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PHOTO: Ali Yahya

Digital activities and the data generated by them have made it possible to automate on a scale unimaginable even five years ago. According to McKinsey, existing technology could automate 40 percent of sales activities, and that number could potentially rise to 50 percent once machines are better able to understand and process language.

Manual processes create time and labor demands that are inefficient and suppress productivity. They can also weaken job satisfaction and employee morale, which can create a poor work environment. For these reasons and more, leaders must intentionally build a digital culture that offers the freedom to change legacy technology and structures that hinder transformation.

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

Setting the Stage with Change Management

One of the biggest roadblocks to successfully driving change is getting people on the frontline to not only understand that change is coming, but to agree on why change is necessary.

It’s not surprising that employees resist change brought by digital initiatives, especially automation. However, automation isn’t just about getting tasks done faster or better. When automation is undertaken with the goal of driving digital transformation, it provides employees with the information necessary to make better-informed decisions.

As a change leader, it’s your job to help others in your organization visualize what their future will look like after automation technology has been implemented. The hardest part of this can be putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, but active listening can help navigate this change.

To brush up your listening skills, try:

  • Listening actively by making eye contact, facing the person speaking and putting your phone away.
  • Adjusting your pace to match your conversational partner. If you’re a quick talker, make the effort to slow down to match the pace of the person you’re talking with.
  • Waiting for a pause to ask clarifying questions rather than interrupting, and make sure your questions are only to ensure understanding — not to shift the conversation where you would like it to go.

Related Article: Answers to Your Robotic Process Automation vs. Traditional Automation Questions

Embrace Analytics to Drive Change

MIT Sloan Management Review notes that companies’ usage of data and analytical insights for strategic purposes — including innovating business functions and entire business models — is on the rise. The same report found that, in many cases, leveraging analytics gives companies a competitive edge.

Focus on eliminating bureaucratic decision-making, shifting your focus to innovation (rather than strictly on efficiency), and celebrating the iterative nature of progress. But remember: distributed authority and bottom-up innovation only works if teams have the skills and information to make smart decisions. Myriad data analytics strategies can help provide valuable insights when determining the success of new digital initiatives. Analytics that include descriptive, diagnostics and predictive insight can provide evidence to drive strategic decision-making. In addition, real-time dashboards enable departmental and organizational leaders to see whether a process is working instead of solely depending on historical information.

Measuring challenges and successes with these strategies can fuel excitement about your initiative, encourage cross-departmental collaboration and connect employees to your strategic vision. By regularly sharing findings across the organization, innovation will become embedded in your company culture and have long-lasting influence on organizational behaviors.

Related Article: Communicating Your Vision of Digital Transformation

Creating a Culture Where Digital Initiatives Thrive

Shaping organizational culture is a crucial — and often undervalued — factor in enabling successful digital transformation. Leaders must be intentional in building a culture where employees feel comfortable exploring new technologies.

The traditional mindset toward change is to approach it as a program, but the reality is the majority of these programs fail. For digital success, you must lead differently — with an agile mindset and an iterative approach that can adapt to changes as necessary.

  • Embrace clarity: Everyone at every level of your organization should understand what they are accountable for, what they can decide on their own, and where they should be spending their time. This isn’t a job description — this is a clarity of role and purpose.
  • Empower cross-functional teams: Digital transformation projects should have experts from different areas of the business to ensure all perspectives are accounted for. Some departments to draw from are sales, finance, marketing, operations and human resources.
  • Fail fast: A traditional tenet of agile software development, failing fast relies on trying something, getting feedback, then quickly deciding to change or end the project before more money is spent. This is an important model for digital transformation initiatives. Not everything will work, and that’s fine. Sometimes you’ll fail multiple times before you find a solution.
  • Tell the truth about what didn’t work: It’s better to try new things than remain stuck. However, it’s important to encourage team members to truthfully share what didn’t work so the entire organization can learn from failed projects. What didn’t work and why? What can be improved for future initiatives? Agility isn’t just about trying many things quickly — it’s about learning and growing quickly.

As a leader, you should value the facts that allow you to drive results. Measuring challenges and successes with these strategies can fuel excitement about your digital transformation initiative, encourage cross-departmental collaboration and connect employees to your strategic vision. By regularly sharing findings across the organization, innovation will become embedded in your company culture and have long-lasting influence on organization behavior.