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PHOTO: yulinar rusman

Growth isn’t just about building value; it’s fundamental to long-term business survival. Consider this: Almost half of the 100 largest companies on the New York Stock Exchange 30 years ago that enjoyed strong shareholder returns but did not post top-line growth had been acquired or delisted 20 years later.

According to Gartner, while the idea of shifting toward digital business was speculative for most CEOs a few years ago, it has become a reality for many today. The research firm reports that 42 percent of CEOs say they began digital transformation initiatives in 2017. In a 2018 Gartner survey, the majority of CEO respondents said they have a management initiative or transformation program to make their businesses more digital.

Buy-in is critical to making organizational change happen, especially when you’re building support for a digital transformation initiative. The following three tips will help your digital transformation initiative gain even more traction.

1. Let Executives Model the Way

If you have reached the point where peers and colleagues are willing to support your digital transformation initiative, chances are good that your organization’s top executives see the value in your project and have already approved the decision to move forward. 

It’s important to harness executive buy-in to show others that this is a strategic move for the organization. While — in the best case — your peers may like and respect you, they might not see your project as important or urgent. However, if their bosses (and their bosses’ bosses) are talking about the project and how excited they are about it, it’s likely that users are going to understand the organization’s commitment to the initiative.

Leadership starts at the top, and support for strategic initiatives must trickle down from there. Try to get executives to model the way forward. If they can share their vision for new technologies and even potentially demonstrate how they’re using new systems, others will be encouraged to buy in, too.

Related Article: Change Management: The Key to Successful Digital Transformations

2. Engage With Your Colleagues

It’s great to say that we want to use technology to improve processes in our organization, but what, for example, would an automated accounts payable system really mean to an AP clerk who has to process purchase orders on a daily basis? Or the department manager who has to approve those orders? Or the CFO who needs oversight over the entire process to make sure corporate policies are being followed?

In a case like that, it helps to show others what benefits such an initiative would yield by presenting real-life scenarios of what daily life will look like after the project is complete. Pick a few activities that everyone dreads, select a few common pain points, and then share how the project will make those headaches go away.

For example, with accounts payable, perhaps the pain points are filing papers or approving requests. In this case, replacing paper forms with electronic forms — which can be automatically filed in an electronic repository — would eliminate manual document filing and prevent approvals from falling through the cracks, ensuring that corporate standards are followed.

As a change leader, it’s your job to help others in your organization visualize what their futures will look like after the technology has been implemented. The hardest part of this can be putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. But listening with intent can help all parties involved navigate this change: It builds relationships, ensures understanding and resolves conflicts.

Related Article: Specificity, Awareness, Inclusion: How Your Strategy Becomes More Than a Piece of Paper

3. Provide a Runway for Onboarding

Another way to drum up support for a digital transformation project is to create a test environment, or “sandbox,” where users can try out the new system to see how it will work without worrying about breaking something or compromising confidential information.

Eventually, you’ll need to start moving people to the new process and system, so set reasonable timelines for the switch. In a recent McKinsey Global Survey on large-scale digital change, half of the respondents reported that digital initiatives succeed when the timeline for implementation is communicated clearly, while only 16 percent reported that projects succeed when the timeline is not communicated clearly.

As you develop your timeline, work with your team to pick out which activities you want to automate first. This will likely correlate to the steps you identified in your onboarding plan. Then, set clear expectations on what will be happening, and schedule dates and times for the switches.

Managing change is a process. Many organizations approach change like a whale would (with one big splash), when it would be more effective to follow the example of a dolphin (many smaller leaps forward over a period of time). By giving people room and time to experiment in sandboxes, arranging a staged rollout and clearly communicating your transition plans, you’ll let skeptics come to terms with what’s happening without being forceful and rigid. People will appreciate the fact that you took the time to consider how their jobs will change and are handling the transition in a conscientious manner.

The truth is that we like people who like us — and we work harder for people we like. These might sound like small gestures, but smiling, addressing colleagues by their names and saying “good morning” go a long way. And often, managing change around a digital transformation initiative boils down to just that: focusing on the positive, thinking of others and giving them your full attention.