Change Management is the key to digital transformation

Gregory_salinger_vincent_boutteauDigital transformation is affecting the way we work, how we manage our projects and our business models. It’s hard to escape, and managing it well has become critical. For a successful metamorphosis, Grégory Salinger, Chief Digital Officer (CDO) at Apax Partners, and Vincent Boutteau, Partner Digital Strategy & Transformation at EY-Parthenon, explain how managers should use change management to organise their transformation.

Bridge the “tech gap” to make the best of the digital revolution

“Echoing Moore’s law, new technologies are being developed at a rapid pace. But the ability of companies to embrace these opportunities remains limited at the managerial and organisational level,” says Vincent Boutteau. As a result, there is a “tech gap”, a divergence between what is possible and what companies worried about staying competitive are actually doing.

Digital transformation requires fundamental change. It’s not enough to order tablets for purchasing, or to create a new e-commerce website. Every level of the company has to be involved. “Consequently, organising their transformation using change management has become critical,” says Grégory. So, what is change management? It’s setting up the right governance and clear processes to encourage acceptance of the innovation digital transformation demands. Using change management, companies can better anticipate the potential risks and obstacles within an organisation and identify the most appropriate solutions to overcome them.

The CEO and the Executive Committee must be made aware

To successfully implement this process, “above all, the CEO’s support and the involvement of the entire Executive Committee are essential,” notes Grégory. The management team needs to be made aware of the urgency of the transformation and closely follow technology developments in the sector. Although some managers are naturally aware of digital and on the lookout for innovative developments, for many managers, digital is a nebulous “thing” that seems far removed from real business issues. Regular training, technological tourism and reverse mentoring can be good ways to ensure that managers buy into the challenges and initiate the most appropriate changes, Vincent adds.

Market trends, customer expectations and technological developments must be considered when plotting an ambitious course for the company. “In many SMEs, the management team’s vision is still often tethered to a product. The challenge is developing a broader goal that takes advantage of the possibilities digital offers,” says Grégory.

This clearly defined goal will give rise to a road map showing quick wins and how to achieve them. “Improving the quality of service could be one of them, if that were a weak spot for the company,” Grégory continues, noting that this would require technological, organisational and process updates. Performance monitoring, customer satisfaction tools or a solid CRM tool would be needed. But for these technologies to be effective, work methods themselves have to evolve.

Get employees on board in making the change

Human capital must be an integral part of the thought process. “Only fundamental work will prepare employees and get them fully on board,” Vincent emphasizes. It starts with establishing a coherent governance system. Whether under the authority of the CEO or not, it has to involve the managers of the departments affected by the plan and perhaps outside experts to support management. Hold them responsible for moving it forward, and for coordinating and monitoring the different priorities of the change strategy, as defined in advance.

Sound governance will encourage employees to get involved and will help develop their skills and the culture of the company. “It will accelerate progress on interdisciplinary projects, by nature essential to digital transformation,” says Grégory. Technological tools can then be used to evaluate progress, according to pre-defined KPIs, to supervise and, if necessary, to make adjustments.

Rely on investment fund expertise

Investment funds, attentive to changes in their portfolio companies, can provide meaningful support to help managers confidently come to grips with this permanent state of change. Private equity specialists can encourage them, get them started, as well as share their expertise. “Seeing good practices in one company often inspires others to move forward,” explains Grégory. Investment funds can thus steer managers toward good approaches to transformation or put them in touch with good service providers.

Digital transformation takes time. But by following the advice of the investment funds and carefully pursuing their transformation strategy, managers will very quickly see a positive change. “If a manager is aware of the digital challenges, has a clear plan, sufficient financial, human and technological resources, a change management system, good KPIs and a vision that can be adjusted to several different time horizons, the initial results should be evident in 6-12 months,” says Grégory. All that’s needed now is to determine the best time to launch the change management plan. Here Grégory Salinger and Vincent Boutteau speak with one voice: “The best time is when the company is performing well. That way, they can get the most benefit from the transformation, rather than being reactive to competitive pressures.”

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Apax Talks is a digital magazine aimed at company managers. It presents growth levers for SMEs, with a focus on TMT, consumer, healthcare and services sectors.