing business agility.

    Let’s say, for example, your goal is improving collaboration. That’s pretty broad.
    So, you’ll want to also consider what the ideal future state should look like – what metrics will be used to measure success?

    While goals – and the KPIs used to measure them – vary widely between organizations, here are some examples you might use to get started.

    • Identifying gaps and barriers in the existing strategy
    • Gathering feedback from end-users and using it to define requirements
    • Overcoming barriers to adopting solutions & processes
    • Redefining organizational structures and individual roles to enable cross-functional collaboration

    Essentially, you’re trying to come up with a list of more general objectives, which you’ll then need to break down into a checklist of sorts that makes it easy for employees to work through one-by-one until they’ve arrived at their destination.

    2. Planning for Change Must Be a Priority

    Here’s the thing: change management demands at least as much planning — if not more — than the “change” itself. You can’t treat change management as an afterthought, otherwise you fail.

    We just mentioned the importance of aligning change management with digital transformation goals. But – that’s just a starting point for figuring out how, exactly, you’ll achieve those goals.

    It’s one thing to identify that change needs to happen – even to agree on next steps and general best practices for getting from point A to point B. Getting employees to change their habits for good is something else entirely.

    Take, for example, telecommunications company SES. Here, you’ve got this company with the broader DX goal to transform its working culture – by improving both employee wellbeing and work quality.

    One of the ways SES sought to do this was by slashing 100k annual meeting hours across its entire workforce — which would, on average, return two hours each week to its employees they could reinvest however they like.

    Instead of issuing a mandate telling people to spend less time in meetings, SES implemented Microsoft Viva – which allowed them to gather employee and workplace insights that could then be used to provide personal recommendations to employees for maximizing time and improving the quality of their work.

    As you might imagine, developing a solution that uses behavioral insights to drive change demands a huge amount of planning – on-par with any transformation project.

    3. Communicate Proposed Changes

    To effectively prepare your people for a proposed change, secure buy-in, and get people to rally around your vision, you’ll need to put together a plan for how you’ll communicate the proposed change.

    You’ll need to present a clear business case for the upgrade. Like, what, exactly, are the benefits of, say, embarking on a process modernization journey or adopting new technologies like low-code tools or machine learning models that will help you stretch limited resources further.

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    Be transparent about what prompted this decision. Why are you pushing this revamp in the first place? Are there specific problems that demand urgent attention or are you concerned that legacy solutions are limiting your potential?

    Finally, you’ll want to use data to demonstrate how, specifically, the changes will solve a problem or produce a certain outcome. By helping stakeholders understand what’s in it for them, you’ll be better positioned to win the buy-in you need to see this thing through.

    For example, Brazilian consumer goods company, BRF invested in Azure Machine Learning – enabling intelligent recommendations, more accurate forecasting, and a huge bump in productivity.

    While this investment led to significant revenue growth, it also solved a major pain point for its team of analysts. The analysts generate reports and look for purchasing patterns among customer segments to inform personalized recommendations for each account.

    BRF’s catalog contains 650+ SKUs, so manually gathering these insights took analysts, on average, 10 days. Now, analysts can gain accurate, real-time insights into purchasing habits and actively drive sales.

    Explaining how changes might result in gains for employees goes a long way in getting them on board. But, you’ll also need to be upfront about what the process will actually entail. Employees may have to relearn basic tasks and will likely need help establishing new habits for working in this environment. So, you’ll want to be prepared to explain things like how training might work and what kind of support resources you’ll provide to help them succeed.

    4. Assemble a Change Management Committee

    It’s also important that change leaders consistently communicate with all stakeholders throughout the transformation process – from inception to requirements gathering, all the way through deployment and long-term process optimization.

    Azure Western Europe Solution Strategy Manager, Laura Garrett explains that strong sponsorship that not only is led from the top, but is also championed and supported by all leaders.

    According to Garrett, it’s this collective effort that, often, is a powerful catalyst for change. The idea is, when change is driven at all levels, it creates a foundation that supports a human-first transformation model – and a change management strategy that similarly puts people first.

