Change Management vs. Digital Transformation – What’s the Difference?

Change management vs. digital transformation … are they really that different?

Or are they just two “buzzwords” for the same thing?

As we’ll see below, no, they’re not buzzwords. And they don’t mean the same thing, though the terms are related.

Today, digital transformation is one of the most common reasons behind organizational change.

And this is why change management professionals should study about digital transformation in depth.

Let’s start our exploration by defining our terms.

Defined: Change Management vs. Digital Transformation

Though the two terms are related, they definitely don’t mean the same thing.

Let’s see why:

  • Change Management – The process of directing, administering, and managing organizational changes.
  • Digital Transformation – The process of integrating digital technology into a business – a transformation that can impact technology, culture, work environment, and more.

Clearly, change management is very different from digital transformation.

The latter term does, though, involve certain types of organizational change.

Change Management’s Scope of Change

The scope of change management stretches beyond digital transformation.

It includes changes such as:

  • Cultural changes
  • Structural (hierarchical) changes
  • Workflow changes
  • Business process changes
  • Changes to products or services

The change manager’s job is broad, encompassing change at the individual level, the organizational level, and everything in between.

Digital Transformation Is More Relevant Than Ever

International Data Corporation (IDC), published research that predicts a drastic rise in digital transformation spending over the next few years.

Among other forecasts, it predicts that by the end of 2019, digital transformation spending will reach $1.7 trillion globally.

It’s important to realize that if you’re a change manager, digital transformation involves organizational change … possibly several types of organizational change.

In some cases, digital transformation results in a number of organizational changes, including many of those mentioned above.

Let’s look at an example of digital adoption, which refers to the implementation of a new technology into the workplace.

Imagine that a company introduces a new cloud-based marketing software, such as Salesforce.

Shifting to a new sales automation tool can involve many workplace changes:

  • Learning the new software solution from the ground up – which means training employees on this new tool
  • Abandoning the old way of doing things – that is, “unlearning” old habits and practices
  • Meeting performance expectations with this new software

It may also involve structural changes to sales departments.

Of course, a change like this wouldn’t always be limited to the sales department.

It would also impact customer service, marketing, and even the revenue model of the business.

As you can see from this example, adoption of new technologies can and does involve change management.

How to Be a Digital Change Manager

Managing digital transformation can be challenging, for several reasons:

  • Digital evolution never ends
  • Digital transformation can result in effects that span the organization
  • Impacts, both positive and negative, can be difficult to predict

In order to manage today’s digitally evolving company, change managers must be willing to embrace new technology themselves.

There are a few good ways to adapt to the ongoing changes (and challenges) presented by digital technology:

Be agile, nimble, and innovative.

Change managers must be able to think outside the box, because that’s what’s required with new technology.

Technological changes almost always require new ways of thinking.

Embrace new technology.

Fear it, and you will hinder change itself.

Work with IT leaders closely.

CIOs, CEOs, and business leaders often envision change well ahead of the rest of the organization.

They know what’s coming around the corner, so it’s best to gain their support and work closely with them to ensure success.

Use digital adoption platforms and other tools to make transitions smoother.

Digital adoption platforms (DAPs) are designed to shrink software learning curves, improve success rates, and reduce employee frustration.

Make use of such change management software solutions to increase productivity … and employee happiness.

Hire the right personnel for the jobs.

The digital adoption manager, for example, is a new job position whose job is to facilitate, direct, and manage the IT portion of the digital adoption process.

Even if you have to assign digital adoption management tasks to an existing staff member, the importance of this role cannot be overstated. They can significantly streamline your digital transformation efforts.

Change minds and hearts … not just tools.

Today’s digitizing workplaces aren’t just adopting new tools and software. They’re also changing the way they think, operate, and do business.

Today’s cultures are customer-centric, innovative, and results-driven.

The best way to get employees on board with such changes is to:

  • First, recognize the cultural component of these changes.
  • Second, instill the vision for these changes into your workers.
  • Third, get their help in implementing the change.

The more that employees understand the vision and back it, the better your chances of success.

Conclusion: Digital Change Management Is Just Getting Started

As mentioned, digital transformation spend is on the rise.

There are many reasons for this. Market pressure, gaining an edge, opportunities for growth, and customer demand present just a few examples.

But regardless of the specific cause, change managers should embrace digital strategy, digital technology, and digital transformation.

Doing so will help any digital change efforts that much more successful

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.