Why Staff Engagement Is Key to Successful IT Transformation
We’re in the midst of a digital transformation wave unlike any we’ve seen in the past – with digital technology transforming companies from the ground up, leaving no aspect of business untouched.
The incredible potential for IT transformation has prompted many companies to take the programme approach, implementing large and wide-reaching IT transformation programmes to harness the power of the current wave of technology. A 2019 study found that 34% of businesses already have a transformation programme in action – with the majority soon to follow.
That said, the deep impact of digital transformation today means that IT transformation programmes can get stuck in the mud, struggling to deliver results – no matter how good your IT support company is. Failure is common.
The critical success factor
There are, of course, many reasons why IT programmes fail. Failure often occurs at a technical and programme management level. However, there are unique characteristics to the current wave of digital transformation. The reach and depth of the current digital transformation are far greater than the shallower transformation waves we’ve seen before.
The primary area of difference is the very broad, significant change to the way a company functions and this carries with it outsize changes to the way your employees go about their daily working lives.
What does that mean for IT transformation? On the one hand, your staff can derail even the most perfectly executed IT transformation plan due to misplaced fears and frustration. On the other hand, engaged staff can dramatically accelerate digital transformation.
Get your staff on board for successful transformation
First and foremost, understand that employees will be concerned about how digital transformation will affect them. Staff will typically be concerned about training, a change to their workload and, of course, job retention.
It is critical that, early on in an IT transformation project, staff is engaged and informed as to how technology will offer an improvement in roles and responsibilities. Outline how better technology takes away mundane, routine tasks – but not jobs. Explain that technology will bolster your business and its competitive position, and why that matters for the long-term future of your company.
Internal communication is crucial – you must have an ongoing communications program, kicking off with a case for transformation. Next, communicate the progress of transformation and address concerns as and when these surface. Most transformation programmes are lengthy. Knowledge fades and fears to re-emerge. So, communicate frequently and consistently.
Involve your employees throughout the IT transformation process
Re-assuring your employees is just the first staff engagement element of a successful digital transformation project. It is an essential first step, of course, because recalcitrant employees can stop a transformation dead in its tracks.
Your organisation, working alongside your IT support company, can achieve much more with your IT transformation programme if you involve your staff on a broad level. In other words, engage with employees outside of the group of colleagues that are directly responsible for IT. Here are a few ideas:
Get (non-IT) leadership on board. When top managers can’t agree on the goals of transformation, the entire transformation project is at risk. You must get senior leadership to define what they want to achieve, and convince leadership to articulate their goals in significant detail. Do so and you have a roadmap for the broader organisation.
Involve non-technical staff. Do this every step of the way. Colleagues working in operational roles should be closely involved when IT transformation plans are designed. Likewise, throughout implementation, non-technical staff members should be involved in testing to ensure usability. Mere technical capability is not enough – usability matters.
Identify champions. Your formal transformation communications programme will lay out broad goals and keep everyone up to date. However, transformation programmes benefit from champions: individuals across departments who believe in change and who can deliver the transformation message from a different perspective.
Link transformation and career advancement. IT transformation will create new work roles in your organisation. It is a terrific time to upskill your employees rather than hiring from outside. See where and how you can move existing staff into positions that are more highly skilled – and more satisfying.
Finally, don’t neglect to engage in a thorough training programme once a new technology is in place. Without training, there is a high risk that your company will draw only a superficial advantage from an expensive IT transformation programme.
Yes, your IT support company may have made a success of the programme, but without real knowledge of the features and benefits of new technology, and indeed the understanding to make the best of these advantages, your transformation programme will fail to perform to its true potential. Ongoing refreshment training is also a good idea.