How to manage disruption during digital transformation

If you go into a digital transformation initiative unprepared to manage change, you may well face a mutiny. Digital transformation may sound exciting, but it inevitably involves considerable disruption for individuals as well as the entire organization. Affected team members often feel a loss of control and connectedness.

Your goal as an IT leader should not only be to avoid backlash but to turn the change into an opportunity to deepen engagement among those affected. It is critical that teams gain more control as part of the transformation. Transformation should not happen to them; rather, team members should help make transformation happen.

Individuals need to have a say on changes, whether these involve new architectures and models, new algorithms, or decision-making and supervisory processes. Team members should be significant contributors to your final digital transformation.

[ Also read Digital transformation: 5 reality checks before you take the plunge. ]

Roles will change, creating new opportunities for employees and the organization. For example, if an algorithm will replace an employee to approve loans or make decisions based on data, could that employee then become a supervisor who oversees these decisions?

Also, digital transformation, by definition, creates more virtual settings, meetings, decisions, and environments. This augmented reality can make it more difficult for people to communicate and feel empowered and connected to the company.

3 tips for dealing with disruption during digital transformation

Here are three points to help your teams manage disruption during digital transformation.

1. Communicate

The most challenging task is to prepare your team for change and help them embrace it. Communicating and clarifying up front exactly what will change and which roles will be impacted is critical.

Communicating once is not enough. During digital transformation, change is all-encompassing and constant. Think of your team members as consumers and apply the Rule of Seven, which states that people need to hear or see a message seven times before they will act.

Use email, video calls, small team meetings, and in-person interactive sessions to make sure all team members understand and are engaged.

Also keep in mind that every individual has a preferred learning method. In addition to communicating your message multiple times, use email, video calls, small team meetings, and in-person interactive sessions to make sure all team members understand and are engaged.

2. Create connections

Fostering a renewed sense of community creates new connections for existing teams and cross-functional teams. Encourage collaboration and offer a holistic view of a release’s full lifecycle, from design and development to operations, testing, and launch. Assign product managers and business owners so team members understand how their work connects to the broader digital transformation.

[ Read also: Cloud strategy: What CIOs really want from cloud providers ]

Further, consider integrated platform teams to manage cloud migration or cloud transformation. That way, as workloads and decisions move to the cloud, employees can be part of an integrated team using the cloud platform across different business functions. This will help give teams and team members a sense of connectedness.

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Effective communication will enable your organization to identify where skill upgrades are needed and to ensure that talent gaps are filled with the right people. Employees who use this opportunity to upgrade their skills will help drive the organization to the next level.

3. Control

The most essential component of digital transformation is people, not technology. Empower your team members with control in your digital transformation. Enable and encourage them to learn new skills.

Digital transformation cannot happen without disruption. But disruption builds stronger, more resilient teams when people are empowered in the new world they helped create.

[ Discover how priorities are changing. Get the Harvard Business Review Analytic Services report: Maintaining momentum on digital transformation. ]

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