Digital change agents: The key to successful digital transformation in business

5 min read | Jacky Carter | Article | Technology

Three colleagues looking at a computer screen

Learn all about digital change agents, the key to a successful digital transformation strategy for your business. Jacky Carter, Customer Experience Director at Hays, tells us more.

Digital transformation in business: Key insights

Virtual reality to IoT and artificial intelligence – digital change is sweeping pretty much every aspect of our lives. We see it everywhere, from shopping and leisure to work and personal finance.

We also see it in business. As such, leaders are under increasing pressure to transform their organisations – and fast. 

But it’s not easy. And, unfortunately, many that I hear about are going about it in the wrong way. In fact, I recently read a survey by consultancy firm, McKinsey, which found that transformations are three times more likely to fail than to succeed. The odds are against us!

So, what does a successful digital transformation strategy look like? In my opinion, it should have:

  • Buy-in from knowledgeable staff
  • Support across the business
  • A strong impact from your digital change agents.

How can you get started?

Digital transformation in business: Background

In my role at Hays, my days are filled with evaluating the right technology for our business. I need to ensure that technology is successfully implemented in a way that delivers on our initial objectives. 

As such, I’ve been involved in countless digitalisation projects over the years. As you might imagine, I have learnt many lessons along the way. Some approaches have worked, and some have not.

Of course, every organisation is different. In this blog, I want to share with you one of the keys to successful digital transformation. Read on to learn more.

People are what determine the success of your digitalisation efforts

For digital change projects to succeed, business leaders and their immediate teams need to spend time building a framework for delivery. Focus on making the right technology choices, drafting timeframes and budgets and formalising ROI measurements.

All of this is hugely important, but so too is the human side of digital transformation. And I think that’s where many organisations fail. Essentially, your digitalisation project will only be successful if people adopt it.

Fostering company wide buy-in

But it’s not just the people who will be using the technology who matter. For a digital transformation project to be truly successful, it needs to have garnered companywide buy-in. Your digital transformation needs to have gone viral – from the board level to the frontline. 

Here lies the challenge. How does a small (or, in some cases one person!) leadership team communicate and foster buy-in across a workforce of hundreds or even thousands? The answer: identify your digital change agents. Essentially, these are the people who will communicate with, and engage your wider workforce in the change.

What is a digital change agent?

In my own personal experience, identifying and working with digital change agents has very much been an organic process. Mostly, it has come about as a result of human relationships built up over time.

Over the years, I’ve been lucky enough to have built great relationships across our business. And, along the way, I have intuitively got a feel for those who are naturally passionate about, and interested in technology. 

When I’m introducing new technology to the business, I will often use this pool of people to help inspire the wider business. They are a key part of how we successfully implement change in our business.

Setting out your digital change agent criteria

I think it’s a huge mistake to assume that digital change agents should be confined to only working in tech-orientated roles, or of certain seniority. This kind of siloed thinking isn’t helpful and won’t bring you the results you need.

The real key is their ability to command trust and respect. Think about it – these people will serve very much as your voice of technology, so you need to ensure they will be listened to.

Crucially, don’t veer away from those who may challenge you and your thinking. Some of my most influential and impactful change agents were once naysayers. 

Instead, try seeking out those who are resistant to change. Encourage them to discuss their concerns openly with you. You may be surprised at how valuable this feedback is. And, once on board, you’ll often find that these people will be your greatest champions of change.

Getting maximum impact from digital change agents

In my experience, it’s not enough to simply have fleeting, one-off meetings and interactions with your digital change agents. This is a relationship, and like any other relationship, you need to nurture it.

I’ve always found the greatest value when I’ve sought buy-in early into a digitalisation project. Your change agents need to feel that they are part of the change story. If they feel more connected to it, their impact will be greater, as their message and commitment will be stronger.

Once the journey has started, bring them along with you on every step of the way. Establish clear and open lines of communication. Remember that your change agents are very much the eyes and ears of the business, and their feedback and perspective throughout each stage are invaluable.

Digital transformation in business: Your next steps 

I’ve been involved in implementing a lot of digital change over the years – and it’s not all been smooth sailing. But digital change agents, or ‘change champions’, have been the most useful weapon in my digitalisation armoury. 

People are power. I strongly urge you to call on your colleagues to be a part of driving forward the digital change your organisation needs to survive. They are the key to your success.

Read more digital transformation tips and insights on our website.

About this author

With more than 30 years of experience in the staffing industry, Jacky’s expertise spans many aspects of Hays’ business including operations, marketing, RPO and technology.

In her current role, Jacky spearheads a number of strategically significant partnerships for Hays including LinkedIn, Xing, Google, GO1, Mya and StackOverflow. Her unique and invaluable remit is to make sense of emerging trends and technology in the HR and broader world, identifying, evaluating and implementing the tools that enable Hays to power the future world of work.

Jacky is a well-respected and generous thought leader within the industry, regularly authoring articles and sharing her knowledge and expertise through multiple channels.

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