By Paul Whitelam, Senior Vice President, Global Marketing at ClickSoftware
With advances in technology emerging at such a fast pace, it is essential for SMEs to take digital transformation into consideration when planning future business strategies. This change is forcing previously technophobic companies to consider new business models, new revenue streams and opportunities to remain relevant and successful in business.
Digital transformation is not just about technology. SME’s also need to look at the people impacted by the change, including staff, customers and stakeholders.
Once you have the proposed strategy for digital transformation, it is important for business and IT leaders to engage with everyone involved in the transformation to plan the proper pace of change—not forgetting to be prepared for any future disruptions and tweaks.
To successfully implement a change management process—we would suggest taking the following simple steps for making any digital transformations a success:
- Set well-defined objectives – While leading a major technology transformation means cultivating enthusiasm and optimism among your team, hoping for the best is not enough. Set clear goals and realistic expectations. Talk through worst case scenarios, likely and unlikely obstacles, and potential risks in order to develop a plan that can accommodate any disruptions, help prevent a disaster before one occurs, and ensures all stakeholders are on the same page. Crucial to this is identifying key metrics and setting a baseline from which the success of the project can be determined and measured.
- Communicate plans and manage expectations – Progress will look different for each level of the organisation, so set meaningful milestones and have a clear scope of work to help manage expectations for what your business changes will look like. Facilitating change management requires developing a clear ‘why’ narrative, then explaining the roles and responsibilities of everyone involved, while pre-defining ownership at various stages throughout the transformation to ensure everything runs smoothly. By proactively communicating at every stage of the process, you will allow your team time to get used to the idea and feel comfortable providing input, making the digital transformation process inclusive and open.
- Start small with a pilot project – Run a pilot programme at the earliest stage to iron out any initial kinks. Any problems found will be more manageable early on than when encountered at a later stage. By ensuring every member of your team knows what is happening and is working alongside one another during the pilot, you can generate a more efficient and comprehensive plan, which will provide a better offering and higher chance of success.
- Remain agile – Plan a modular and staged delivery that accommodates unplanned work. Enable flexibility in your schedule to allow for changes to priorities if necessary, without having to restart the process.
- Train to gain – Train everyone from the ground up on technologies that have been implemented within your digital transformation and plan for more training as new innovations are introduced. When possible, training on new systems should begin well ahead of going live, as this is critical for ensuring employees are comfortable with the technology and making the final switch as seamless as possible. Plan for periodic post-launch training to make sure everyone is using the system in the manner intended, as new processes or policies are added, and as new employees or contractors join the organisation. Initial implementation and training programmes might need to be revised to include opportunities for improvement, identified through wide-scale usage, or usage patterns not captured in the original plans.
- Eliminate old habits – Even with all the time and resources invested in training, employees are still likely to fall back into old habits and will need ongoing support to change how they operate. Ensure that every user group has regular support and maintains the new ways of working. In addition, measuring and analysing key metrics is essential to identifying any potential issues before they arise. This will allow you to make required tweaks to the process to successfully reach the final goal.
- Follow up to gauge progress – Change management is a long-term effort – following up regularly with key stakeholders after project completion demonstrates ongoing commitment to digital transformation change, and that their opinions still matter.
Digital transformation within any business can become more complicated when many people are involved – especially when the change is organisation-wide. Prioritising and planning for change management early on will give you the tools to tackle problems as they arise and anticipate and neutralise them ahead of time.