Overflowing file cabinets, data buried beneath years of hoarding, and spreadsheets that rely on manual entry. These are the signs of a business stuck in the past. Time to take things digital!

If you’ve been looking for ways to simplify your working life while still offering the best service to your customers, then you’re already on your way towards digital transformation.

This may involve switching from tired and outdated legacy systems to new HR platforms, payroll software, workforce management systems, scheduling apps and more.

But for some reason, companies find these changes hard to implement. According to insights firm McKinsey, only 16% of organisations say that they’ve been successful in their digital transformation efforts. Why might that be? And how can it be made easier?

Exploring the problem

Of course, there’s loads of possible reasons why a digital transformation strategy might fail to achieve its goals. Perhaps one of the biggest reasons is that there’s a pretty big disconnect between how managers think they’re introducing new software, and what they’re actually doing.

A PwC report suggests that almost all C-suite bosses think they’re taking into account the needs of their employees when introducing new tech into the workplace. In comparison, only half of employees have the same opinion. Yikes.

But there is good news. McKinsey’s research shows that small businesses are 2.7 times more likely to succeed in their digital transformation efforts than their larger counterparts. And you can further boost your chances by introducing new software in a way that not only engages your team, but actually does what they want it to do. Here are a few helpful tips for introducing new software in a positive way:

Six steps to introducing new tech

1) Sell them on the benefits

It’s time to take a lesson from your marketing team. Marketers know that audiences are far less interested in what a product actually is; instead, they want to know what it can do for them. And this can be a great approach for introducing new software.

Your team might not be interested in all the tech wizardry at hand, but they do want to know about its benefits.

Save time? No more messing with spreadsheets? Don’t have to fight with 20-year-old databases? They're the benefits people really want.

2) Prepare for the change

A mistake lots of businesses make is jumping into digital transformation head first, without getting ready first. Preparation is a massive part of change management, and it involves gradually adapting certain bits of business operations to make for a simple and straightforward implementation.

A good approach is to create a list of those who will be using the new software, and anyone who might be impacted by the change, and support them as they get ready to adapt.

3) Communication & training

McKinsey research shows that the skills gap is the biggest obstacle standing in the way of successful digital transformation - basically, people not knowing how to use their newfangled tech.

In a 2019 report, a whopping three-quarters of IT employees questioned said that they "weren’t confident in their ability to understand and use the types of technologies that have been positioned as the next big thing".

By properly communicating, scheduling training sessions, and upskilling your team, this will be much less of a problem.

Photo by NESA by Makers / Unsplash

4) Get key people onboard

One effective way of introducing new software is to do it from the inside out. That means not forcing the change as management, but bringing it in with the help of certain team members.

To do this, you’ll need to gather some influencers within the company; people who are admired, who are listened to, and who have the confidence to create change. They could be managers, team leaders, learning co-ordinators, or those seeking some career development.

By getting these folks onboard as your company’s early adopters, it may be easier to get their colleagues to feel more comfortable with the change.

5 ) Set a transition period

Forcing your team to go ‘cold turkey’ isn’t going to work, especially if there’s a learning curve involved with the new software. But creating an open-ended crossover will do nothing to motivate or encourage your team’s laggards to make the switch.

So the compromise here is to set a transition period that gives decent time to migrate any vital data and get to grips with the differences between the systems before binning your old systems. During this time, make sure that your team knows who they can ask for help and where they can find information and support.

6 ) Listen

Some veterans might not be keen to work with new software. But instead of writing them off as luddites, why not listen to what they have to say?

Some might be concerned that they don’t have the right skills. And some may have had poor experiences with new software in the past. By listening to your team and encouraging them to share their voice, you may find that it’s actually easier to frame the change as solving their problems rather than the company’s. That way they’re more likely to get them excited about the change.

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Digital Transformation: it's a two-step process

When companies go through digital transformation, they tend to go straight to implementing new tech. What many seem to forget is that the technology itself is the second step in a two-step process.

That crucial first step is preparing and supporting the workforce through the disruption, creating a strong foundation for change.

Introducing new technologies into the workplace can bring a whole host of benefits, but it’s a wasted investment if you don’t invest in your people, too. With the team onboard, a new software tool can be the dream.