Digital transformation as an idea has been slowly rising to prominence in the last decade, but it was COVID-19 that brought it crashing through our doors like a runaway train. Businesses had to respond. Fast. Those that had only been nibbling around the edges of their digital transformation were forced to implement anything they could just to keep their business operating and their customers satisfied. Depending on the nature of the business, they may have been even more overwhelmed with increased demands as a result of the pandemic. Others would have had to learn some fancy footwork, pivoting their businesses to make up for any shortfalls.
The speed with which businesses and their staff needed to adapt and adopt was whiplash-inducing, and many have struggled to cope. They’ve been the business casualties, and it’s had its knock-on effects in customer service, staff attitudes, and management stress. So, if you’re still feeling fatigued and a little disoriented, you’re definitely not alone.
Because here’s the thing: Digital transformation is a complex issue with wide-ranging implications. Add in the initial urgency created by the pandemic, then the resultant issues that arose when our “temporary” solutions started to become more permanent, and you have a perfect storm for business stress. (Of course, there are the external stressors of family, community and social issues that come into it as well. It’s any wonder we have so many people crying “The End is Nigh”. It’s not, by the way. We’ve survived worse.)
The complexity of digital transformation is as much about people as the tech decisions we make. No matter what systems or processes we implement, if the people factor doesn’t gel, the whole thing can collapse. All for the want of a nail, to quote the ancient proverb.
So how do we break all this down into something that will help us move forward without adding to our current load?
First of all, be assured there is no going “back to normal”. Digital transformation is not a fad. It won’t go away. In fact, it’s the key to surviving the fourth industrial revolution.
Secondly, you’ve been riding this roller coaster of uncertainty for some time now. It’s time to disembark for a little while. Don’t worry. There’ll probably be another one along soon enough (touch wood). Take some time to review and reflect on everything you’ve done. What worked well? What didn’t? What just needs a little adjusting to make it right?
Finally, communicate and collaborate – with your staff, your customers, your suppliers. Maybe even reach out to other business owners you know. Share your own ideas in turn and work on solutions together. You may be surprised at the knowledge gems lurking just below the surface, but you’ll never know if you don’t ask.
As good as a holiday
A change is as good as a holiday. So the saying goes. But change can also be traumatic, especially if a lot of it is dropped in people’s laps in a short space of time. Managing change is such a critical part of business success that there’s an entire field devoted to it, and it’s particularly vital for businesses that are transitioning new systems and processes into their workplace. In the past, change was dictated from above by the strategic imperatives set by management. Workers were given training, new roles, or even made redundant as a result. No one asked them what they thought.
But the workplace has changed, and so has the market itself. It’s all about experience – customer experience (or CX), user experience (or UX), and human experience (aka HX) are the new imperatives. A good experience builds “engagement” with our colleagues, customers and partners, and it’s how we build the trust and loyalty we need to grow and prosper. Relationships matter. The most important relationships you have should be with the people in your team. Yes, even before customers. Because if your people feel valued and heard, if they believe their contribution is making a difference, they won’t be able to help but give your customers a great experience when doing business with you.
Helping your team cope with change
You’ve gathered the data, and you’ve made your decisions about what you need to improve or create. But before you rush into creating a new process and sending it out to your team, remember what we said earlier: take a moment, then reach out to your most valuable knowledge resource – your team – for help. After all, they’re the ones who are at the coalface every day, carrying out the tasks and dealing with your customers.
Even before start making decisions about what changes to make and what priority they should have, ask your team one simple question: What do they think would make their jobs easier? One consultant we spoke to said a staffer at one company told him just having a second monitor would make all the difference. Not a huge task to fulfil to boost productivity, and it didn’t require any software or procedural changes. Remember the KISS principle – sometimes the simplest solutions are the best, and they don’t have to take a lot of mental effort to execute.
With more complex problems, get your staff on board as early as possible. Tell them what problem you are trying to solve, and what constraints you have to work in. And remember to tell them why you want to do it. Sometimes, the solution won’t come in a straight line, and understanding the why will give your more lateral thinkers a new challenge.
You may not be able to execute all of your team’s ideas but involving them in the process helps them better understand the decisions you’ve made, and make them more likely to adopt the new principles. They’ll also be better able to come up with refinements as you roll out the changes, and to help customers navigate anything that may affect them. Add to this the sense of fulfilment and job satisfaction your people will have from feeling their contributions are heard and valued, and you’ll be building a much stronger, more resilient team.
Engage for change
While we may feel like there’s a lot of work to do and not much time to do it in, you should never underestimate the value of good preparation. This doesn’t just mean planning, but also engaging with your team, your customers and others you work closely with like suppliers. Talk to them constantly to make sure you understand what their problems are so you can focus your own efforts – be it productivity, or product development – in the right place.
It’s a principle we understand well at Way We Do – we encourage everyone in Way We Do land to share their ideas and needs. Our own team then collaborates to develop and refine our offering so you can do what you do that much better. It’s that sense of collaboration and that makes Way We Do users part of a unique community we can all contribute to while get on with our daily business.