Managing Change in Organizations: Why Businesses Should Put Change First

Managing change in organizations is never easy – but today, change management practices are changing. 

In this article, we’ll look at the advantages of a “change-first” approach.

But first, we should look at a few other strategic priorities that have swept the digital ecosystem in recent years, such as:

  • Mobile-first
  • AI-first
  • Customer-first
  • Digital-first

This context can help us understand how a change-first business strategy can keep organizations successful in the coming digital age.

From Mobile-First to Digital-First

Digital-first is one of several terms that describe a business’s strategic priority.

Over the past several years, other digital technologies have shaped business priorities. 

From mobile technology to AI, these technologies are considered so important that many businesses spearhead their business plans around these innovations.

Here are a few examples:

Mobile-First 

Mobile-first was a popular design, marketing, and business approach a few years ago.

This approach encompassed:

  • Responsive website designs – that is, designs suitable for mobile devices as well as desktops
  • A marketing strategy that is geared towards the mobile customer
  • Customer journeys that were designed for multiple channels and devices

This approach became popular for a few reasons.

Customers prefer responsive, mobile-first designs, for instance. 

As a result, mobile-first designs deliver higher ROI than sites that aren’t optimized for mobile.

On top of this, in 2018 Google started ranking sites based on their mobile content – not desktop versions of the site.

AI-First 

In Google’s 2017 I/O keynote, Sundar Pichai stated that they were shifting from a mobile-first world to an AI-first world.

For Google, AI-first means transitioning from “searching and organizing” the world’s information to AI and machine learning.

For other companies, such as Capital One, it means transitioning from an information-based business to an AI-based business.

Like mobile, AI is a paradigm-shifting technology. 

With the right strategy and application, it can deliver significant competitive advantages.

Customer-First

In the digital world, customer experiences define success, at least according to many people. 

IDG research found that creating better customer experiences is the top goal (67%) for respondents in its 2019 survey. 

Placing the customer experience as the top priority makes sense for many reasons.

Customers are happier, they spend more, and they are more loyal, among other things.

Digital-First

According to IDG’s 2019 Digital Business study, 91% of businesses “have adopted, or have plans to adopt a ‘digital-first’ business strategy.”

But digital-first means different things to different businesses:

  • As mentioned, 67% plan to focus on the customer experience
  • 53% plan to use automation to improve process efficiency
  • And 48% plan to use digital technology to drive new revenues

Top technology investments included AI, 5G, and machine learning.

Also, workforce transformation played an important role in these organizations’ strategies. 

Around 37% already implemented strategies to change workforce skills, cultures, behaviors, and so on.

Managing Change in Organizations by Putting Change First

One thing that is clear from the above review is this: change is constant.

Each wave of technology, from the web to mobile devices, drives a new wave of digital transformation.

And that change isn’t slowing down.

If anything, change is speeding up, which is putting more pressure on businesses to evolve.

For this reason, businesses should consider adopting a “change-first” strategy … not a technology-specific strategy.

Here are some benefits to a change-first approach:

  • Organizations will become more agile and adaptable. Every few years, a new technology rises to the fore. However, change-first organizations will be able to adopt these technologies and adapt successfully – without relying too heavily on a single trend.
  • Change initiatives will become more efficient and cost-effective. A change-centric business will produce better outcomes from its initiatives. Change projects will cost less, take less time, and have higher success rates.
  • Organizational strategy will be more aligned with change programs. The greater the synergy between change projects and organizational strategy, the greater the benefits. Projects will be more relevant, more aligned with strategic imperatives, and they will contribute more to the bottom line.

A business with advanced enterprise change management, in other words, will be ready to deal with the challenges of the digital age.

How to Develop a Change-First Business Strategy

As IDG’s research has revealed, each business defines “digital-first” in its own way.

Different businesses emphasize different strategic focuses, technology investments, and so forth.

In the same way, each business should create its own strategic approach when it comes to change management.

Here are some areas to focus on:

  • Agile Change ManagementAgile change management focuses on collaboration, responsiveness, communication, and user-driven products. When applied to change management, change programs can adapt more quickly and stay more relevant to stakeholder needs.
  • Enterprise Change Management – An organization’s formal change management capacity is referred to as enterprise change management. More advanced change management functions deliver better results that are more in sync with organizational strategy.
  • Digital Transformation – In the digital world, digital transformation should be a top priority. Organizations that aren’t digitally mature enough will simply be unable to keep up with their competitors.
  • Digital Adoption – With new technologies being released daily, digital adoption has become standard. Every business should have processes for adopting, implementing, and making full use of chosen technology … otherwise the technology itself will become a challenge, not a tool for success.

This list is certainly not comprehensive.

However, hopefully it offers some ideas and food for thought.

After all, a business strategy that is digital-first, change-first, and holistic will fare much better in an economy that is driven by digital change.

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.