How To Lead A Digital Transformation Your People Will Love

Mark is the CEO of W3.Digital, a Digital Transformation focused consultancy.

If there’s one thing that makes a digital transformation magical, it’s nailing the process for everyone involved. When you do, you turn a "meh" project into an all-out success. For us, that magic happens when we help an organization solve their biggest problem, with their staff so involved they feel like they designed the solution themselves and we just helped them bring it to life.

But, getting your digital transformation right is an art form. And it’s why so many companies fail. From the events and discussions that need to happen beforehand to choosing the right people for the project, here are the key steps to hitting the digital transformation holy grail.

Dig like a detective.

When you embark on any large-scale digital transformation, start by thinking about how you're engaging with the people involved. A lot of the insights you need exist within your business already — so you need a plan for extracting them.

For small organizations, this is relatively straightforward. There are fewer people, fewer departments and a higher chance of alignment on the company vision than their large counterparts. But, for large organizations working in highly regulated sectors, like in government, for example, things can get more complex. The people you need to access aren’t always available, and the information might not be as freely accessible.


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To get to the root causes of the challenge, your technology strategists need to act as detectives and do some strategic (and often delicate) digging. They need to join the dots between the information available while pulling from their experience of working with other organizations in the same industry to paint the full picture and find the best technology solution. When you can do all of that and still make the client team feel like they own the solution, that’s where the magic happens.

How To Lead A Digital Transformation Your People Will Love

Know when your people are ready for a digital transformation.

Reflecting on our countless digital transformation projects, there are common internal patterns that set organizations up for success — long before they embark on their project. These are:

Aligned Executive Leadership: When you're talking about digital transformation, you’re really talking about transforming the whole business. So, you need to have functional executive board members who are aligned on the vision, work well together and understand the changes that need to happen.

Getting this right is key because they’re responsible for every area of the business that will be impacted by a digital transformation. Without alignment, conflicting ideas and opinions cause huge problems (and complexities) later down the line — so, everyone needs to be chasing the same goal.

A Willingness To Embrace Change: Successful digital transformation happens when people aren’t just unhappy with their current world but when they’re willing to do what it takes to make it better. And that’s across the whole organization. Every department will be affected by a digital transformation — from operations to accounting to marketing — and there’s no single individual, no matter how good they are, who can deliver a digital transformation on their own.

So, you need multiple people, representing different areas of the business, who are willing to drive your project forward. Not only does this give you the best insight, but it also builds project champions across the business — reducing the chance of unhappy staff standing on the sidelines throwing stones. At W3, we have a lot of strategies to manage this, but it’s always easier if everyone is on the same page from the get-go.

The Capacity To Deliver The Digital Transformation: Equally as important as people’s willingness to embrace change is their capacity to make it happen. Most digital transformation projects — whether strategic or tactical — have to work alongside the business-as-usual operations, so understanding everyone’s schedules is really important. We often find a real desire of team members to participate in the strategic opportunities that arise out of digital transformation, but we need to make sure the day-to-day operations don’t suffer as a result.

Communication is key.

It’s interesting to note that none of the precursors for digital transformation success have anything to do with technology. Instead, it’s all about communication, leadership, inclusivity and ownership. These lay the foundation for a successful digital transformation — having the right people involved, with access to the right information, who are following the same goals. That’s the holy grail.

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