    These internal champions are the ones that really put your strategy into action. They support teams on the ground with hands-on training and data-driven processes for setting goals, measuring progress, and driving continuous improvement – in context with .

    What business leaders should do here is put together a change management committee that spans the entire organization. And on top of that, make sure the committee is involved at each phase of deployment.

    They’ll need to put together communication schedules, process maps, standard operating procedures (SOPs), and training materials. They’ll also need to draft communications – with messaging tailored to each stakeholder group.

    5. Get Employees Involved in the Process

    It’s critical that everyone – from the front lines to the C-suite takes ownership of the change and plays an active role in identifying potential improvements and possible solutions.

    When employees don’t understand how their own role aligns with the bigger picture,
    organizational goals aren’t a shared priority, they’re someone else’s problem.

    One way you can do this is through small pilot projects – assembling teams around relevant use cases and known pain points.

    Naturally, you’ll measure progress toward a specific goal – using analytics platforms to track performance across pre-defined KPIs. But, more importantly, you’ll want to focus on listening to the end-users themselves and work collaboratively to refine processes based on the needs of the people who will actually be using them.

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    Another option is using direct feedback to guide the change – and as the vision begins to take shape, support tailored training and change management tactics.

    6. Invest in Reskilling

    According to a recent Microsoft report, 78% of business leaders say capability building is either “very important” or “extremely important” to their overall strategy, with 53% saying that reskilling is one of the most effective ways to do this.

    The research also revealed something surprising – reskilling initiatives benefit businesses – regardless of outcome. Orgs that prioritized capability building became more resilient and were better equipped to deal with disruption.

    Change leaders must approach reskilling from a holistic perspective, driving adoption and success through a deep understanding of how the change will impact individual roles, workflows, and org-wide performance.

    Many companies do this by building Centers of Excellence or invest in tailored training resources that blend hands-on coaching, group workshops, and self-guided asynchronous sessions that allow them to learn at their own pace.

    German technology firm smapOne invested in a comprehensive CoE and packed it with
    training materials, documentation, and additional resources to encourage successful adoption of its app development platform.

    The company’s aim was democratizing data, and eventually, tapping into the “entrepreneurial qualities” hidden among its workforce.

    Using a combination of the Power Platform, Microsoft 365 apps, and Azure AD, smapOne built a digital workspace offering easy access to critical data, docs, pre-built templates, and reusable modules employees could use to build custom solutions as they uncovered new needs and pain points from the platform’s drag-and-drop interface.

    The CoE empowered employees with on-demand resources that helped them navigate challenges as they emerged.

    Not all investments require a ton of spending on new tech. Sometimes, it’s about giving people the time and the space they need to hone new skills.

    Microsoft recently launched a Growth and Resilience in Tech Toolkit – consisting of nine free modules that teach learners how to build a more inclusive, collaborative environment. The modules tackle things like strategizing potential solutions, unexpected pivots, and quickly moving on after experiencing a setback.

    Additionally, It’s critical that everyone feels comfortable sharing ideas, brainstorming solutions, and testing new theories. That sense of safety is central to eliminating fear and resistance to change – and instead, nurturing the curiosity and collaborative spirit that produces innovative solutions.

    Final Thoughts

    Technology is temporary – today’s cutting-edge solutions are already aging – and it’s unlikely the rate of change will be slowing down anytime soon.

    Change management, like digital transformation itself, is a continuous, data-driven process that moves at a breakneck pace. You’ll need to ensure your change management strategy is agile, dynamic, and easily adjusted to drive the right outcomes under any circumstances.

    Whatever you hope to gain from your digital transformation efforts, remember that the primary objective of DX is driving meaningful, iterative change that moves your strategy forward. Or – in many cases, in a whole new direction.

    Velosio’s Digital NEXT Roadmap can systematically help you drive DX outcomes at all stages in the transformation process. We’ll help you discover key use cases, plan, and execute DX initiatives – and ensure that you’ve got the change management strategy in place to support those efforts.

    Request a consultation to find out more about our digital transformation services and how we can support your change management strategy.

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