Change is hard. Even seemingly minor changes can give us a sense of dread—something could go wrong or worse, fail completely. So, it makes sense that something as all-encompassing as digital transformation feels herculean. Whether you are taking a piecemeal approach or attempting a radical change in the way your organization operates, the greatest challenge you are likely to come across isn’t selecting what technologies or tools to implement, rather, it’s getting everyone on board with the change in the first place.
For many organizations, digital transformation is still nothing more than a buzzword. In casual conversation, colleagues may gripe about the outdated tools and systems or the somehow-still-existent manual processes, but it can be difficult to upend systems that have been in place for years. Oftentimes, we see that once we start pulling the thread on one element that must be updated, a multitude of other systems and processes follow that impact teams across functions. So, how do we get our colleagues to see the importance of updating the way they work and buy into a digital transformation strategy?
It’s a long, and ultimately worthwhile, road. One that requires patience, persistence, and grit. But, by identifying the right people along the way, you may even find digital transformation can be fun.
Once you recognize that change is needed, it is key that you start getting people who are already supportive in your corner for a larger change initiative. Importantly, this does not need to be individuals at the leadership level. While obtaining buy-in from leadership will be necessary down the line, having partners across the organization can help you make the case and act as a support system when times get tough.
When Katelyn McArdle, Digital Strategy Manager at Children’s Hospital Colorado Foundation, recognized that marketing, fundraising, and operations could be a true powerhouse through digital channels, she knew that her first step was to assemble a team of digital experts and advocates. Katelyn is leading the charge in transforming and connecting the way the Foundation operates digitally, recognizing that integrated systems and platforms will position the organization to be the charity of choice for thousands of donors each year. As Katelyn put it: “don’t do this alone.” Through intentional collaboration with key stakeholders, she saw an opportunity for wholesale changes not only to be more effective but also to be, “more fun and more powerful.”
Digital transformations begin with identifying your partners, advocates, and champions.
Oftentimes, we see a need for change and think about our strategy to steer leadership toward our recommendation. However, getting support at all levels will be necessary to build an effective strategy and actually execute on that strategy.
Your advocates might be your manager or those with sway in departments across your organization. Advocates could be individual contributors who, like you, notice that the way things are being done could be more efficient and effective through the careful implementation of the right tools and technologies. This group is willing to take a stand and make the case for digital transformation.
Be sure to involve cross-functional coworkers. At work, it is rare that our processes only involve one team or one person. Think about colleagues you’ve worked with recently, perhaps even on more mundane tasks. Did you have this individual’s support in that capacity? Or, maybe the two of you vented about an unnecessarily manual and outdated task? Now is a good time to have a discussion with your colleague about advocating for digital transformation initiatives.
Oftentimes, partners are those doing the work. They are highly impacted by inefficient processes and would like to see digital solutions as a way to make their work lives easier. By demonstrating to these colleagues how digital transformation will improve life at work for them, you’ll be able to sway opinion. Additionally, this group can help act as an amplifier and promote these changes with colleagues in their departments organically. These individuals can take the time to demonstrate the benefits of digital transformation to more hesitant employees and shift the sentiment, eventually leading to evolved thinking across the organization.
Likely an individual at the executive level or an individual who has significant pull with the final decision-makers, champions are key in ensuring that digital transformations go as smooth as possible. This person is unlikely to be the final decision maker, though will likely be a resource for you to rely on to help create the case to leadership on why digital transformation is important now.
Know that not everyone will see the value. With some stakeholders, it can take significant time and effort to demonstrate the value of digital transformation. The feeling that things are working well enough might be motivating for some colleagues; for those in leadership, the resources needed to implement digital systems and processes may feel prohibitive. When it comes to executives whose buy-in is necessary for the investment needed in digital transformation, meet them where they are and go into it knowing that it will be a slow and steady process. Developing content geared toward leadership—for example, showing current metrics related to the processes you’re looking to change, competitive analysis, and expected return on investment—can be convincing enough to demonstrate that digital transformation is a worthwhile investment.
Ultimately, digital transformation can be an exercise in patience and persistence, and selecting the right individuals to join on the journey will make it better in the end.