Digital Transformation – Watch out for these 3 gotchas by Ramkumar Viswanathan

A while back, I attended a conference “Leading through Change” in Cranfield School of Management.

One of the key themes was the pace of technology changes. Specifically, how does it affect organisations & its people? It brought back vivid memories of my Digital Transformation experiences. On reflection, I can definitely share three gotchas & lessons. If you are leading a Digital Transformation or being a part of one, keep an eye on these three gotchas! 

Gotcha #1: Partial digitalisation and/or digitalising bad process are not good. 

How can we simplify things and deliver better customer experience – That is how most of the Digital Transformation start. Therefore, it is pretty useless if you digitalise only part of the process. In one of the Digital Transformation works, our aspiration was to digitalise all customer interactions completely. However, behind the scenes people were still holding on to the notion that old practice of keeping a physical copy for every customer order would continue. This was leading to i) Increased cost of inventory due to need for stationary and storage space year on year ii) Increased time & effort due to manual search to retrieving orders.

After working out the cost & benefit, we manage to avert both. Thank god!

Lessons learnt: 

  • When you do digitalise, do it completely. No half measures. 
  • Don’t lose ethos of transformation. Digitalising bad process means garbage in & garbage out 

Gotcha #2: Linear project execution to deliver change are not always suitable. 

Anybody with good experience will know that this is true. Yet with Digital Transformations, I quite often see traditional project plan & execution taking over when the pressure to deliver kicks in. Agreed, delivery is important but not at the cost of losing people. The role of the transformation programme is to help people manoeuvre their way around the change adventure. Whilst doing that, it is ok to be reactive at times & have small failure(s) along the way.

Whilst having a plan is a good thing, we need to blend good stakeholder management with those plans to increase the effectiveness of the delivery. Here is one way to do it – As and when you deliver (or not deliver) each milestone, what change bombs will present itself? How will it affect the views of your stakeholders and specifically will it cause them to go back & forth on their stance? 

Lessons learnt: 

  • Plans are means to an end so don’t jeopardise the end game for the sake of sticking to a plan. 
  • Use a traditional project plan in conjunction with stakeholder management to guide your change execution. 

Gotcha #3: Turning a blind eye to people’s feelings & emotion will cause irrevocable damage 

With Digital Transformations, there is a lot of focus on delivering a system that can be a game changer. That often drives the people leading change to concentrate purely on digitalisation and forget that people are very important. In this day & age, organisations will undergo number of changes at the same time. So the chances are that there is some other change ongoing simultaneously. 

Although Digital Transformations is for the greater good, it will not be beneficial to everyone. People have to make radical adjustments. Talking about these adjustments openly will boost the authenticity of the programme. Allow people to share their fears & aspirations honestly in an informal setting. Initially such an effort might seem counterproductive but in the long run, it will pay dividends.

Lessons Learnt: 

  • Change programme will affect people so don’t brush away their concerns 
  • Emotions are a big factor but being transparent is the only way to be authentic 

Feel free to share your lessons on how you are winning in your Change adventure with Ram here.

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Ram Viswanathan is a passionate operational excellence specialist with global experience of delivering successful & sustainable business improvements across multiple sectors. In his 15 years of experience, he has delivered business improvements in several flavours. 

Some of them include:
1. Digital Transformation
2. Post-merger integration and Target Operating Model design
3. Pure-play process improvements
4. Cost Transformation

Although Ram has been delivering change for a long-time, he still considers himself as a student and is always looking for ways to improve.