June 28, 2017

Change management in digitalization Transformation

Author: Victoria Björck, IT Management Consultant

Digitalization has brought real profit to economies and societies and our world is more connected than ever. All industries are still in a digital transformation phase. It is not only technical and IT solutions that need to be improved and changed, the transformation also affect people’s behavior. Individuals, teams and organizations also need to change and improve themselves in order to cope with digitalization. 

It is very easy and in fact human nature to fall into old routines and to be worried about change. It will inevitably affect results negatively if people and organizations do not follow and learn to take advantage of the technical improvements that digitalization has made possible. Change management together with professional project management is crucial during a digital transformation. Change management need to focus on how people and teams are affected by an organizational transition whereas project management has focus on implementing new technical solutions.

Prosci is a known research-based company that conducts studies for determining which factors are most important to take into account in a change. According to Prosci, “Change management is the process, tools and techniques to manage the people side of change to achieve the required business outcome. Change management incorporates the organizational tools that can be utilized to help individuals make successful personal transitions resulting in the adoption and realization of change.”

Figure 1 Change Management vs Project Management (Prosci)


Challenges for change management

A common figure in statistics is that around 70% of all change initiatives fail. The statistics itself make for grim reading but more importantly behind the figure there is a lot of effort gone to waste. So why shrug your shoulders so lightly over failed change work? Instead take the opportunity to learn from other’s mistakes and initiate a transformation that will be successful from start to finish. So what are the actual challenges for the change management?

The transformation of an organization can be a complex process. Regardless of the type of change, a number of studies have shown that organizational changes induce opposition from employees. The process starting from people getting the first information about a change to the point when everyone have accepted it can be often be long and require a lot of effort. It is not strange that someone reacts negatively to a change. It lies in the very nature of human beings to be suspicious and restrictive to change; it is an instinct originating from our hunting and gathering period. The negative reactions may be due to fear of the unknown, loss of identity, changed power relationships, duplication of effort, threat of personal loss, change of the symbolic order or the breaking of social ties. These people have different needs for renewal, change, development and new challenges. People believe that a change is an emotional process that activates different interpretations and perceptions of reality. Working with digitalization, it is crucial to understand the importance of how change can affect people and to start change management early so that it does not hinder the transformation plan.

Change models

There are many change management models about how to lead a change. Many research and consulting firms are still developing more change models. Whatever model or process you choose to support your change management, don’t ignore the importance of people’s impact on the transformation. With my experiences and studies, there are some important factors to consider when leading change during a digital transformation.

Factor for a successful change management

  1. Clear goal and communication of the change

The changes need to have a clear goal and vision, which also need to be communicated to all people involved. When people, already at the beginning of the process, understand why and how we are doing the change, it will be easier getting the necessary acceptance for implementing the change.

  1. Everyone is participants in the change process

Individuals’ first concern about organizational change is what will happen to themselves. It may also affect how the individual experiences the change if it is self-chosen or enforced. The key for a successful change management is that everyone feels that they are involved in the change process. By letting all involved people be participants in the change planning and implementation they will become more positive and proactive when they feel that they can influence and contribute to the transformation.

  1. To be present and available

The responsible for the change should always be available to the employees during the transformation. The smallest question should quickly get your attention. You do not always need the answer, but it’s important that you listen, evaluate and take into account what is said. It easily happens that negative pulses are spread rapidly when organizations or projects undergo fast changes. Since people often like to strengthen the negative pulses and spread them further it is important as a project/change manager to try to stop the resistance before it is going further.

  1. Structured planning and regular communication

Change management is just like project management that have preparing, plan and up-following. Starting early to prepare your change and having structured change plans will definitely help you to manage the change better. Don’t forget the important of communication. Regular communication and sharing of information will keep everyone updated in order to follow up the change status in a better way.