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How to Successfully Manage Digital Change in Your Business

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As Welsh SMEs take up the opportunities that online technology delivers most businesses will undergo some form of digital change.

Whether that is making the most of cloud technology to remain competitive, dealing with the associated pains of accelerated growth, or implementing a new system; change management is a useful discipline to be aware of.

This guide outlines the value in assessing whether the risk of taking on change is outweighed by the benefit, and how to successfully manage transformation through stakeholder engagement. With well thought out communication from the outset; the board, employees, partners and customers are far more likely to take on digital change that will deliver value on your new investment.

With the introduction of new technologies to your business, some of the benefits include:

  • Business benefits: Change management (CM) maximises the opportunities that can be gained from new technologies.
  • Reduced resistance: Involving people at the start of a project builds their commitment to change; driving efficiencies and supporting stable growth.
  • Company buy-in: CM creates a share division and smooths transition with communication and training for all new roles and responsibilities.
  • Minimised risk: Change management processes allow you to identify challenges and to respond to these effectively.
  • Less disruption: Disruptions to business operations can be identified, anticipated and minimised with careful preparation.

To remain competitive in today’s rapidly evolving business environment more often companies need to embrace digital change. Without it they risk losing their competitive edge and failing to meet emerging needs of their customers.

The changes could be something small, such as using social media for its commercial potential (as nearly two thirds of internet users purchase products online and use social for product research). Or it could involve implementing a new system. And in this instance, without changing people’s behaviour, at best its full potential won’t be achieved and more likely the new system will be rejected and any investment wasted.

Although any change presents risk, the potential impact may well be outweighed by the benefits it delivers.

To minimise disruption make sure these are calculated risks and consult relevant stakeholders in a planning session where you agree who will take responsibility for each area. By involving stakeholders from the outset you are more likely to gain their commitment. Imposed digital change can encounter resistance and thwart implementation.

So how can your business plan for digital change?

Think strategically: Succinctly explain the purpose of the change and describe how things will be after the project has finished. This will help you to identify the different stakeholder groups and plan how to engage with them and which messages will resonate.

Analyse the gaps: Set out the changes that will need to happen between the before and after, and assess the gaps. These could be new ways of working and the new skills and behaviours or attitudes required.

Remove the obstacles: Amend or remove any obstacles that could hinder the change required. These could include current goals, targets and incentives, together with reporting criteria.

Determine the business benefits: This is integral to change management and will help you to increase the successful delivery of quantifiable and meaningful business benefits.

Develop a framework: Focus on how business areas will benefit from change and provide a framework for identifying, planning, measuring and actively managing these benefits.

Assess the readiness for change: Is there commitment for change from the top; how well have previous changes been planned and managed; what levels of risk are people allowed to take without criticism or formal action being taken; is there two-way communication at all levels?

Devise a business change roadmap: This timeline shows the sequence and nature of change through milestones, tasks and responsibilities. It maps out the journey from the current situation to the future.

Address cultural change: Engaging and managing the stakeholders will determine the success of the project. New systems are likely to require staff to work in different ways or even perform different tasks, which can be initially uncomfortable.

Involve people: Informal discussions in a relaxed setting with individuals will bring out concerns that may not be raised in a more formal context and help to formulate ways of dealing with them.

Manage the transition: It’s important to avoid any adverse impact on business operations while change is implemented. It may be necessary to decommission existing systems and migrate the historical data held in them.

Consider the impact: Successfully migrating data is essential for business continuity and will help to maintain staff moral and customer confidence.

For more advice and guidance, please visit the Superfast Business Wales website.

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