digital transformation

The human element of a digital transformation

Technology changes in a human world

Over the last year, our daily routines and life as we knew it shifted dramatically. Employees were setting up offices on kitchen tables while organizations redirected strategies and objectives to support business continuity and find new ways to keep employees productive. As a result, the business world increased digital transformation initiatives, even as adoption rates of digital solutions suffered.

Why are organizations seeing a dismal 30% to 40% adoption rate of their new digital resources (1)? In a world where we need only to look as far as our pocket for technology, why do organizations struggle to achieve adoption of new platforms and resources? In short, it comes down to the human element. Humans by nature are habitual, so when faced with a change where they either have little to no influence, do not understand or do not have enough information; resistance can occur. Without an approach to educate, support and train employees on the change, projects will suffer. Change management seeks to close the gap between the human element and any impending upgrade by highlighting the importance, promoting the psychological benefits, opening up the lines of communication and minimizing disruption around the change.

Don’t think that “going digital” as a societal norm means we can completely ignore and refuse to nurture the “human element” when it comes to digital transformation. A change management strategy where one email is sent to announce [insert the name of any digital resource here] may not be what your employees need when it comes to their psychological emotions or technical knowledge as new tools are loaded to their desktops. Research has found that “technical factors” accounted for 35% of project failures, but the remaining 65% were because of “management factors,” in other words “people issues (2).”

Help the “human element” ‘navigate the change

Not every digital transformation, implementation or change requires the same amount of change management, but how do you know how much your project and, more importantly, your employees need? Conducting research through pulse surveys, one-on-one conversations, interviews or focus groups can provide insight into the complexity of the change, pinpoint specific concerns employees have and determine how much effort is needed. People are a critical component to business success, especially when it comes to digital transformation, subsequently, gathering input at the front end of any change is important. So what should you consider?

Who is this change impacting? What is the degree of impact this change will have?

  • What business units? Functional areas? Teams?
  • Are there external groups affected? Vendors? Suppliers? Customers?
  • How much (or how little) will this change impact these internal and external groups?

What communications are needed for these groups?

  • What communication channels already exist?
  • What kinds of communications can we adopt to effectively interact with these groups?
  • How can we reach all impacted groups?

When do those affected by the change need to be informed?

  • How much time do these groups need to prepare, get training and address the change?

How can we engage our team members to help support the change?

  • Where can you leverage team members to help deliver key messaging?
  • Are there areas that need additional nurturing in navigating the upcoming changes?

How can we engage leadership in this change?

  • Where can leadership voice support or deliver messaging?

Ways leadership can engage to support digital transformation

As you research and plan your change management approach, it is also beneficial to gain leadership support to increase project success and adoption. Leadership can influence the way people engage and perform in a digital transformation, share enthusiasm and resolve concerns.

  • Is a new technology replacing an old one?
  • How will it affect roles?
  • Will there be training?
  • Will there be a reduction in force?
  • Will jobs change?

These are legitimate concerns employees have when new technology enters the threshold of any organization. Leadership should be equipped to understand why employees have these concerns, but also prepared to answer the tough questions. Change management is important to a successful digital transformation because it provides leadership with the appropriate tools to empower and energize employees impacted by change. Therefore, leadership teams that work to address the people issues and acquire necessary change management skills find increased success and adoption as they implement new tools.

Much of the change we encounter in our work lives has some aspect of technology. As you embark on your next digital project; remember that people use the technology you implement, not the other way around. Baker Tilly’s transformation professionals can help assess your current digital projects and create a road map for future digital initiatives.


1 Digital transformation is hot, the success rates are not, says BCG data | ZDNet

2 The Science of Organizational Change: How Leaders Set Strategy, Change Behavior, and Create an Agile Culture (

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