So the good news is you have taken the plunge, recognised that you and your organisation need to embrace the digital present, hired an appropriate partner to help with your transformation and are ready to get started.
The bad news is that your chances of success aren't great, but there are plenty of things to do to help move the process along. Unless you are incredibly naive and believe that your transformation partner is just going to 'do' everything for you--like an agency--then you will appreciate that this is about changing from within with a little help from the outside. As such it's down to you to do everything you can to make it work, so here are some things to watch out for.
1. “When are you going to talk about our website?”
It’s a common misconception that these initiatives are about developing a digital marketing or IT strategy. While many would argue about the exact definition of “digital transformation”, you should remember it’s made-up consulting speak. However, most would agree it’s about behaviour, culture and process change which are enabled by tech. Not the other way round.
Having an internal understanding of just what you mean by ‘Digital Transformation’ is key, so communicate to everyone in the organisation who your chosen partner is, what their remit is and what outputs you expect.
2. “I didn’t hire them!”
There is always hesitation when organisational structures have the potential to change. It’s the top of the tree who see their leaves being redistributed to other branches or possibly chopped off entirely.
Inevitably, unless the stakeholders unanimously agreed on the selected partner then somebody--and possibly many somebodies--will feel hard done by. And since ‘unanimous’ pretty much never happens, spending a bit of time quietly getting input and buy-in from potential blockers is time well spent.
3. “When I get a chance, I’ll look in my files--it might take a while”
Forget passive aggressive--it's aggressively passive that's the killer.
Most employees naturally fear consultants. It’s a good, healthy and primal fear. You have a succession of suits coming in to your company, quizzing you about your job and--worse--evaluating you on past performance. What’s not to hate?
Interestingly those who are most reluctant to engage are the ones you need to put front and centre. They are the ones who will derail and undo all the work that has been done; by making them complicit it is more likely the changes will stick.
4. “Why aren’t I involved?”
Finding the right people across the business to contribute directly to the front line is a nightmare.
The consultants don’t know who is there so they can’t tell you who needs to be involved (initially anyway). Moreover the larger the organisation the more hidden gems are buried away in the deep dark corporate holes.
Finding the most relevant and valuable people to get involved takes time. Time which needs to be factored in.
Together with your partner, define the types of people that you need--throughout the business--and ensure you have the mandate to get them involved right at the start.
5. “I’m sorry, I’m too busy”
Diaries, Diaries, Diaries.
Even once committed, getting everyone together is inherently problematic. Many people, little time and clearing the decks for an entire organisation is highly unlikely.
Regardless of how unrealistic it may seem, book all the major dates upfront, set a calendar of events, fix the days and stick to them.
Overstate the requirements for each meeting and set a break point of around 50% attendance for the meeting to happen.
You will be amazed how many people’s diaries miraculously clear.
6. “I couldn’t possibly tell you”
Before the suits turned up you actually managed to run a business successfully. Funny that. Discussing those success stories with strangers is easy, however many will feel quite insecure being transparent about the failures.
Why, honestly, would anybody actually admit to being a bit rubbish when it came to their own job?
How do you mitigate that? Semantics. Take away the guilt, take away the blame and ignore historic negative outcomes and make it all about ‘what we learned’. Easier said than done, but it has to be done.
7. “But that’s the way we’ve always done it”
There is often little impetus to go ‘beyond’ what is expected of you in large organisations. You have a job-spec and responsibilities and it’s hard to think more broadly about the business as a whole. As such, with any kind of transformation programme there is a level of ‘what’s in it for me?’
There's no real solution to this, however it can be mitigated by being extremely transparent about the process--'working out loud' and providing many opportunities for the cynics to get involved--on their terms.
8. "The CEO won't be joining us--ever"
In other words, lack of true senior buy-in or participation.
Repeat after me…dead on arrival.
That is all.
9. "I'm too busy--let’s get them to do it"
Also known as ‘wasting consultants’ time’.
Wait! What? But that’s what consultants want you to do!
It doesn’t matter whether they’re a big global consultancy or a small boutique--they all charge on time.
Understanding deliverables and responsibilities on both sides of the equation is critical. The consultants will go away at some point and you want to have taken on as much as you can to ensure continuity.
10. “Can’t you just give us the strategy now?"
Everybody wants to jump to the end.
Knowing where you are likely to go and knowing how to bring everybody along are very different things.
Some clients ask to have their future predicted without providing any view on their present. Sensible consultants will try and avoid this because it puts them on the back foot--without objective insight and understanding it’s just opinion--which everyone has in spades.
When this happens the likelihood is that much time will be wasted interrogating the initial ‘best guess’ from a negative standpoint with people trying to pick it apart, as opposed to starting with a clean slate, getting everyone excited and bringing them along for the ride.
This is a fairly significant risk as it sets expectations which are unlikely to be met. The consultants will eventually go away--this can potentially damage the reputation of the project stakeholders.
Ultimately having everybody contribute to the ‘why’ change is more important than ‘what’ needs to be implemented. Projects like this fail if the organisation isn’t involved throughout and ‘owns’ the output.
There is a good chance that the reason you’ve found yourself in a situation that requires such fundamental change was being overly risk averse. So be aware of it, celebrate it, enjoy it and get ready for your journey into the future!