25 Apr

Leading Digital Transformation (Step 5)- Empower and Remove Barriers

Removing Barriers

Image Source: NYTimes

The purpose of this stage is to overcome barriers to Digital Transformation. It is crucial to remove barriers to change, change systems or structures that pose threats to digital transformation. These barriers could be structure, skills, systems and supervisors. Three main best practices for removing barriers to change are:

Educate & Engage

When major changes are initiated we need to think about new behavior, skills and attitudes that are required in the new world. A good training with right kind of experience enables digital transformation in a big way. Always remember that encouraged and empowered employees make an enterprise win!

Inform & Negotiate

Every transformation will have it’s fair share of problem stakeholders. A huge category of such problem stakeholders can be influenced directly and indirectly. These stakeholders are not just against the change but also have huge organizational influence. There is no way that your change will be successful without including them in the process. Understanding the real needs/fears of such stakeholders is very critical as you try to negotiate with them to be the supporters of your change.

Every time after a successful negotiations I feel like this

Sucessful Digital transformation Negotiation


Some of the problem stakeholders are completely against the change but don’t have huge influence on the organization. The best strategy for such stakeholders is to give them very high level information and keep them out of your routine. You may like to negotiate with such stakeholders but that may not be the best use of your time!

Related Articles:

8 steps to digital transformation

Leading Digital Transformation (Step 1) Creating Sense of Urgency

Leading Digital Transformation (Step 2) Build a Guiding Coalition 

Leading Digital Transformation (Step 3) Develop Vision & Strategy 

Leading Digital Transformation (Step 4) Communicate and Enlist volunteers

22 Jan

Leading Digital Transformation (Step 4) Communicate and Enlist volunteers

“Change happens when it is done by the people and not to the people!”

 communicate vision to enlist volunteers

Enlist Volunteers

In step 2 we talked about building a guiding coalition. Now is the time to take participation in Digital Transformation to new levels by enlisting volunteers. It is just like software moving from Alpha to a beta stage. The intent is to have more adopters who can participate, provide live feedback and become the change agents.

Raise a bigger force of people who are ready, willing and urgent to drive the Digital Transformation change. The other intent of this step is to make more co-authors of this Digital Transformation change. As more people will get engaged in the earlier stage hence they will become the true carriers of the vision and message. In order to expand use the power of communication.

Communicate Vision

The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place. -George Bernard Shaw

Communication seems to work best when it is direct and simple. Simple communication only comes through great clarity of thought plus courage to keep it simple. Even when this is a Digital Transformation All jargon and technical language must be avoided at any cost while you communicate vision.

Tip: If you are originally from technology background like me, this may be an area of improvement.

A picture is worth a thousand words

Well chosen words can make it memorable, even if it has to compete with hundreds of other communications for people’s attention. Always remember logic makes us think, emotion drives us to act. Emotion can also come from analogies, stories, or concrete examples that illustrate what success looks like while you communicate vision.

I am guilty of over communicating the technology infrastructure we plan to bring and invest into. Every time I did that I have seen faces in the room who leave without getting the vision of Digital Transformation.

Tip: Communicate vision in terms of business benefits and that too in a simple language that even a grandmother can understand. Analogy and examples are a great tool for that.

Metaphors have a way of holding the most truth in the least space. -Orson Scott Card

We should use all the vehicles available to communicate vision. The message should come from all different channels. Big meetings and small, memos and newsletters, formal and by the coffee machine interaction – all are effective for spreading the message. We should continue to do this repeatedly as ideas sink in deeply only after they have been heard many times. If you are a marketer, you very well understand how many impressions lead to conversion. It hardly happens with just one impression!

You and other key players should live the vision in real time. Everything that is being done by the key team should be aligned to the vision and strategy for the Digital Transformation. Even repeated attempts to communicate vision cannot help if you and your key team are not acting as per the vision and strategy. If there are any inconsistencies, those should be addressed immediately and communicated.

“Swallow your pride and always be ready to accept that you may not be right” – Your Truly

As Digital Transformation lead, I have sometimes avoided two-way communication as I was afraid of a stakeholder not adopting my vision. Over these years I have learned that two-way communication is always more powerful than one-way communication. Two-way communication may suggest sometimes that we are on the wrong course and that vision needs to be revisited. Swallowing our pride and reworking the vision or strategy is far more productive that heading off in the wrong direction or with a wrong strategy for Digital Transformation.

The more we elaborate our means of communication, the less we communicate.- J. B. Priestley

Previous Articles:

8 steps to digital transformation 

Leading Digital Transformation (Step 1) Creating Sense of Urgency 

Leading Digital Transformation (Step 2) Build a Guiding Coalition 

Leading Digital Transformation (Step 3) Develop Vision & Strategy

15 Nov

Leading Digital Transformation (Step 2) Build a Guiding Coalition

Guiding Coalition

Building a Guiding Coalition

Assemble a diverse alliance of enthusiastic people with power, credibility and influence to think, design and support digital transformation. This alliance is what John Kotter refers to as build a guiding coalition.

It is a Coalition and not a Team for digital transformation

Coalition is a combination or alliance, especially a temporary one between persons, factions, states, etc . This alliance has a wide representation from
  • different silos/business divisions/departments
  • diverse background and different expertise
  • different organizational levels
The digital transformation coalition mostly starts small and becomes bigger over few months.

