Digital transformation seems to be a silver bullet. While it is necessary for success, it doesn’t guarantee success for distributors. Companies don’t always manage change effectively when they modify their business with technology. If they don’t introduce digital tools to their organization with effective communication, their odds of success with digital transformation plummet.
What is Digital Transformation?
In a post-pandemic environment, traditional operations are no longer sufficient. Consumers expect businesses to provide a quality digital experience, including faster communications, a speedy order-to-cash cycle and the ability to make purchases online. Additionally, consumers expect salespeople to move away from being “order-takers” and offer tangible, consultative value to them instead.
Most businesses recognize the need for digital transformation. In fact, according to a Gartner survey, nearly 70% of business leaders acknowledged that their company needed to become more digital to stay competitive.
Although many businesses have devoted significant resources to digitalization, a large portion of them have seen a low return on their investment. So why are these companies struggling after pouring so much time and money into digital transformation? For many, the difficulties begin with a lack of communication.
Why is Communication and Change Management Important?
Change can be intimidating for employees – especially when it involves their day-to-day operations and workflow. Many will be concerned about learning new systems, while others may feel technology is replacing them altogether. Your team must be fully on board for a digital transformation to succeed; they should clearly understand why things are changing and how it will benefit them.
According to CNBC, in 2018 several major companies such as Ford and GE poured $1.3 trillion into digital transformation. Unfortunately, after many of their initiatives failed, roughly 70% of their investment was wasted. Two key reasons these companies did not succeed were poor change management and a lack of communication. Managers did not convey why this change was essential and did not give staff appropriate support during the transition. Because of this, these companies were unable to utilize their new tools, and their investments went to waste.
To integrate new technology into your company’s culture, communication and clarity among staff are essential. That is why we’ve gathered three communication tips for successful digital transformation.
Make a Clear Plan
In an interview with Dirk Van Dongen, Senior Advisor to Proton.ai and retired National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors (NAW) CEO, he discussed why digital transformation is vital for distributors and how to manage this change. He pointed out that businesses face an unprecedented number of supply chain disruptions, such as COVID-19, geopolitical issues and more. To counteract these roadblocks, companies need to develop and communicate a clear plan to their team.
“It’s a daunting strategic challenge to create an innovative plan that has clear goals and measurable results. It’s important to do just to be able to stay in the game. Best practices today are table stakes. They don’t get you where you need to be in this changing world. You need to innovate, but you need to figure out what that means in real terms,” Van Dongen said.
Your staff must have a firm understanding of where digital transformation is taking your company and how it will impact them. If they understand that this transition will benefit them – rather than complicate or replace their jobs – they will be more engaged and willing to learn.
Promote Open Communication
Communicating your goals to your team will take careful planning. A single email or meeting will not be enough to get everyone up to speed and onboard with the changes. The way you convey information about your digital transformation must be educating and engaging. Otherwise, your team may ignore or forget about your message.
While you prepare your message and strategy, keep these things in mind:
- Learning Style – People learn and absorb information in a variety of ways. Adapt your message to reach everyone – visual learners, hands-on learners and others.
- Workflow – Your team is busy, so be sure to consider their workflow and adapt your messaging to ensure it is relevant to them. If your team is overwhelmed with other duties, they may forget what you have to say or ignore it.
- Delivery – No single method of delivery will leave an impression on everyone. When communicating with your team, use various delivery styles such as in-person meetings, digital messages and interactive projects.
As your employees learn about and adapt to these changes, be sure to foster a culture of open communication between your management and team members. Employees will find it easier to adjust to digitalization when they can share concerns and ask questions.
Understand this Process Takes Time
Digital transformation will not happen overnight. Change is a process – not a project. As the global business environment shifts towards digitalization, your business must continually evolve.
According to an MIT survey, “Where CEOs have shared their vision for digital transformation, 93% of employees feel that it is the right thing for the organization. But, a mere 36% of CEOs have shared such a vision.”
Ultimately, your team will be what makes or breaks your transformation. You must convey your goals and help them understand what is coming. This process may be slow at first, but by fostering a culture of communication and understanding, your employees will have the tools needed to adapt to anything.
Benj Cohen founded Proton.ai to help distributors harness cutting-edge artificial intelligence. He learned about distribution firsthand at Benco Dental, a business started by his great-grandfather. Later, while studying applied math and data science at Harvard University, Cohen saw an opportunity to bring his two worlds together. He’s on a mission to supply distributors with the innovative technology they need to thrive in modern markets. Reach him through proton.ai.