When it comes to digital transformation, regardless of scale, it is important for all key stakeholders to understand the true implications of the change. It’s not just about how the transformation can create efficiency, generate new ways of working, increase revenue or save money; it’s also about managing how people in the business respond to and enable that change.

Our most recent roundtable had us post the question “Change management and user adoption – why budget for it?” because we see change management as being a vital element in digital transformation. If you would like to see the highlights from that discussion, you can read the blog here.

Despite people being aware of the need for change management, many are unaware of why it is so important  how they can get it right and why there needs to be budget set aside specifically for the full change process.

Of course, when it comes to digital transformation there will be an element of training which is a very small cog in the process, but fundamentally, key decision makers and leaders need to mobilise and recognise that change is not an easy thing for the human mind to accept. Some will react well and others will not, even if there are huge benefits to be had as a result of the transformation project.

So, that’s where change management comes in. We’ve become quite adept at helping our clients to manage their change internally over the years. For us, digital transformation is as much about the people as it is about the technology, and that’s why we work so closely with our clients to understand the ins and outs of their business so we can effectively help them to manage the change.

But what is change management? And why is it so important?

Understanding change management, and getting it right

Change management is a term that is often banded about in meetings and conversations around new projects. But what is it really? Put simply, it’s the process of governing change and making sure that new procedures are effectively communicated, understood and accepted by the people/groups that they effect.

This encompasses everything from the organisation of the process change, how people are managed, how the key stakeholders are brought in and become part of the process, raising awareness, creating advocates, setting KPIs and how the changes are communicated.

Through our years of experience we have refined our change management approach, using methods that are proven to deliver successful change. On a fundamental level, a digital transformation project doesn’t just change processes, it changes how people do their jobs. Knowing this, and knowing how to handle it successful, is the key to getting it right.

The importance of change management

Implementing new technology is often seen by those driving the process as a good thing for the business and on the whole, that’s right. But many approach it with the attitude that because this transformation will make lives easier, no one could possibly resist it.

Of course, we know that is not true. Some people are more accepting of change than others. This is why you need to take change management into account when you start a digital transformation project: when people’s jobs and the day to day processes that they use, ones that they have often used on for years, their first reaction may be  to kick against it. Human emotion cannot be underestimated and how people react will be different. Change is difficult, and scary.

That’s why it’s important to communicate properly with employees, and to take them on this exciting journey with you from the very start. The goals of the change need to be anchored with real, tangible, meaningful benefits. People need to be at the heart of the process, and their opinions need to be accounted for too.

You will never be able to completely erase the sense of unease around change, but you will be able to turn your own optimism and the optimism of others into tools that can help guide, and implement successful change.

Typically, when change arrives people go through what’s called “the change curve”. Champions can really assist people in this journey, and you can see any example of this change curve below.

Build a champions network

Having ‘champions’ or advocates, you can call them what suits,  when it comes to any change in the business is key, says Janet Robb from Microsoft. They should be people that work in the areas you are proposing to change, and they must also be passionate, enthusiastic individuals that are receptive to the change.

Once you have decided on your champions and obtained approval from their line managers, it is important to train them not just on the new tools and new ways of working, but also on the purpose of the change, how it affects them, their role and the wider business. The greater the understanding they have, they more effective they will be at championing, and the easier it will be for them to help others adjust to the change.

Use your champions to overcome challenges

Most of the time, change management is initiated from the top. However, in order to make it more effective it is important that the change management process is developed from the top and the bottom – by both the people in charge who desire the change, and by the people “on the ground” using the systems and taking part in the processes being changed. By doing this, any changes that are being made can be discussed together, with key decision makers and employees both having input.

This is where a champions network becomes particularly useful; they are the enthusiastic individuals that see the value in the change and are willing to participate in facilitating that message across the company. They are also people that are often the most impacted by the change, so they are more capable of passing along the benefits to their peers.

How to drive success

By implementing a change management programme, companies are more likely to have success when the change comes, and in order for that to happen, you need to take care of the following things:

  • Prepare
    • Ensure all of your employees are prepared for the change. Looping them in early, using champions etc are all great ways of doing this. It also helps change managers to see what changes will be occurring as well as how people be effected and who.
  • Set goals
    • Ensure that acceptance levels are increased by communicating the meaning behind the changes and the goals both of the change, and what the change will help achieve in the longer term.
  • Don’t rush
    • Change is a long process. Your plans should be detailed, and project managed well. If people are still resistant to the change even with great planning and communications, talk to them! Your champions will be great for this, but it’s also useful for key decision makers to get in on this process to try and allay any fears, and to learn more about people’s needs.
  • Provide adequate resource
    • Digital transformation is a huge undertaking, and the change it brings is often monumental. Ensure you dedicate enough time and resource to it. At Redspire, we undertake change management programmes regularly, and plan resource accordingly.
  • Involve people early
    • Conversations are great, but people need to get used to the new technology as soon as they can. If you involve your employees in the process from the beginning, everyone can learn how to use the new technology at the same time, as well as learning from one another and seeing the benefits in real-time. Use your department’s biggest asset to your advantage – their teamwork!

As you can no doubt tell, we’re very passionate about digital transformation and change management. That’s why we always dedicate time to getting to know our clients as people, as well as their business, to ensure we can help to deliver successful implementations through change management.

Want to know how we can help you? Come have a chat and see how we can meet your needs by emailing us today!

Find  out what the top highlights were from our recent change management roundtable.

And if you want more information on what we do and how we do it, don’t forget to connect with our specialists on LinkedIn Tamara Phelan, Iain Kennedy, Helen Murphy.