Digital Transformation: Embracing Change

Timo Elliott

What’s the hardest thing to manage about digital transformation? It’s not the technology, it’s the people.

Leaders systematically underestimate the time, resources, and effort required to change organizational culture and processes.

Big strategic change means that some people will be worse off than before — and just telling them that they need to embrace the new situation is unlikely to be successful.

melting-snowmen-embracing-change

This certainly isn’t a new problem — this quote from Machiavelli over 500 years ago sums up the problem beautifully:

“It ought to be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.

Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new.

This coolness arises partly from fear of the opponents, who have the laws on their side, and partly from the incredulity of men, who do not readily believe in new things until they have had a long experience of them.”

— Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince, 1513

When it comes to digital transformation, an essential first step is being realistic about who will be negatively effected, and have a plan to optimize the transition.

New IT projects, in particular, tend to assume that just putting some money aside for training with be enough to ensure a smooth transition. Nothing could be further from the truth, and many IT leaders have found that passive or active resistance to change can be a powerful weapon when it comes to blocking project success.

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!” — Upton Sinclair

“Never try to sell a meteor to a dinosaur. It wastes your time and annoys the dinosaur.” — Hugh McLeod of GapingVoid.com

As you plan your digital transformation, make sure you think long and hard about how you are going to work with the people you are making worse off.

For more insight on digital transformation and running simple, see Wrapping Experience Into The Business Digital Transformation Journey


Timo Elliott

About Timo Elliott

Timo Elliott is an Innovation Evangelist for SAP and a passionate advocate of innovation, digital business, analytics, and artificial intelligence.