Managing change to ensure digital transformation success

Managing change to ensure digital transformation success

Philip White

15 February 2022 - 7 min read

Digital Transformation
Managing change to ensure digital transformation success

Change is intrinsic to digital transformation. The whole purpose of these projects are to innovate and adapt business processes as a means to maintaining competitive advantage. 

Research shows that organisations’ expect this change too. Recent findings from the Harvey Nash Digital Leadership Report reveals that half of digital decision makers anticipate some radical change to their main operations over the next three years. This is a 16% increase from the previous years’ report, which highlights the ongoing expectation for transformative change across the industry. 

However, committing to change is only the first step. Your organisation needs to see change as more than a necessity. Think of it, instead, as a tool for achieving long-term success in digital transformation. 

How can you future-proof your digital transformation initiatives? Lead teams in an agile, adaptive way? Maintain collaboration both internally and externally? 

This article explores some of the key strategies for managing change during your digital transformation. Effectively managing change will allow your organisation to seamlessly transition into this digital age. To fully become a digital business. 

“Transformation and change must be approached holistically; you’ve got to approach the challenge of the problem, but also the culture, the people, leadership and coaching. Everyone in the organisation should be onboard with how to solve the problem, instead of the problem being delegated to one team” - Chris Paton, Director of Afghanistan Strategy and Plans, 1994-2012

Prepare for the worst (and the best) 

Companies should dedicate time to thinking about the outcomes of their projects. Outcomes are what could go very wrong and what could go very right. This structured approach has been formalised by psychologist Gary Klein's Project Premortem. This theory is a “hypothetical opposite of the postmortem” that imagines future events have already occurred. 

In this activity, an organisation will imagine the worst, most disastrous future scenario before addressing:

  1. How the organisation might have reached this position
  2. What can be done to address these potential pitfalls. 

Think of this as a process of ‘working back’ so that you can prevent issues before they happen. 

Klein also recommends that you also repeat this exercise from the viewpoint of “catastrophic success”. In this scenario the organisation is asking “what if things go so well that we can’t keep up?”. If a company can’t keep up with demand and fails to deliver, then they will begin to lose customers. 

Plan your future by compiling a list of all events that could affect your business — good and bad. Then you can consolidate these lists. This activity gives your business the scope for looking at factors like the likelihood of these events happening. Consider how likely it is that these events will happen and consider how close they might be  to your current situation.

Ultimately, the more realistic that you can make this ‘pre-mortem’ exercise, the better results you will get. It's all about getting people used to the idea of change within the organisation before that change actually takes place. 

Devolve decision-making

Devolved decision-making is about assigning team’s a greater degree of authority. Agile principles exist on a similar basis — organised and reflective teams. 

There is a tendency to let senior, c-level executives make decisions during times of change. However, doing so could mean missing out on many other great ideas in other areas of the company. Delegating authority to smaller teams opens more areas for feedback and innovation. 

A degree of control over management can be retained by including parameters — the boundaries which people can operate within. The size of these parameters will determine how much control the company retains. 

Parameters could include budget limitations, policies and other factors. As well as giving greater freedoms, larger parameters allow employees to try new ideas and methods of working.

Organisations may opt for smaller parameters when they are starting out with this technique. Starting off small will give you the confidence to know that this can work. Teams will benefit from this choice, too. Team members won't feel overwhelmed by the possibility of too much freedom that might come with larger parameters.

Buurtzorg —  a Dutch homecare organisation — is a stellar example of devolved decision making in practice. Operating with a 14,000 strong workforce, the organisation is structured into 12-person teams. The teams are responsible for their own P&L, recruitment, training, financials, and business development. They are like mini enterprises within the organisation. 

Most impressive are the statistics surrounding Buurtzorg. These strategies have made customer experiences 30% better than the national average. The company also boasts 65% lower overhead costs than its competitors. 

Organisations can tap into this people power by balancing strong company values with appropriate incentives and responsibility. Establishing such values will guide decisions and rewarding individuals will then inspire further creativity and successful collaboration. 

Practise agility 

Agility is a crucial part of any digital transformation journey. Just over half of C-suite executives ranked agility as an important enabler of growth, according to a recent PwC survey. 

Yet with change, comes challenge. Research shows that one third of agile adoption challenges are caused by inconsistent practices and being reluctant to change.

When making any major strategic decision, it’s Important to build in the what and the why around your goals. Operating with an agile methodology begins with the 'why' of the project. It also ensures that the entire process is aligned with business needs. Devolved decision-making allows team members to take control of how they reach solutions. 

Continuous communication, collaboration and feedback sessions enable organisations to adjust to change quickly and deliver business value consistently.

All of the hard work proposed relies on alignment between employees, teams and leaders. It is important to explain intent, so that people understand the direction that the organisation is headed. 

People should be encouraged to think critically and put forward ideas that will contribute to better solutions. At the same time, organisations want to avoid telling people what to do, as this will limit creative potential. Further still, it will limit how agile a company can truly be.

Nurturing the individual 

As individuals, each person’s personal resilience to change is unique, which can make managing this area quite challenging. When personal resilience is under attack it ultimately affects our ability to deal with personal and professional responsibilities. That’s why it's important for organisations to create environments where people feel supported and cared for.

Encouraging internal feedback is one way of nurturing individual needs. Leaders who mandate new tech might face resistance from employees and are unlikely to motivate them to use these solutions. Leaders are more likely to succeed when they spend time listening to people. From this feedback they can produce a new, more robust system. 

Getting insight into the needs of the organisation from all levels of the business is essential. This will enable you to analyse and dig into the needs of the organisation. Combining this feedback with your organisation's strategic vision will increase the likelihood of developing intuitive and effective solutions.

It is, above all, the right thing to do to ensure that employees are content with their professional lives. Ensuring this satisfaction retains the bond between leaders and employees, while preserving knowledge and expertise in the company. 

A change of pace

Digital transformation is a significant undertaking that requires commitment, collaboration and change. But this should be an exciting time for your company too. Taking ownership of your commitment to a digital future means owning the change that comes with it. 

With the right plan and strategy, companies can embrace change as another step in their digital transformation journeys. 

Change plays a key role in activating innovation. Like digital transformation, change management is a continuous responsibility across the company. It involves preparing for all scenarios, thinking deeply about how your teams work and being responsive to employee feedback. 

An agile mindset is crucial to this setup. Having an agile mindset ensures that feedback is continuous, risk is expected and that change is shared.

Audacia is a leading software development company in the UK, trusted by industry leaders to implement digital transformation strategies, deliver software development projects and manage change.

Interested in finding out more about managing change in digital transformation? Get in touch with us today on 0113 543 1300, or email

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Philip is the Managing Director of Audacia and is responsible for the company's overall strategy and culture.