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How to adapt and embrace digital transformation

By Jens Kristiansen, Consulting Manager, Arbela Technologies

I have been in the ERP food chain for more than 10 years, implementing in almost any type of industry including selling bicycles, manufacturing adult diapers, hearing aids, brewing beer, distribution and transportation companies, precious metals – just to name a few. The ongoing theme in all implementation projects has been the challenge of change management.

I have always said being an implementation consultant is 50% consulting, product knowledge and process knowledge, and 50% psychology. The latter is what this post is about -- how to get employees to adopt into the digital transformation era. That journey can be scary and very difficult for a company. Digital transformations are happening more and more often. That is due to the constantly evolving technology and requirement of improving productivity. This causes companies to introduce new systems that require adoption from the employees – then we are back to the challenge and psychology of change management.

So, what challenges do companies face? Some of the most common challenges companies are met with when facing digital transformation are:

Company culture.
The company culture can represent an unwillingness to adapt, or they are simply not ready to adapt. A company can feel that they are ready and willing, but the company is just not mature enough for the change. Change can be scary to an employee. Questions like -- why change something that is already working? What is going to happen with my job? What if I don’t understand the new technology? All of these questions can lead to anxiousness, uncertainty, and ultimately a resistance to change. The question, therefore, is not if we will encounter resistance to change, but when and how are the employees being supported in the transition process.

Financial and political challenges.
There may be a difference in opinion on technological investments, which can cause discrepancy and competition between systems. Reasons for retaining to the legacy system could be based on the same questions as asked above.

Technological changes.
Working in the ERP space, it is not uncommon to see new versions of software being released that is promising but not ready for a real-life implementation yet. Depending on the company, these new releases or technologies can be either intriguing and exciting where the company is eager to try it out, as opposed to being more conservative wanting to wait until most of the bugs have been fixed. 

So, what can be done to make the digital transformation as painless as possible? 

1. Gain buy-in with engagement and involvement - Gaining buy-in should not only happen on the decision-making level, but with everyone. Identify stake holders to get financial buy-in, strategic buy-in, and sponsorship work with the decision-makers across the company to secure alignment and mutual understanding and involvement. Communicate and share the vision with everybody. Keep the communication and messaging transparent. That will clarify many questions and uncertainties at a very early stage. Work with key users at all levels in order to gain input and information. Involving the employees will give them a sense of empowerment and in turn, that will enhance the trust and willingness to adopt.

2. Gain trust and willingness to adopt - In order to gain the trust and and adoption for digital transformation, gathering information on processes and personas at the earliest stage is very important. This will help map out and prioritize the changes and effects that will occur in the future. With that mapping, you will be able to identify areas of risks for, not only the digital transformation change process, but also the effects. This will create visibility for the employer, and thereby gain trust and willingness. Finally, start with workshops and training as early as possible. Employers have different knowledge levels on technology, so the more the employers gets involved, the better advocacy and knowledge, you will have doing the digital transformation process.

3. Gradual or BIG BANG (immediate change)? - Whether it is a gradual or an immediate change depends on many different aspects. The magnitude of a change can have an impact on how the employees will adapt to it. We are seeing a more gradual approach to ERP these days primarily because of buy-in for the changes in smaller more achievable objectives. One area of the project will delay the other areas and will have a trickle down effect of negativity vs. a gradual approach where people are hyper-focused on smaller objectives.