The coalition is to guide the digital transformation

This group should have the intellectual ability to design the digital transformation. The individuals should be able to understand the need for digital transformation. They should be able to help you create strategic vision. Members will share excitement with others and make them interested in this effort. They are the change agents that will help you enlist the volunteer army for the change.
“You win by working hard, making tough decisions and building coalitions” – John Engler

Perfect candidates for digital transformation guiding coalition

  1. Early Adopters: These individuals are opinion leaders who listen to new ideas and are open to trying them. They are socially connected in the organization and have credibility. They are key to adoption of digital transformation due to credibility and influence.
  2. Executive Stakeholders: It is critical that one of the early adopters is from the executive team. Positional strength besides credibility and influence is must for digital transformation success.

Avoid these

  1. Don’t engage Innovators in this group. They are the ones who are first to embrace the change, are bright, enthusiastic and open to new ideas. Unfortunately they lack social influence and credibility. Their inclusion in this step may lead to quick death of digital transformation.
  2. Avoid late adopters or laggards until you have created few wins.

This post is part of series of post on Digital Transformation.  You can read Step #1 of Digital Transformation at http://rohitprabhakar.com/sense-urgency-digital-transformation/

10 Nov

Leading Digital Transformation (Step 1) Creating Sense of Urgency

Sense of Urgency

“Sense of urgency is not the natural state of affairs. It has to be created and recreated.”
John Kotter from his book “A sense of Urgency”
Leading Digital Transformation at any level requires an ability to create an atmosphere of urgency. An atmosphere that can motivate and keep the team focused on a daily basis. Only in that atmosphere digital transformation becomes an urgent and highly needed change.

Why to create sense of urgency?

Without a sense of urgency, desire loses its value. — Jim Rohn
It will spark the initial motivation to get things moving and then keep the momentum going for digital transformation.

Who should you work with to create sense of urgency?

Ideally you should work with the top leadership and then it should come from top to bottom. This is only possible if currently a tornado like situation exists in your company.
Realistically, you will have to work with early adopters both at your level and some at senior leadership level. These are people who:
  • Trust you and your motives,
  • Willing to understand your vision for digital transformation to some extent,
  • Willing to work with you and
  • Have a good influence inside the organization.
I will talk more about this group in my post next week.
Please don’t go overboard and try to convince everybody. Start with creating sense of urgency with few who are critical and important to your digital transformation change.
Objections, low trust and demotivation are common to this phase. During this phase I hear things like:
  • Someone already tried this few years ago and they failed. Good luck!
  • This is going nowhere as we have seen similar things many times.
  • This organization will never do it that way.
  • We are already invested in IT and I cannot understand why we need a digital transformation.
Thanks to such advisors as it helps me to identify them as not early adopters.

How to establish sense of urgency

(all examples are from digital transformation of marketing use case)

Only crises, potential crises or big opportunities can help create a sense of urgency.


Identify crises/potential crises and use data to define the threat:

Here are some of the examples that you can focus on:
  • Examine market and competitive realities: Your competitors may already focusing on digital transformation. Best place to get this data is:
  • their job sites,
  • competitive analysis platforms like SimilarWeb,
  • SEO platforms like BrightEdge,
  • conferences where your competitors may be presenting digital insights e.g. MarTech
  • Vendors in your industry as they may be also serving your competitors.
  • Risk of disruption: Do I need to talk on this topic?? A good book on this topic is Digital Disruption: Unleashing the Next Wave of Innovation by James McQuivey
  • Understand and quantify the risk of privacy or legal lawsuits: At large companies organizational and data silos may lead to vulnerability from privacy lawsuits. The case for digital transformation is worth alone just to handle this risk especially if you are in the European Union.

Identify major opportunities and define opportunity using the power of data:

The best place for marketing teams is to start with an opportunity assessment of all your digital properties. It is easy and can be achieved in 3-6 months. Tag all your digital properties with same analytics tag so that you can understand:
  • How the traffic flows within and outside your digital ecosystem
  • Type of customers/prospects that frequent your digital ecosystem
  • Identify some high value prospects
  • Identify the associated opportunity if you are able to properly engage them across all digital properties
I have seen this analysis work wonders and can alone help you get the buy in for digital transformation from the top executives.
Other sources of data for identifying and defining the opportunity are surveys/voice of customer, cross sell, up sell, cost savings from platform, agency spend etc.
Try to focus on opportunities that needs short timeline and has a strong ROI. I will talk more about this when I write about generating short-term wins.
This article is Part 1 of the 8 posts that I promised to publish in my recent post:
02 Nov

8 steps to digital transformation

leading-change-and-change-management-1Digital transformation is something I am extremely passionate about and I have the privilege to do it for few great organizations. Digital transformation is less about technology but more about the change that you bring. Change to people, culture of the organization and the processes. The following is a framework that I have been successfully using to bring digital change for many years.

  1. Create a sense of urgency
  2. Build a guiding coalition
  3. Develop vision & strategy
  4. Enlist a volunteer army
  5. Enable action by removing barriers
  6. Generate short term wins
  7. Sustain acceleration
  8. Institute change

In next 8 weeks I am going to pick each one of them and share my experience as it relates to digital transformation. So stay tuned!

2 years ago I was introduced to John P Kotter’s book on leading change by my mentor who was Mr. Kotter’s student. Since then I have adopted his format as it matches what I have been using and has also given me a better structure. If you like reading books, I will not mind if you skip reading all of the  8 follow-up posts. I highly recommend his book “leading Change”.

Leading Change by John Kotter

leading change by John Kotter