People tend to resist change, especially big change. This is a huge blocker when successfully trying to execute a company-wide transformation. So how do you get everybody on board? A proven way to counter resistance to change is by making the required change more easily digestible. A technique called slicing the elephant.
The concept is simple. Break up the problem in smaller parts that are easier to manage, still contribute to your success, and build different layers into your approach. In the strategic and architectural runways, as we call these constructs at SQLI, you monitor the milestones while the teams deliver real value, time and time again.
In the meantime, the added value and feasibility of new initiatives are looped back into the daily execution for validation. This way you can continuously measure the actual results, ensuring the daily business takes ownership of the initiatives, ranging for organizational change to actual product development, by communicating frequently and transparently about what is happening, and why. This is especially important when communicating with your customers.
For change to happen on this scale you have to ensure there’s a driving force, preferably one that comes from the combined efforts of the chief marketing officer and the chief digital officer. They provide the empowerment needed to initiate real change in the essential teams. They should also ask the important questions. Does everyone acknowledge the urgency and support the customer-centric approach? Is their communication open and honest about the hurdles the organization faces? When everyone is on board, you can start making the required decisions, both small and big, and enjoy new wins and progress.
We repeatedly point out that communication is important. But communication in these times of change only works if you have an inspiring and shared story, with a hero (the client), a challenge, and a sense of urgency. This allows all actors to focus on the same goals.
Telling your story once won’t have any noticeable impact. Like any good story, it deserves to be repeated over and over again. You have to repeat it every roadmap session, internal company update, and agency briefing. Are you presenting during a big company demo? Share the story and vision again. And again.
Additionally, this vision allows you to create a decision framework, the model needed to prioritize decisions on your roadmap. This also helps you map business value, costs, risk, lead time, and strategic alignment, to name but a few variables. Never forget your story must be build on a foundation of real and relevant data.
You could employ a large number of experts that seem like a perfect fit for your organization, who temporarily empower your team. But inevitably, at some point, they will leave for various reasons, taking their knowledge and expertise with them to their next client or assignment. So what role should they play in the journey of transformation you’re on? They can coach you and your teams. Reflecting, teaching, and mentoring based on the various stages of expertise your teams are on. In order to determine which stage is needed to obtain and sustain, on both an individual and team level, you need to clearly define your path to success.
In addition to a vision, coaching, and a 100% ambassadorship from C-level, you need to work on your product roadmap. Don’t consider your website, commerce platforms or apps as stand-alone channels. View them as part of a total solution, fulfilling the needs, wants, and demands of your current and future customers. Visualizing this journey is made possible by determining a roadmap, which should contain enough detail to make it executable and measurable.
The farther ahead you’re planning, the more abstract your roadmap becomes, since multiple variables – such as the behaviour of the markets, your customers, new technologies and other changes on a macro level – might make you want to rethink your priorities.
The most successful transformations are fuelled by a shift from project-driven to product-oriented organizations. This way you always release value but also get to incorporate market feedback much quicker, thanks to an abundance of data. Becoming and remaining relevant mainly depends on your ability to continuously analyze results, determine value, and your ability to adapt to the changing wants and needs of your customers.
The goal is to reach a stage at which your teams make decisions based on factual data and market results, learning and improving together, releasing new features with the frequency required to validate your decisions by challenging the riskiest assumptions first. Differentiate between what you can learn from factual data, and what you would like to gain a better understanding about.
Here are several data streams that could fuel your transformation and decision making:
But just collecting all this data isn’t enough. The data should be available and actionable to the right people at the right time, in a well-structured format. On top of that, they should be able to combine different data streams to gain new insights, to better assist the customer and predict their needs. Users in their turn should be able to access, query, or filter the data however and whenever they want.
The most important role for management becomes empowering people, and guarding the customer-centric vision and storytelling.
What most articles about digital transformation fail to mention is the importance of the service part of daily operations; the people executing complex and very detailed processes. If your digital teams deliver a new release containing highly anticipated features, continue to make it available to your customers, but don’t put the same effort or budget into acceptation by business and operational colleagues, the entire release will miss its mark. Despite the good intentions and hard work of everyone involved.
That’s why it’s so important to onboard every layer of your organization as early as possible, and show them how their experiences and feedback is taken seriously. Make sure customer feedback is available for them too, so they can experience and validate the results of their own hard work. This feedback should come from customer data and research.
It’s key to reflect on sentiments throughout the organization, caused by internal and external factors. This is done by placing feedback in the correct context aligned with the vision and shared goals, sharing the story, and building innovation on tangible data. This way it’s always clear what needs to be improved, why (the potential value), and in which order. Feedback gathered from your daily operations allows you to gain vital insights, which can then be used to update your product roadmap and plan necessary organizational changes.
Additionally, it’s even more important to involve key business stakeholders as owners, resulting in an active and connected way of working, with high levels of organizational acceptance. Failing to get everyone on board will seriously impede your chances of success, and will most likely make your latest endeavour to adapt to a changing market yet another project that never lead to actual change.
Last but not least, ensure that tooling is updated accordingly, to meet new expectations.
So why the elephant metaphor, you ask? In reality, a complete company-wide transformation is too big of a decision for most managers to comfortably make, mainly due to the equally big risk to fail. Empower them on their journey, by chopping up the task at hand in smaller and more easily digestible chunks. Every chunk is part of the bigger picture, but has its own objectives to measure and complete.
Want to successfully complete your digital transformation? Slice your elephant, focus on your customers, and keep sharing your story.
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