Digital transformation requires effective change management.
Like any technological change, implementing a digital transformation takes time. However, there are steps you can take to make the process smoother. PHOTO: geralt

When we think about transformation, we think change. Consider societal shifts over the years: television, email, smartphones and the list goes on. When these technologies were first introduced, were people as receptive as they are today? Of course not. Societal transformation does not occur overnight. So, why then, in the enterprise, do we expect that digital transformation can occur over the course of a year or two?

Common Digital Transformation Scenario

With digital analytics adoption as a use case for digital transformation, a typical four step roll out strategy might proceed as follows:

  1. Organizations first recognize they need to use data to guide strategy and tactics.
  2. To achieve this, they implement digital analytics platforms, such as Google Analytics and Adobe Analytics.
  3. IT then sets up the platforms and digital analysts arrange the reports.
  4. Finally, reports are sent to stakeholders and the data becomes available.

While these steps will guide organizations in the right direction, they are not always enough to ensure that reports have been properly studied, or that the data generated will be used to guide business decisions. So, while the process outlined above may seem simplistic, it is still common that organizations are not using data to guide insights. A recent study by McKinsey & Co indicated that 86 percent of the executives surveyed didn’t believe they were getting their full value from analytics.

(Editor's Note: Here more of Phil's thoughts on analytics during his Nov. 13 workshop at CMSWire's DX Summit taking place Nov. 13 through Nov. 15 in Chicago)

Common Pitfalls in the Digital Transformation Scenario

Executives want to see change occur rapidly. If they decide to replace old systems with new technology, they expect almost immediate transformation. When it becomes clear that things are going awry, it’s easy for them to blame the technology. But it’s actually the people who aren’t using the technology correctly.

Coming back to our digital analytics adoption use case, when organizations collect incomplete data, or don’t configure their data collection practices properly, the result is poor data and poor reports. The people responsible for results may then turn their blame to the analytics platform. It’s essential that the people within an organization are trained and made comfortable with using the new technology.

Where Digital Transformation Loses Traction

Why do digital transformation initiatives, such as obtaining the full value of digital analytics, fall short? Because this is an organizational change issue, employees need to be incentivized and encouraged to move away from legacy processes. Employees can be asked to do things differently, but unless they’re personally invested in digital transformation or are made accountable from the perspective of performance reviews, promotions and bonuses, there may not be much progress made. And as we’ve seen reported over again from a variety of surveys from McKinsey, Forrester and the CMO Survey, digital transformation and analytics initiatives won’t stick unless they’re led by a CEO.

The other side of “top down” support is “bottoms up” adoption. In my experience, organizations think of a training course or two as a sufficient strategy to encourage use of technology and the processes to make teams successful. Nothing could be further from the truth. In spite of the relative low cost to invest in the “human factor” of transformation, it is often a forgotten or trivialized consideration.

So the questions are, can you compress the natural course of transformation? And how do you get an enterprise to move towards adoption of digital transformation?

Create a Digital Transformation Adoption Strategy

sustainable adaption

Adoption is a multi-faceted strategy that requires executive sponsorship, individual performance accountability, training and culture change. With each of these elements, your adoption strategy should include the following:

  • Executive:
    • A strong mission and communication plan, supported by funding process and incentive changes and enterprise performance metrics that encourage accountability
    • Governance throughout the enterprise that supports the process changes and criteria for funding projects
  • Individual: Accountability for personal and project performance that loops back to the executive and enterprise metrics
  • Training: Technology usage, process change and value derived from transformation
  • Culture: Promoting a way of thinking and working that people in the enterprise buy into to support change

Culture is the hardest to implement aspect of the strategy.

culture is the elusive part of strategy

Developing Communities to Build Culture

We are all too familiar with the concept of silos. This is how most organizations are organized — departments for IT, marketing, sales, digital, operations, finance and so on. Let’s just accept that and move forward.

I advocate establishing communities that enable enterprises to cut across the silos. This is really the best way to create the dynamic that enables communication, learning and finally change in culture.

What do you need to start a community?

We’ve started communities with a core of students from the training we’ve conducted and then built from there to do the following:

  • Establish a sense of purpose and mission, such as enabling a self-service environment for the use of digital analytics, creating and using data governance standards, and establishing content development standards. Organize scheduled sessions with agendas provided in advance.
  • Institute internal governance to make sure there is accountability and decision-making in place to sustain the community’s operations over time
  • Determine content and levels of participation.
  • Use internal branding, communications and advocacy to make sure the word gets out, so you can add more people to the community.

Assessing Success

Does building communities help to drive digital transformation? I think it goes a long way to start building internal trust between groups that don’t necessarily see eye-to-eye, such as marketing and IT. It can also reveal opportunities for departmental collaboration and shared learning that may not surface during the usual series of project and team meetings. 

You can think of communities as a “grassroots” part of your overall adoption strategy that promotes goodwill and collaboration. It may also provide tangible evidence that digital transformation is occurring if you use surveys and polls to assess behavioral and process changes.

Culture change is tough to measure and put on a timeline. I like to think of it as a more “organic” process. I’ve been a gardener for years, and I find that you have to do a lot of soil preparation to get the results you want. And even then you might not have the perfect conditions for growth. But if you make small improvements over time, and consistently work at it, you’ll ultimately see results. Adoption is like that — you do the right things and then one morning — change!