What do New Year’s Resolutions have in common with Digital Transformation? Both are incredibly likely to fail. In fact, you’re more likely to see your resolution make it to February than you are to consider your transformation a success. Yes, it’s estimated that 20% of New Year’s Resolutions make it to February, a welcome upgrade from the 16% of companies who consider their initiatives a success.

Resolutions and Transformations

As we continue to explore our top ten digital transformation mistakes, one of these is quite similar to resolution setting. In fact, like our second biggest digital transformation mistake, many can chalk up their resolution failures to the same problem—a failure in change management.

What Is Change Management?

Digital transformation will fundamentally change your company’s mission-critical processes and operations. According to CIO, change management means different things to different people.

  • Project managers view change management as the process used to obtain approval for changes to the scope, timeline, or budget of a project.
  • Infrastructure professionals consider change management to be the process for approving, testing, and installing a new piece of equipment, a cloud instance, or a new release of an application.

However, others view change management from an organizational perspective. In such, ‘change’ refers to “any event or program that causes disruption to daily operations” and change management is the process that allows people to adopt and feel good about said change.

The clearest definition of this type of organizational change management (OCM) is provided by Sheila Cox of Performance Horizons who states:

“Organizational change management ensures that the new processes resulting from a project are actually adopted by the people who are affected.”

Say you implement a new ERP software. Change management would refer to the process of getting people to use it so it doesn’t turn into “shelfware.” That said, forgetting to focus on change management in a digital transformation initiative is dangerous.

Like a resolution to get in shape, transformation will result in ‘soreness’ and ‘plateaus’ that will require vision and communication to overcome.

A Shock to the System

Say you want to lose weight. You set your target weight, buy new gym shoes, and sign up for a gym membership. Day one comes and passes—leg day. Day two comes around and you are having a bit of trouble getting out of bed or making it down the stairs.

Many things that happen in a digital transformation project constitute the same kind of shock. People are expected to:

  • Learn new skills, techniques, processes, and technologies.
  • Operate in a new operational structure.
  • Communicate and work with new departments.
  • Work in an environment that is unfamiliar to them.

Just like when your muscles are screaming “why are you doing this to me” as you attempt to get out of bed, some of your employees may take issue with changes. Sadly, many may think of a digital transformation initiative less as a way to make life easier and more as a cost-cutting measure that will never trickle down to them.

To tackle this, your change management strategy will need to incorporate a visionary leader and a communications strategy to present why digital transformation isn’t just hiring “efficiency experts” and hanging up an “Is This Good for the Company?” sign. Digital transformations are often as good for the everyday lives of employees as it is for the company itself and you need to present that.

Staying Motivated

Back to the process of getting in shape. What happens if you make it a few more weeks and realize that you plateaued? How do you intend to get past this? You’re going to have to push harder, continue to focus on staying positive, and remind yourself of the end goal.

Similarly, digital transformations are meant to take place over a long period of time. Some things will happen faster than others, some things will take a bit of grinding to get through. For instance, say you implement a new software. People finally get up and running with it and realize that it helps them. But what happens when the honeymoon phase ends?

Like the process of getting in shape, you hit a plateau. Even if you’re nowhere near your end goal, you need to keep your people engaged, optimistic, and ready for the next step; convincing your people that you’re going to push even harder will require more vision and communication.

Getting through plateaus in digital transformation and change management is not an easy task—but it’s necessary. As you push toward a new way of working, you will need to focus on creating a culture that embraces and demands change.

Overcoming Challenges in the Digital Transformation Imperative

Like our first digital transformation mistake, going in without a strategy, a lack of change management is one of those examples of approaching digital transformation haphazardly. Failure to appreciate change management is one of the fastest ways to derail a project.

However, while going in without a strategy represents a problem with foresight and flexibility, failing to appreciate change management is an example of poor facilitation. You can make your business as flexible as you want, but if you don’t think of how your people are going to work under a new operating model, you’re bound to fail.