When IT leaders talk about digital transformation, we toss out terms like dataverse, cloud computing, 5G, machine learning, artificial intelligence, and others.
For many people in your organization (probably most, in fact), these words are a foreign language, full of ambiguity and anxiety. What may be exciting to you is likely raising fear of the unknown for them, even introducing questions about competence, capability, and value.
Fretting and fumbling in a quicksand of technical jargon is NOT how you want people to feel about your digital transformation.
Instead, you want them to be inspired by the possibilities it can bring to the organization and even their own career growth. If you can get people excited about and inspired by your true north, you can drive real progress and change.
[ Also read Digital transformation: 3 guiding principles for 2023. ]
Here are five strategies that can help you reveal the big picture, smooth the way, and elevate your digital transformation:
1. Ground it in the ‘why’
Be clear and straightforward about why you are undertaking the transformation, including the outcomes you will deliver for customers, employees, and the business. Talk in terms of capabilities and possibilities. Your goal is to have people at every level of the organization say, “I get it. This makes sense. This is exciting. I see where I fit in. How can I help?”
Everyone in the C-Suite should be comfortable explaining – in simple terms – the reasons for the transformation, the benefits to each type of stakeholder, and the long-term vision – and do so simply, consistently, and repeatedly.
2. Inspire people through storytelling
Share textured stories of what digital transformation will mean for key stakeholders in their day-to-day lives. Make the possibilities tangible, relatable, and inspiring. For example, machine learning might conjure images of robots taking over jobs for some workers. Tell a story about how a group of employees no longer needs to spend their time on the mundane task of address verification – now handled by AI – and can instead focus on bringing real value to customers.
3. Demystify with transparent metrics
Build a digital transformation dashboard and make it accessible to all. Show goals, progress, and roadblocks. Allow teams to view and interact with the metrics to see the quantifiable outcomes your digital transformation is driving for the organization. But keep it simple – boil it down to key data points that help you tell your story.
4. Speak in plain language
It may be tempting to use all that cool digital lingo to impress people, but your efforts could fail to bring deeper understanding of the change. Speak about digital transformation in the language of your business or industry so stakeholders can quickly digest, understand, and buy-in from wherever they sit.
Remember, “digital transformation” means using technology to find faster, easier, and more efficient ways of doing things. Say so and use an example from daily life – such as Netflix recommendations or chatbots, to resolve quick issues.
5. Stay human
Human beings are at the center of any digital transformation. Always start there. Not everyone is as comfortable as you are around digital transformation efforts and activities. Humans can be fearful, anxious, excited, and confused. Humans make mistakes and grow from those mistakes. Focus on authentic, transparent communications with the humans who move your organization forward and move out from there.
When you put the needs of people at the heart of your transformational efforts, success with operations and technology cannot be far behind.
[ Learn the non-negotiable skills, technologies, and processes CIOs are leaning on to build resilience and agility in this HBR Analytic Services report: Pillars of resilient digital transformation: How CIOs are driving organizational agility. ]