The Gist

  • People first. People are the most critical factor in successful digital transformation initiatives.
  • Strategies for change. Establishing a change agent, communicating the benefits of change to employees and being prepared to make hard decisions are essential strategies to consider.
  • Align customer and employee experiences. A positive human experience is key to a successful digital transformation, and it's essential to align customer and employee journeys.

When we talk about digital transformation, it often leads to a discussion about technology. That’s understandable, as technology is a powerful and essential part of any digital transformation initiative. But the fanciest tools and technology in the world achieve nothing without people, meaningful interactions and processes.

The most critical people for digital transformation are, of course, your customers, who are a guidepost for your transformation goals. It’s a common mistake to only look externally at your customers and the experience they have. Many times, tackling the employee experience is equally if not more important, as employees are critical customers to your success. Other internal players include senior leadership, who must set the course and manage expectations throughout the organization, as well as key personnel critical for adoption and scale and those who can help the company move toward common goals together.

Not focusing on the people can be detrimental. According to Gartner, “the transformation journey is taking large enterprises especially at least twice as long and costing twice as much as they originally anticipated.” The research firm cites cultural readiness as a major reason for the delays.

If you want to cultivate the culture to hit your transformation goals, consider these three strategies.

The Importance of a Change Agent in Digital Transformation

While digital transformation is a companywide initiative, like all major programs, you should have one person spearheading the effort. Meet your change agent.

The change agent is empowered to formulate a strong digital transformation vision and make that vision reality. They will execute, manage and communicate the rollout of changes throughout your company. They will be responsible for introducing new technologies and policies, creating a culture that embraces transformation and ensuring that everyone in the organization drives toward the same goal.

The change agent also ensures the transformation vision aligns with customers’ needs. After all, you can’t achieve revenue growth, adoption or awareness without a solid understanding of what your customers want.

Related Article: Elevating Human-Centered CX in a Tech-Powered World

Communicate the Benefits of Digital Transformation to Employees

Part of the change agent’s job should be to create a plan that outlines the outcomes and benefits for employees at the outset of the initiative. In creating this plan, they should consider how the transformation will impact employees, ways to influence employees to use new technologies or policies, and what steps to take to communicate the benefits of the transformation. Having outside support to map the current employee experience and create an employee journey map for the end state can prove to be extremely valuable.

Many times, senior leadership doesn’t understand the fears, doubts or motivations of employees because of reporting structures and feedback loops. By collecting this information ahead of your transformation, an employee value proposition can drive these communications organizationally.

The plan should also include the investments the organization will make to support employees, including training to help employees understand how to use new tools or processes, documentation and FAQs. Training sessions help employees understand how your new solutions will improve their day-to-day lives while getting hands-on experience.

Training sessions also give you an opportunity to solicit feedback from your team members. Showing employees that you care about their input can help them feel like they’re part of the transformation process and increase the adoption of new technology. For technology to move your organization forward, you need employees to use it and experience a positive impact.

Related Article: Improving Customer Experience With Human-Centric Design

Learning Opportunities

Overcoming Resistance to Digital Transformation in Organizations

Even with all this preparation, there might be resistance to the changes in your organization. Despite your best efforts, employees used to doing things a certain way may push back on change or refuse to use new or unfamiliar technologies, processes or approaches. And even when senior leadership agrees that change is necessary, there’s rarely 100% consensus on what that change should be or how it should be implemented.

It’s important to acknowledge and address these challenges before you get too far in your digital transformation program.

Tackle the senior leadership issue first. Come to a consensus about what changes need to be made and how to make them. Is it enough to have 80% of the leadership on board? Or does it need to be higher than that? Set a percentage and move forward from there.

Second, be prepared to remove people or obstacles that are detrimental to your transformation vision. Digital transformation is the kind of large-scale, long-term effort that requires buy-in from everyone in your organization — but not everyone will get on board. It might be tough, but you need to be ready to move on from team members who are resistant to your vision or standing in the way of progress.

Prioritize the Human Experience in Digital Transformation Efforts

You’ll likely be able to minimize your staffing losses by keeping in mind that while technology and applications are important, the human experience matters most.

Think of the last time you went to a bank and compare it to what that visit was like 10 years ago. Back then, banks were all plexiglass and counter service; today, they have couches and even cafes. They’ve been redesigned to create a pleasant and more welcoming experience for customers. Customer experience is omnichannel. Creating a journey map that aligns the customer and employee journeys together solidifies why a transformation is required.

Take the same approach with your digital transformation efforts. Don’t just transform for the sake of transformation. Instead, do it to give your employees and customers better services and solutions.

And always keep people in mind.

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