How to get your organization through a digital transformation

Posted by Ruben van der Zwan on 5 Sep, 2017

How to get your organization through a digital transformationYou’re a visionary with great plans. You know that “digital transformation” is more than just a buzzword, and you have the tools to make one happen in our own organization. API is your favorite word and you can’t wait to give your IT infrastructure an upgrade. Interoperability, sensors, smart devices, visual recognition: bring them on. There’s nothing standing in your way of becoming the number one in your sector, and who knows: the world. But why aren’t your employees as enthusiastic? Why can’t they see everything will change for the better? Here’s a lesson change management, with some hands-on tips to get everyone on board of your (“your” as in plural!) digital transformation.

Work ethic

Changing the way your employees work is hard, especially when there are new technology or business models involved. This may be difficult to comprehend, as you probably focus on all the benefits that come with a more modern organization. But your employees, hard working as they may be, tend to focus more on every day activities and how to get things done. There’s nothing wrong with such as work ethic. Imagine working together with only visionaries like you: you’d end up with a lot of spreadsheets and no money! If you want your transformation to be a success, however, you need to make cultural changes too. So how to turn each of your hard-working employees into supporters of your progressiveness? I recommend you do the following:

  • Communicate your vision
  • Draw a picture of the post transition situation
  • Optimize user experience

“Starting a digital revolution because ‘you want to join the movement’, is a bad idea”

Communicate your vision

There’s a reason why many people feel sick when someone mentions the D-word. The digital transformation concept has been used so many times that it’s lost its meaning. Companies seem to change just for the sake of change, or because they see other companies use new technologies and business models. Sadly, starting a digital revolution because “you want to join the movement”, is a bad idea. Not only will you fail because of a lack of strategy, you’ll also annoy your employees by forcing them to change without explaining why. So before you start working with new technologies like APIs, IoT or real time analytics, make sure that you know why your company needs them. What are your future challenges and how will all of these new tools help you beat them? Do you want your company to be the best in its sector, or is keeping up with the pace of your customers the ultimate challenge? Communicate these driving forces to your teams and explain why digitalization is the answer.

Draw a picture of the post transition situation

Explaining why your company needs a transformation is not enough. Your employees will want to know what’s changing in their daily work life. I therefore advise you to visualize all the changes and go through them in small team meetings. Let’s say you want to install an ESB to integrate systems of different business units and departments. Explain what an ESB is, what it does and how it can help your employees in executing their daily tasks. Show them the new IT infrastructure and tell them about its benefits such as time savings, more efficiency and less double entries. Sounds like a lot of work? You can also choose to call in the help of the (external) software development team that takes care of the integration. Have them organize the meetings and answer your employees’ questions. In my experience, hiring a team of professionals to deal with complex IT related questions creates greater trust, as inhouse IT departments often lack experience with new tools. Don’t leave it all to externals, though, as a cultural shift requires a leader that is involved and approachable. The external implementation team may be able to answer technical questions; it’s your job to get your employees on board.

Optimize user experience

One of the biggest obstacles of digital transformations revolves around user experience. Your employees work with certain tools and will have to get used to new technologies and working methods. This takes a lot of energy and can be a source of irritation. It gets worse when new tools are user unfriendly and take a lot of time to understand. This is where your IT department or external implementation team can help you. They can make new dashboards that are easy in use and transparent so that any employee can operate them. Also make sure that your employees get trained by experienced software developers, to reduce the number of mistakes and to avoid people appearing at your desk with the phrase “the new system is not working again”. The more empowered your employees feel, the higher the chance they’ll be able to handle all the changes and help you make the digital transformation happen. Last but not least, don’t consider the transition finished too soon. Questions will rise long after the implementation of new tools, meaning it’s always a good idea to have a team (either internal or external) to offer support to the end users.

Have you ever made major technological changes to your company’s IT infrastructure? And how did your employees take it? I’m curious to hear about your experiences!

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Digital Transformation

Topics: Digital Transformation

Written by Ruben van der Zwan

Ruben van der Zwan
Ruben is CEO and Founder of Yenlo. From the early days he's interested in creating ICT solutions in general. Ruben truly believes that with technology we can bring this World together and bring prosperity to everyone. Ruben is an evangelist in the area of open source technology, integration platforms, WSO2 in particular, and a frequent speaker on international conferences.