Change Management WalkMe TeamUpdated March 4, 2021

5 Barriers to Digital Change Management Implementation

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5 Barriers to Digital Change Management Implementation

There are plenty of risks and barriers that can prevent a change management implementation from succeeding.

Even if these obstacles don’t cause a program to fail, they can still impact results.

Below, we’ll cover 10 of the biggest barriers that change initiatives face – and how to avoid them.5 Barriers to Digital Change Management Implementation

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In no particular order, here are 10 of the biggest challenges that change managers face during implementation.

1. Not Enough Focus on Users

A common cause of failure in any business endeavor is poor research.

For instance:

  • Products developed without user input can be irrelevant … and can fail miserably as a result
  • Rebranding that is detached from user feedback can be very costly … and can even force brands to backtrack
  • Change management that doesn’t focus on stakeholders can miss its objectives … or never get off the ground in the first place

To ensure a change initiative stays focused on its users, do a few things:

  • Encourage and remain open to feedback
  • Include a 2-way communication system
  • Use user needs – employees, executives, and customers – to drive your initiative

The input you receive from your “users” is invaluable.

And, in fact, it should be the guiding light for your entire change program.

With user interests in the forefront, you’ll automatically lower resistance, improve support, and get better results.

2. Poor Digital Strategy

For change management implementations to succeed, they must incorporate a digital strategy.

Those that don’t may successfully change – but they may change in the wrong direction.

Since the entire world is becoming digital, organizations must also become digital.

And change management initiatives are catalysts for this type of transition.

This involves:

  • Adopting and using digital tools
  • Implementing digital workflows, such as online collaboration and communication
  • Staying up-to-date on digital trends in one’s own industry

Incorporating such elements will help a change program – and an organization – keep pace with the marketplace.

3. Resistance from Employees and Middle Managers

A well-known barrier to change management programs is resistance.

This resistance typically comes from employees and middle managers.

In many cases, this resistance stems from:

  • Fear of change
  • Fear of job loss, automation, or irrelevancy
  • Cultural resistance or inertia
  • Poor communication or leadership on the part of the change team

The best way to avoid resistance is to develop a robust, two-way communications strategy.

Rather than simply dictating change, change managers should:

  • Actively listen to employees
  • Incorporate feedback into the design of a change program
  • Systematically engage in open dialogues to reduce resistance

Because resistance can kill any change initiative, change teams should take steps to avoid it at all costs.

4. Insufficient Digital Skills

Today, many change initiatives are digitally-driven.

But whenever digital adoption forms a core part of the agenda, training is a must.

However, many of today’s business professionals lack the required skills to enable such changes.

For instance:

  • Only 27% of IT leaders feel their executives possess sufficient “technology knowledge to develop a successful digital transformation strategy” for their company
  • The availability of key skills – or lack thereof – was named a top threat by CEOs
  • According to Accenture, today’s education and training systems “are not keeping up with the current demand for skills – let alone tomorrow’s new demands”

This skills gap problem is problematic.

Change implementations can be slowed down, hindered, or even halted if such skills gaps remain unaddressed.

To solve this problem:

  • Maintain an active, up-to-date, personalized employee training program
  • Use the latest digital training tools, such as e-learning programs and digital adoption platforms
  • Modernize and change existing learning solutions to meet the needs of today’s workforce

It is important to remember that skills training impacts more than just a change program. And it affects more than just their productivity.

It also impacts employees’ career potentials, retention, and loyalty.

Training, as a result, impacts the work culture, operations, and a company’s bottom line.

5. An ROI Model

According to Altimeter, it is difficult for many to justify the cost of digital transformation.

Digital transformation is perceived as a cost center by 28% of their survey respondents, and 29% lack the data to prove ROI.

These difficulties make it difficult for many executives to support transformation efforts.

Though surmounting this barrier is no easy task, it can be done.

The best way to surmount this obstacle is by addressing the specific objections of the leadership.

For instance, if business leaders lack data to prove the ROI of a digital change implementation, then start by collecting that data.

That is:

  • Collect data that demonstrates weak points in the organization’s current digital strategy, ROI model, or other areas
  • Use data – collected internally as well as externally – that shows the ROI of a given digitalization agenda
  • Make a case from the data that demonstrates ROI potential – as well as the potential threat of failing to transform

The fact is that businesses who do not transform will be left behind.

However, to justify a specific course of action, it is necessary to make a solid, persuasive argument.

The best way to do this is with data that demonstrates ROI and strategic advantages.


These are just a few of the top barriers change professionals can expect to face when implementing changes.

While these obstacles are not impossible to overcome, it is important to take preventive measures.

With foresight and planning, these barriers can be mitigated, overcome, or even avoided completely.

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