How to manage transformational change successfully

Adrian Odds, Marketing and Innovation Director, CDS

2020 accelerated change in the business landscape significantly. Many were already considering – or in the early stages of digital transformation projects, but the pandemic introduced a sense of national urgency and for some organisations, many years of planned transformation were squeezed into just a few short weeks.

Change can be more difficult for traditional organisations – particularly large enterprises which tend to operate in tightly controlled silos. Here, it can be hard to build consensus around the need for change, but it can equally be hard to then build and maintain momentum, without destabilising operating units and creating a multi-speed organisation. When change is rapid, as it was in the early months of 2020, it’s just as important to watch out for the dreaded law of unintended digital consequences. Rapid improvements in one business process or part of the customer experience can cause significant challenges up and down the value chain that might result in unexpected cost, poor customer or employee experience and negative sentiment.

Many digital change programmes stall when faced with these challenges, and it can be tempting to think it’s easier to stay exactly where you are, but this can cause more problems and leave businesses trailing behind forward-thinking competitors.

The good news is there’s help available, and organisations don’t need to go it alone. Working with the right partner can itself be transformational, particularly when they are focused on enabling your strategic change and aligned with you on improving outcomes, whether that be improved public services, increased customer engagement, or more efficient business processes. With the right guidance, companies can make informed decisions and deliver the right intended outcomes. Therefore, some key advice follows…

  1. Know thyself
Adrian Odds

Modern organisations must work for everyone, not just the majority, and that means putting accessibility and inclusivity at the heart of any change. According to the ONS, 10% of UK citizens are ‘internet non-users’ (never having used it or not in the last 3 months). While this number has halved since 2011, it still represents 5.3m people, who are not being served by your snazzy new digital engagement strategy…

Employees are also critical to the success of your digital transformation. Gartner’s view of ‘Total Experience’ draws a direct relationship between employee experience, customer experience and organisational success. If your teams are not enabled, and engaged, your transformation is at risk.

Anecdotally and somewhat reassuringly, we are finding that every new digital programme our agency is being asked to support is starting with a robust Discovery phase, one that embraces both mainstream, and hard to reach audiences. Clearly lessons have been learnt and we must build our new digital worlds for everyone.

  1. Expect the unexpected

What makes change so complex is that it doesn’t happen in one place, but across the whole business, and often all at once. Therefore, leaders run the risk of creating unintended consequences – by altering one thing it can often impact another area of the business.

So, it is important to take into consideration the relationship between all aspects of implementing a shift – people, technology, customer experience, operations, communication, ecommerce, finance – It’s all connected.

By mapping out a clear plan, objectives and outcomes, organisations can be prepared for all scenarios and build consensus around the purpose and reasons for the change – which doesn’t have to impact timing or budget.

  1. Ensure the right digital platforms are in place

Technology sits at the core of every business. But legacy systems – which no longer support updates – and disconnected tech which lacks integration can make employees jobs much harder and consequently, can lead to bad employee and customer experience.

A change to an organisation’s technology can be difficult and expensive but working with the right partner and insight, can help you to make sound decisions, ease the burden and save costs. Whether it’s cloud migration or legacy application and systems transformation, the key to successful change comes from planning and refinement. Once foundations are in place, organisations can move at a pace that’s right for them – adapting one part of their ecosystem at a time, in a planned and thoughtful way.

  1. Optimise your operations

Businesses – particularly large organisations – rely heavily on procedures. Therefore, this can be slow and difficult to alter. But when faced with customer issues or new regulations, such as quality or security standards, operational transformation is crucial.

There are many ways to do this effectively, which have a positive effect on efficiency and employee productivity. Operational process mapping can help companies detect practices which could be improved, identifying bottlenecks in workflows and other manual tasks which can be automated.

Again, planning here and user engagement are critical to success. Efficiency improvements can feel intimidating when imposed on employees, but when created collaboratively, perhaps using no or low-code technology solutions, can feel empowering and transformational.

  1. Focus on experience

Improving human experience should be at the heart of everything a business sets out to do. Whether that’s putting a digital experience platform strategy in place or conducting behavioural insight, research, and analysis to help roll out a new scheme, a user-centred approach is crucial to success.

Organisations need to engage with their audience, find out what they are thinking or what they are looking for in a new service, and adjust business plans accordingly.

A company which understands its customers’ needs and ensures these are taken care of in all areas – from front end user experience to communication delivery – will excel in their market.

  1. It’s not just digital

If you need to reach every household in the country with a piece of critical or regulatory communications, there are still precious few ways that can be done – and none of them digital. And there are plenty of situations where physical or print engagement is the right method to build engagement and drive action – whether that be signage, letters, leaflets, or maps.

But when you simply don’t have the resources to manage this internally, business process outsourcing is the perfect answer. Solutions can include print management, marketing print, data management, transactional print and mail and hybrid mail, where traditional print drivers are replaced with a direct link to a secure manufacturing site, enabling your remote teams to serve customers without access to office printers. All these strategies ensure you are constantly engaging with your target audience in the right way for them, and clearly communicating any changes being made.

Transformational change doesn’t have to be complex, and complex change doesn’t have to be hard. By starting early, assessing all areas of the business and the needs of your stakeholders, and making sure the right digital resources are in place, success is guaranteed.



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