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Change Management

The How-To: Managing Change For Your Company's Digital Transformation

The How-To: Managing Change For Your Company's Digital Transformation
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You're reading Entrepreneur Middle East, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.

The latest end-user printing industry survey conducted by International Data Corporation (IDC) in key Central and Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa (CEMA) countries reveals that the number of pages printed declined in 2015. According to IDC’s Printing and Document Trends in CEMA 2016, this result is due to the impact of digitalization of various enterprise processes. One of the most important observations to be highlighted from the survey is that, for the first time, end users in the business sector are reporting that the number of pages printed in the office (page volume) went down because of digitalization initiatives.

At the same time, economic and business conditions ranked as the second most important factors influencing printing output; in the past, these were the top contributors to page-volume dynamics. Four key factors combined to form a perfect storm that inhibited market performance last year: low oil prices, exchange rate fluctuations and depreciation of most local currencies, slowing or declining economic performance, and political instability and military conflicts. Additionally, the emerging markets remain more price/cost sensitive, and turbulence in the business ecosystem typically results in buyers cutting back on the acquisition of new printing devices. The market for printing devices in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) declined year on year by 16.3% in volume and by 16,6% in value in 2015. The decline in the Middle East was slightly higher than in Africa, mainly due to poor results in Turkey and the UAE.

Therefore, it comes with no surprise that the majority of organizations have either already started digitalization initiatives or are planning to do so in the next one or two years. Most vendors’ acquisitions or areas of development in the last five years have been focused on software solutions- now it is the right time to take advantage of those new capabilities. While newer organizations/startups are either already “born” digital or are building their processes based on a minimized need for paper, established companies are continuously seeking to reduce their dependence on paper documents.

Related: How To Develop A Digital Presence For Professional Success

The “Magic” Of Transformation

When a company decides to take such a move as digital transformation, the way it is done and the cause behind such a decision has to be clearly communicated and thought through. Change management is always a major component in addressing the issues of managing the resistance and discomfort experienced by people in an organization when new processes and/or technologies are introduced. This is critical to a successful implementation and realization of the benefits of the change. How do you get people across the enterprise, comfortable with familiar ways of doing business, to embrace new processes and technologies, so they and the organization as a whole can fully realize the benefits of a transformed business process?

It’s easy to think of change management solely in terms of processes and technology, but it’s the attitude and behavior of the people engaged in the processes and using the technology solutions that will ultimately make or break a successful transformation. Today, about 48% of business information is still in hard copy. Documents are intrinsic to the way many people do business. These habits are ingrained and seldom given a second thought, which makes it hard to change the behavior required to fully realize the process and technology improvements of transforming business-critical document processes.

A systematic approach is necessary to manage this people component, not only during the transformation itself but also subsequently for ongoing improvement. A behavioral change system minimizes disruption of business routines and, just as importantly, facilitates higher user adoption rates, greater user proficiency and, ultimately, a culture of continuous improvement.

Preparing For The Change

Before implementing any significant business transformation, it is crucial to adequately plan for the transformation. Much like planning technological or process initiatives, organizational change requires an effective strategy. First, it is essential to understand the degree and characteristics that changing business-critical document processes will have on behavior. What is the extent of the people impact in moving from a current state to a desired state? It is important to assess all the departments and functional areas affected. For example, will the change be introduced in only one department or region? And what impact might this have on the rest of the organization?

Before people will accept change, they need to be aware of a compelling need for it. Senior management plays a key role in clearly and consistently communicating why transforming information management will further incorporate strategic goals and why this initiative is to be supported across all departments. Benefits are further reinforced at the department level by respected domain experts and division managers.

Evidently, a marketing communications specialist is one of the key members of change management team. He is well equipped to develop internal communication plans that help promote awareness and lower the risk of employee alienation. There are various internal communications channels starting from official branded email announcements endorsed by top management, “Did you know” pamphlets and posters, ending with branded post it notes that carry concept change branding. It is important to plan ahead and measure awareness before, during and after transformation to determine whether communication plans are working or need tweaking.

Related: Five Steps SMBs Should Take To Ensure Both Short- And Long-Term Success

Making The Move: Motivating People

Once awareness of why a change is beneficial has been established, people need to be motivated to participate in the change on a personal level. Everyone in a business creates and uses documents- it is intrinsic to the way people in almost any role do their jobs. Habits are ingrained and seldom given a second thought- it takes personal effort to change them. No technology can effectively enforce a willingness to adopt new processes. The only way for real change to happen is to satisfactorily answer one important question: “What’s in it for me?”

Some of the positive consequences of transforming business- critical document processes include making knowledge workers’ jobs easier- more effective and, arguably, more employable. But new processes and technologies frequently involve a learning curve, and this can promote insecurity about whether they will succeed. It is important that the benefits of change need to be perceived as greater than this insecurity and the natural resistance to change. Both the understanding and anticipation of these dynamics are essential for the change management team. Above and beyond proper training opportunities, a plan to overcome these insecurities might include something as direct as sponsored contests, with rewards, to encourage participation in new processes.

An even more powerful agent for change is the influence of well-respected SMEs. Besides having been enlisted in designing and implementing the transformation, their championing of the cause that they have engineered is a powerful motivating force for co-workers and can accelerate widespread adoption.

Reinforcement

Reinforcement actually does more than sustain a changed process; it creates a culture of continuous improvement. A culture of continuous improvement looks beyond the initial transformation for further opportunities of cost savings, greater innovation and improved customer service. There are three steps to reinforcing change, collecting and analyzing feedback; diagnosing gaps and managing resistance; implementing corrective actions and celebrating successes. The change management plan for this phase should include:

  • The means for listening to employees and gathering feedback
  • Auditing compliance with new processes, systems and roles
  • Analyzing the ongoing effectiveness of change management

These tools must be in place before building the awareness and desire to participate. They will be part of the process to help people believe they have what they need to succeed, making the transformation seem less daunting. The collection and analysis of feedback on the performance of the transformation will help identify root causes and pockets of resistance to the use of new processes and technologies- and these, in turn, inform the development of corrective action plans that enable sponsors and stakeholders to manage resistance and extend the initial benefits.

It’s possible that where areas of resistance are identified corrective action may need to be applied, e.g., additional training and emphasizing to employees why transformation is essential to both their goals and those of the corporation. No one-time training event or educational program will substitute for ongoing coaching and mentoring. Outside intervention or support may be required. In addition, don’t forget that incentives can be put in place to encourage aiming for higher goals. In conclusion, it is important to mention that the people component of change management requires a framework for success just like the technological and process components of business transformations. The majority of transformations fail precisely because they do not address the human component of change.

By following this structured approach and using the tools provided, people are engaged, become invested in positive change and empowered to transform costly business-critical document-related behaviors. The benefits of successful “people change management” influence the business as a whole: hitting financial targets, innovating products and services, and improving customer care and support. Reinforcing new behaviors creates a true culture of continuous improvement and the momentum for extending the initial benefits of transforming information management.

Related: How To Manage Change In The Workplace