The Value of People in your Digital Journey
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Fundamentally, any change has to be about people. And the Digital Value Journey that we are introducing in the upcoming CXO Digital Leaders Dialogue Series is no different. 

The journey covers five stages of development involving five capabilities. Still, without the engagement of the people who will be affected by the change, you will not make progress.

And the situation gets even more complicated when external events impact your business. Ecosystm research unearths the impact of COVID-19: over 90% of respondents changed their planned Digital Transformation in some way (Figure 1). These changes will inevitably mean that the anticipated behaviour changes from their teams no longer apply. Getting the affected people re-engaged with the new initiatives will not be a simple task.

COVID-19 forced organisations to transform

For example, when an organisation I worked at integrated an information-as-a-service capability, we found that our most experienced people did not use the new capability! They preferred to stick with their paper sources as they were very good at finding what they needed.

So nothing is achieved unless someone acts differently. We can change the technology, and we can change the process, but unless the people who need to change do change, we will waste everything else we do.

The scale of the change really doesn’t matter. If people are not in a mindset where they are looking to improve, we waste our time.

In the example I mentioned earlier, our store teams used catalogues to look up parts and equipment for customers. Our most experienced people were amazing – they knew which of the myriad of catalogues was going to give them the best part. We had not convinced them that the real-time system, which the supplier updated constantly, was better for them than the last paper version they had received.

So, on the Digital Value Journey, travellers need to remain very aware of the state of mind of the people whose behaviour they expect to change. Getting and keeping these people engaged is essential to the change.

People’s Resistance to Change

But why do people resist (or just plain ignore) change? How clear are you on what is in it for them?

Recent research on people’s motivation by psychologists such as Daniel Kahneman highlights that people fear loss much more than they look forward to success. To overcome this loss aversion, we need to help people understand why their lives will be better once we’ve completed the change and specifically address their concerns.

When we were looking at replacing the paper catalogues, we told the store teams that they would be able to quickly and easily search across all the catalogues available to them to give the customer the best deal. We didn’t consider that the ability to find the right part was a source of pride for some of the team. It was a skill that our experienced team members had developed over the years, and they felt we were devaluing their expertise.

We need to help those affected by the change recognise the purpose of the change and what is in it for them. If there is nothing, then why change?

And leaving people behind on the change journey is never going to lead to success. Their clear understanding of the purpose of the change is essential to getting the anticipated benefits.

I’ve seen change activities launch with a hiss and a roar, but as the pressure comes on during the delivery stages, communication and collaboration drop away. Listening carefully and responding authentically is a necessary part of the journey right through implementation until our teams have fully adopted the changes. A change doesn’t end at the implementation of a capability.

And that catalogue replacement? The delivery team kept listening to the store teams and made some great changes that were asked for. Some of the changes we didn’t understand, but the store teams were adamant. And the development paid for itself in less than six months through increased and better quality sales. 


How do digital leaders shift from providing a cost-focused to a value-focused service? At the CXO Digital Leaders Dialogue series, together with Best Case Scenario, we will be in discussion with leaders who will share their experiences on navigating their digital journey.

To learn more, or to register to attend, visit here

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Alan has proven experience in leading digital change as a CIO across multiple different industries, sectors and geographies. His focus on putting the customer at the centre of outcomes has been successful in implementing digital capabilities across both private and public sector organisations. Through over 30 years leading IT and digital organisations, Alan has developed a deep understanding of relevant strategies and change management approaches. In Super Retail Group, an Australian specialist retailer, Alan delivered omnichannel retail capabilities that offer industry-leading customer experiences. He has a record of dramatic performance improvements with internal IT and Digital teams, supported by strong supplier relationships, that achieve better business outcomes. Within New Zealand’s Ministry of Health, Alan led the implementation of cross-sector systems that improved collaboration within a highly devolved health system. From his first experience with innovation processes in Unilever’s global marketing teams, Alan has used proven and bleeding-edge technologies in powerful combinations that balanced the risks and rewards of new approaches. More recently, Alan has used agile and iterative techniques to achieve rapid returns on investment in complex organisations such as Fletcher Building. Alan is committed to continuous improvement, having seen that yesterday’s exceptional performance is tomorrow’s expectation. He holds a BSc (Information Sciences) from Victoria University of Wellington, reinforced by hard-won experience in demanding real-time business environments. Growing up around water, Alan went on to play water polo at international level. This sport gave him an early opportunity to experience different cultures and countries. With his family of partner, son and daughter, he has lived and worked in both northern and southern hemispheres. Now resident back home in New Zealand, Alan continues to swim for exercise and reads voraciously. A high-speed internet link has become an essential part of life!


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