11 Tips for Leading a Successful Digital Change Initiative

Digital innovation is propelling major shifts in the modern organization, so today’s change manager must have the right set of skills to successfully lead a digital change initiative.

Below, we’ll cover a few key tips that can help change managers better manage and lead digital-first change projects.

11 Tips for Leading a Successful Digital Change Initiative

Whether it’s disrupting an industry, creating a new category or providing new and better customer experiences, digital change will be the cornerstone of the future of business. 

This means that change managers are poised both to guide these changes while also making a positive impact on their organizations.

There are, however, a few important points to keep in mind when leading digital-first business changes.

Below, we’ll cover a few tips that can help change managers guide their digital change efforts.

1. Perform a digital skills assessment

During digital adoption and digital transformation efforts, it is important to perform digital skills assessments early on.

When conducted as part of a change readiness assessment, skills assessments can help change leaders understand the capabilities and needs of the workforce. 

That information, in turn, can help managers design training programs that are more effective, choose the right software to adopt, and more. 

2. Use technology acceptance model questionnaires

Another useful tool to consider using during the assessment stage is a technology acceptance model questionnaire.

These questionnaires gauge attitudes, mindsets, and openness to certain types of technologies.

They are useful for predicting how employees will react to certain tools, which can help change leaders choose software that most suits the workforce’s needs.

3. Assess the impacts of the digital initiative

There are several dimensions to evaluate when considering how an initiative will affect the organization.

New technology-driven projects, after all, will affect many areas of the business, including:

  • Finances
  • Operating models
  • The workforce
  • Workflows and the workplace
  • Organizational structure
  • The corporate culture
  • Customers
  • The skills needed in the workplace

Before actually initiating a project, change managers should carefully model these impacts, while also projecting those impacts forward in time. 

4. Anticipate employee resistance – and design a strategy to lower it

Employee resistance is one of the most common obstacles to organizational change. 

Left unchecked, resistance can easily harm a project’s performance, if not derail it entirely.

In addition to the techniques covered above, managers should ensure that the change is communicated effectively, employees’ concerns are addressed, and that they receive sufficient training.

5. Build a digital adoption strategy

A digital adoption plan focuses on simplifying software onboarding and training.

In digital transformation, digital adoption strategies make a huge difference in employee productivity, engagement, and, ultimately, the performance of the project.

Digital adoption platforms (DAPs) are excellent tools that can significantly streamline digital adoption and transformation efforts.

6. Create a strategy and a proposal

Once a change strategy has been developed, that strategy should be articulated into a concise statement. 

That statement will act as a guiding light – a strategic north star – that stakeholders can latch onto.

Then, with a strategic aim in place, it is time to create a formal proposal that incorporates that strategy, as well as all of the other information collected earlier.

7. Craft a business case and obtain buy-in from senior leaders

Executive sponsorship is essential for any project to succeed. 

To gain support from senior leaders, it is first necessary to build a business case. This means demonstrating how a digital change project will add value and align with the organization’s strategy.

Once sponsors are on board, change advocates must take steps to ensure that those sponsors are ready to actively engage with their project.

8. Take a structured approach to change management

Any organizational change project, digital or not, should be managed appropriately.

Ideally, those leading the change initiative should be experienced change managers who understand the principles and best practices of change management. 

Studying change models, such as John Kotter’s 8-step model or Prosci’s ADKAR model, can be a good first step.

9. Implement, monitor, and adjust

Change managers cannot simply “set and forget” their change programs – they must play an active role in those projects in order to ensure their success.

Among other things, effective change management involves continual monitoring and improvement. 

Leveraging real-time data is a good way to stay connected with the project’s performance. Having real-time insights, in turn, can enable faster, more appropriate responses to any issues that might arise.

10. Establish relationships with the CIO and IT leaders

Digital transformation programs depend heavily on technology. 

Therefore, even if a project isn’t specifically geared towards the IT department, it is important to involve IT staff. 

Building a relationship with the CIO is a good place to start, since CIOs are the de facto technology leaders in most organizations. Additionally, their insights will be essential for designing a project that adds real value both now and into the future.

11. Cultivate a digital-first company culture

Today, every business is a digital business – that is, every organization relies on technology to stay competitive and successful.

Technology-driven change, however, has outpaced many other areas of the business, including processes, strategies, workflows, and culture.

To keep up, change managers should work with other business leaders and managers to cultivate a digital culture that welcomes digital technology and is fully willing to embed it at every level of the business.

Chris is the Lead Author & Editor of Change Blog. Chris established the Change blog to create a source for news and discussion about some of the issues, challenges, news, and ideas relating to Change Management.