Business Change Strategy & The Role Of Change Management In Digital Transformation.

by Mike Whitehurst

Business change strategy leader at work

As we head into the new decade, digital transformation is happening on a global scale with no sign of slowing down anytime soon. Companies across the board are adopting new digital technology to solve problems. This means making major changes to the way they do business, which affects how they operate and the value they deliver to customers.

Implementing a shift of this type takes careful planning and a detailed business change strategy, which affects both the employees and the company’s culture. Strong change management is also important, to make sure companies don’t lose talented staff or valuable customers during the transformation process.

In this post we outline the steps you can take to support your digital transformation.

Developing a business change strategy for digital transformation.

Research from Tech Pro shows 70% of companies surveyed either have a digital transformation strategy in place or they are working on one. This is an indication of how the internet has changed business strategy in the past decade. Develop a strategy for your transformation using the following steps:

Step 1: Create the vision.

Develop a realistic long-term vision that focuses on the future you want to achieve. Customer experience is a critical factor in a successful digital transformation. Dimension Data research shows 84% of companies that improved their digital customer experience reported increased revenue. This indicates the importance of focusing on building intuitive digital experiences to help users achieve their goals, whether those are working, shopping, or service support.

Key objectives for a successful digital transformation are to:

  • Meet your customers’ needs better,
  • Align with your [company's] vision, mission, goals, and
  • Become more adaptive to future changes.

All of these are possible if you can optimize your processes, increase efficiency, improve collaboration across departments, and provide a better service to your audience.

Change management requires a vision

At the same time, to realize these objectives you must get buy-in from your employees. That requires having an effective change management strategy, which runs in tandem with your digital transformation. Look for quick wins, which can help prevent fatigue and the feeling of never having anything to show for their work.

Step 2: Define the gap.

It’s one thing to know where you want to go, and another to know how to get there. A good business change strategy is based on defining the gap you need to bridge, and the best ways to do so. Start by analysing your marketplace and assessing what’s happening on a day to day basis. Find out what your competitors are involved in, the potential for disruption, future trends, and how technology can open up new revenue streams.

To implement digital transformation, you need the right tools, changes to existing processes and improved infrastructure. This means finding the expertise to drive the process, establishing transformational leadership, and creating a roadmap to achieve the results you want.

Organisational culture is recognised globally as being the biggest hurdle in digital transformation. Typical problems arising from culture are:

  • the absence of an innovation mindset,
  • the presence of false logic, and
  • a lack of accountability.

It’s important to address these concerns as part of the change management process, or no matter how ready you are to change strategy in a business, your chances of success are compromised.

Step 3: Appoint suitable leadership.

To successfully achieve digital transformation, you need the right kind of leadership. Transformational leaders typically lead by example, encourage, and motivate workers to grow and improve. They inspire employees to care personally about the company’s success. This kind of leadership gives them the tools to focus on the common good instead of their own interests.

Change management leader having a meeting

Some strategies a transformational human resources leader could use to overcome business change obstacles are:

  1. Start at the top, by getting full and visible support from senior management. It’s important for senior staff to present a unified front. This ensures all departments take the same approach and progress is easier to track. Take note of any feedback specific to the different areas.
  2. Lead by example, using the four elements of transformational leadership, e.g.
  • idealised influence,
  • inspirational motivation,
  • individualised consideration, and
  • intellectual stimulation.
  1. Engage people at every staff level, so no workers feel left out of what’s happening.
  2. Propose incentives, to encourage people to accept and engage with the new company direction. Implement rewards and recognition for effort and attitude, as well as success and achievement. These help to reinforce the behaviors you want during the disruption and show the leaders appreciate the employees.
  3. Redefine your cultural values to encourage staff to buy into the concept of continuous improvement.  Address common concerns, such as job stability, career opportunities, and future growth. Make sure employees are not afraid to fail and that they know taking risks is encouraged.

These strategies encourage employees to develop buy-in for the transformation and focus on areas such as customer experience and process improvement, where they can make a difference.

Step 4: Create a change management strategy.

Change management is the business process, tools, and techniques used to manage the “people side” of digital transformation. Putting new systems and strategies in place can be very disruptive for employees. If the management team addresses the way people feel throughout the process, however, it’s possible to bring people on the journey with you, build momentum, and avoid losing your best staff due to uncertainty and concerns.

The primary obstacles to a successful business change strategy are:

  • Lack of support from the top, and
  • Change saturation and fatigue among employees

according to the Best Practices in Change Management- 2018 Edition. These result in a change-resistant culture and company structure, inadequate buy-in, and resistance from staff.

You can address all of these by determining how to implement a change strategy that affects business efficiencies, while reassuring both your employees and customers. Appoint change champions from among the staff, to help build positivity and answer questions and concerns on the ground. Create a comprehensive communications plan that keeps everyone informed of developments through official channels. This reduces the risk of hearsay derailing the process.

Put re-training in place early, so team members believe they have a future and will be able to adapt. This will inspire them to get behind the business change strategy. Exercise authority where you need it to reduce employee opposition, and to get workers to adopt the new standards and business processes as quickly as possible.

Step 5: Execute your implementation plan.

The exact process for carrying out your new business change strategy depends on the needs and goals of your company, but the framework may look like this:

  1. Establishment of new business processes. You’ll need to analyse your existing processes to find out which ones have the scope to be optimised, then replace or redefine them for better efficiency.
  2. Identification of key technologies. This means finding the tools that fit your business objectives and customising them to operate effectively.
  3. Redefining the company’s culture. You can do this by holding information sessions to encourage staff to be open to change and offering incentives for risk-taking. Restructure if necessary to break down the silos and prepare employees to become more forward-thinking.
  4. Creating a pool of talent. You need skilled, dynamic people who are open to new ideas. These could include your senior management team, existing technology staff, external experts and consultants. You’ll also need your change champions and an empowered internal communications crew to be part of your talent pool.
  5. Developing a roadmap for executing the strategy in phases. Each phase should end with a milestone that helps to manage future risks. For example, finalizing and getting approval for the systems you plan to use is a good milestone, which reduces the risk of purchasing the wrong technology.
  6. Setting KPIs (key performance indicators), which you can use to measure performance against your goals. These help break up the process into manageable chunks and keep the team handling the transformation on track.

Once you’ve implemented the plan, it doesn’t mean your digital transformation is over. Your action plan should be a living, breathing document that can scale with your company. This means you need to design it keeping future technology, products, and services in mind.

Step 6: Evaluate the results.

It’s easy to sit back at the end of a digital transformation and congratulate yourselves on a job well done. That isn’t the recipe for ongoing success, however. You need to conduct a thorough evaluation of what works and what doesn’t. Monitor your progress as you begin new initiatives, implement new capabilities, and add functionality.

Change management leaders evaluating results

As you complete each phase of the business change strategy, continue to assess and measure your digital maturity and where you’re going. Manage the change by communicating how to change strategy in the business with your stakeholders at every step of the way.

Click here to download our free INFOGRAPHIC - "Change Management Models for Driving Real Value from Digital Investments."