Digital Transformation and the resulting Change Management can be a steep path strewn with many perils. It’s hardly ever as simple as just adding some software or updating a website. True Digital Transformation means change at the core of how things are done in a company. This affects the business processes and policies as well as job profiles. Such profound changes come with numerous challenges. Master all obstacles by embracing these 10 Rules of Digital Transformation:

  1. Understand Your Players
    • It is most vital to know who the key figures of the Digital Transformation project are. You must understand their role and their motivation. Figuring this out should be one of your main goals during the research and documentation phase of the project.
    • I find it most helpful to apply the Decider-Influencer-User-Destroyer typology model. The sooner you can identify all relevant players with their role, the more likely you are to succeed.
  2. Understand Your Playing Field
    • It is imperative to understand the local customs and culture. You must comprehend the hierarchy structure and the gender rolls.
    • You need to understand how power is distributed within the company. Is it by merit, seniority or nepotism?
    • Regarding the macro situation you must consider the legal, economic and political situation your project is immersed in.
  3. Expect Resistance to Change
    • Resistance comes in all shades, from passive to pro active and even hostile. Most people will tell you that they welcome change. And most of them actually believe they do. But in reality we humans hate change. It usually comes with a lot of effort and the necessity to leave one’s comfort zone. Nobody likes that.
    • Only if you expect resistance can you devise strategies on how to counteract. This can be as simple as engaging with the impacted teams and improving trainings. It can also be as elaborate as creating complete side projects to employ and distract certain players.
    • The plan of any Digital Transformation Project must contain a Strategy for dealing with resistance.
  4. Deliver a Clear View of Expectations to The Client
    • It makes no sense to promise a smooth and easy project. It never is. Communicate in a very clear manner what is to be expected. Inform the client there will be setbacks and delays. There will be resistance. And it will most probably cost more than budgeted.
    • Clients expect this from large projects, especially ones with third parties involved. But they hardly ever hear it. I believe it builds trust to be straight about expectations.
    • Aside from expectation management it is important to paint a clear picture of how the project will unfold. We are not talking about task management or a GANTT chart. You must explain the different stages of the project and their impact on Operations, Human Resources and the bottom line, during and after the Digital Transformation Project.
  5. Get The Necessary Commitment From The Board
    • One major key to a successful project will be the level of commitment you can get from your Board of Directors. You will want to enter a commitment agreement with the Executive Board, a board involved in the day to day business.
    • You will create this agreement in writing and have it signed by all members of the board. The actual assignment might have been done with shareholders or owners. Here we seek a commitment from the operational and administrational leaders.
    • Already the process of writing this Management Commitment Agreement and getting the board members to sign will deliver much insight.
  6. Start With Process Design – With New Systems Come New SOPs
    • Designing the required Business Process will deliver the required Business Goal as well as Requirement Specification for any software and hardware.
    • To be in a position where you can design a Digital Business Process that delivers added value you must understand 3 things first:
  7. Engage And Involve The Operational Teams
    • Engage and involve the current operational teams as early and as completely as possible.
      • When researching and documenting the Status Quo, interview the the operational team first. Start with the lowest level employees and work your way up the hierarchy.
        • The Users, aka your low level employees will give you the situation as is without trying to idealize it or hide the negative aspects.
        • Only equipped with this information are you in a position to engage in interviews with the Management levels. You need to know all pros and cons of a department, system or process before engaging with the responsible managers.
      • Engage with them again when creating the Use Case definitions
      • The third engagement comes with the primary review of proposed new Standard Operating Procedures, Products and Policies.
      • And finally the ultimate engagement tales place with the implementation and user trainings.
    • By including the operational teams early on you will harness six major benefits:
      • You will receive complete information and a realistic view of status quo.
      • You can create the full set of Use Cases needed for the Requirement Analysis.
      • You will be in a position to differentiate actual Requirements from ‘Nice-To-Haves”.
      • Informed Users are motivated Users and will actively participate in trainings and transformation workshops.
      • With the majority of operational teams on your side, you pro-actively remove many resistance arguments of the Middle Management.
      • By working with the Users you can select your Ambassadors or topic experts for the implementation and operational phases of the project.
  8. Communication And Branding
    • A Digital Transformation Project is an abstract creature with reaches into every area of business. A project of such dimensions will be confusing and scary for most people involved. It will be even harder to comprehend and support for the uninvolved. Therefor it is imperative give the Project a face, a brand, which can be used for identification and communication.
    • Define a Project Name that conveys the project goal, yet is simple and understandable.
    • Use this name/brand in all papers, presentations and communications.
    • Create a Communications Concept detailing how information is distributed.
      • Stakeholders require regular reporting focused of project goals and milestones.
        • This must include, Resistance, Challenges and foreseeable Hurdles – deliver forecasts!
      • Management must be informed about status, progress and next steps.
      • All must receive regular communication about Project Status and Progress to remain interested and engaged.
  9. Don’t Put Old Shit Into New Systems
    • There is always a demand to create interfaces with the legacy systems. Try to avoid this at any cost.
    • Beware faulty Benchmarks
      • Very often the Legacy Systems have inherent errors the client has learned to live with and maybe even has been part of financial reporting for years.
      • If you are forced to match numbers with such legacy systems your are destined to fail.
    • Avoid importing or syncing data between the new and the legacy systems.
      • In all projects so far the data structure between new and legacy did not match. With new systems come new data structures and new benchmarks. They cannot be matched directly
    • In every data driven transformation project there will be an ETL Process (Extract, Transform, Load). This is necessary to get historic data into new systems. When incorporating ETL it is crucial to use intermediary systems for the Transformation step. This allows you to map the divergent Data structures without corrupting your new system.
  10. Be Cautious – Facilitating Change Can be Dangerous
    • Last but not least, heed my warning: Being an Agent of Change can paint a target on you.
    • When coming into a new project you do not know who has buried how many skeletons where. But I can assure you there are skeletons out there and you will uncover them, willingly or not.
    • Be prepared and expect to find proof of negligent if not outright criminal behaviour. Being prepared means having included a process of divulging such finds with the Board.
    • Be extremely cautious, discovered transgressions will put you in danger from the perpetrators, but maybe also from enablers not readily identifiable.

To each of our 10 rules I have created an in depth article with examples, anecdotes and tangible solutions. We will publish one article each week until your collection is complete.

Andre (15)

I’ve been in the online field since the end of the '90s. I've proven my skills and competences in e-Business and Digital Marketing by developing ImmoScout24, which I piloted as CEO for over 8 years. Today I'm President of my own company Concepts & Consulting International. LLC.
I grew up in the United States (NJ), did my education in Zurich, Switzerland and live in California today.
My primary focus is on Digital Strategies and Business Engineering for Digital Transformation. Currently I am busy with the digital transformation of 3 hotel groups in North America.
2022 we just integrated new business services from Insider Group. This adds several professional blogs and shops to our portfolio.

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