What if the main challenges to Digital Transformation were more human than technical?

The change management issues are at the heart of any transformation projects. Indeed, the great majority of significant changes have greater chances of success when managed as projects.

Behind the  real needs of organizations to evolve, what do project managers deploying such changes face ?

 "Slowness, resistance to change, inertia…"

as told me my friend Vincent Iacolare, Synertal.

I concur with Vincent to say that project management methods are not going to change this well established fact. Really, " give meaning! " is what we need to onboard all stakeholders in any profound change.

If we go back to the systemic approach in 4 stages proposed by Vincent for any transformation…

  1. Define the strategy and strategic alignment: where are we going?
  2. Understand the human resources aspects: with and for whom?
  3. Define the tactics and the process: how do we get there?
  4. Implement of the transformation: what is the road map?

… how can we apply it to digital transformation ?


1. Where are we going ?

  • Articulate the purpose of the digital transformation: what is the final goal? How well is this objective aligned on the strategy of the enterprise? How will-we know we have reached the target or not? Let us list and clarify the objectives and their alignment on the strategy that the project sponsor has in mind. Let’s establish the scope of the project, its contents and schedule.
  • Define our departure point: is there a common base resulting may be from prior transformations? A current situation checkpoint is necessary and it will probably put in evidence the need for differentiated approaches according to the stakeholders with  specific action plans and communication tailored to this digital transformation project.
  • Measure impacts and risks:  digital transformation has of course technological components but not solely nor mainly! The digital transformation is above all human, economic, organizational, communication… we need to identify and understand such impacts and risks as well as potential benefits.


2. With who and for whom?

  • Take the pulse of human capital: for the people whom we are going to help (through this digitalization project) to become more digital, what will it enable them to achieve for themselves? Why will they really want to join this project? Some of their activities will certainly be facilitated by this change but to what extent? How will these people know when they have reached their digitalization objective? Like any other project, we have to identify the stakeholders of the project (among which the customers) and understand where they stand currently. This differs per organizations and even between teams and individuals within these.
  • Identify the key players for the transformation (opponents and promoters), the people who count (sponsor, coach, trainer, leader). Let us draw up a plan to proactively manage the stakeholders: roles and responsibilities, attitude towards the project, potential impact, communication plan, training … this plan has to take into account the position of these players throughout the change process because each will move across the transformation journey at his own rhythm, whatever we do.


3. How do we get there?

  • Once the direction and objective in place, start with agreeing with the sponsor and key project team members on the selection criteria for the tactical approach to apply (timeframe, costs, efforts, resources, business impact, people impact)
  • Then, identify the various tactical approaches using the methods well known project management methods such as the strengths and the weaknesses analysis (SWOT), the theory of constraints (TOC), and risk analysis…
  • Choose the most relevant approach for our specific context and project by applying the above agreed criteria.


4. What’s the roadmap?

  • Formalize the bases of the transformation: groundwork, project set up and organization, to planning …
  • Anticipate the project launch: Build a momentum, mobilize the entire company on this digital transformation journey that is necessary and even mandatory!
  • Launch the project: announce the change in a concrete way, be pragmatic and visible.
  • Keep the dynamics of transformation  via active listening: facilitate  brainstorming sessions,  proactively manage conflicts,  set up meetings,  build of new sign posts for the people.
  • Follow up on the project: progress, results, regular communications, put in evidence first successes and benefits…
  • Consolidate results and continuously improve this digital transformation journey towards a new corporate culture!


A digital transformation project is not easy to manage but as project managers and with good preparation we can overcome " inertia, resistance, slowness… "

In the modern world in which we live, an elementary change is not enough, profound transformations are necessary.

Michel Operto

I've been leading IT projects for more than 20 years at telecom and computer manufacturers: Thomson Sintra, Digital Equipment, NCR, Nortel Networks, Orange Business. My passion is Project Management and leadership and I run a blog on the PM best practices at http://dantotsupm.com/