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When it comes to digital transformation, it’s easy to focus on just the ‘digital’ side - for example, your choice of technology solutions. But what about the ‘transformation’ part? The skills required to run a business don’t always apply to the ones required to transform or change a business.

In episode 13 of ColumbusCast, I chat with my colleague and Business Transformation Specialist Ian Kingstone about the capabilities required to run a transformation initiative.


1. Value management

It’s important to not only know how you want to transform your organisation but also how it will impact it. How will the transformation make your organisation a better place? Who will benefit from it (for example, your stakeholders, shareholders, customers, employees…)?

That’s the first step. Then throughout the initiative, you must not lose sight of that value and why you’re transforming. The scope may change and goals may develop/grow but don’t lose sight of why you set off for that journey in the first place.

Ian has written a terrific post on the definition of digital transformation and how it can add value to your business. Read it here.

2. Stakeholder engagement and change management

To deliver the transformation, it’s all about the people. You must engage with your people. Transformation means that things will be different - it’s in the name! So, you must have the skills and tools in place to cope with organisational change.

Here’s a great blog post on how to address the ‘what’s in it for me’.

Your employees need to know what’s changing, how it will be different and who will be affected. You need to engage your personnel with that change so they know what to expect and when. Keep them up-to-date or even involved throughout the project.

3. Project management

In addition to the obvious - managing deliverables and ensuring the project’s on track - you should also keep checking in with the organisation on how they’re getting on with the change.

It’s important to look for signs of transformation fatigue. Such projects can be long - months or even years - and fatigue can lead to stakeholder disengagement and you losing sight of the value. So, ask yourself…do you need to pause and recharge? Or do you need to revisit the strategy and check you’re on the right track?

4. Additional soft skills

Key success factors for digital transformationPhoto by Mikhail Nilov

Don’t discount people management skills - these soft skills are just as important to the success of a business transformation as the ones mentioned above.

As mentioned earlier, transformation projects can last for months or even years. So you must demonstrate persistence. If you’re in charge of the project, you need to be the engine, the driving force to keep that project going.

You must also be:

  • Resilient
  • Willing to collaborate and build a team
  • Be emotionally intelligent
  • Demonstrate learning agility (things change quickly so you need to be able to adapt in response)
  • Be a critical thinker
  • Creative

The list goes on but hopefully you see the picture I’m trying to paint.

5. Further specific skills

Depending on the type of transformation, you may need skills and capabilities outside of the core ones mentioned above. For example, if you’re automating a process, how will that impact your business? Will it change a particular department?

If this automation does change a particular department, will you need to restructure or rethink roles and responsibilities? That means you may need organisational design and HR skills, among other capabilities.


Can these skills and capabilities be found in-house?

The challenge is that it takes a different set of skills to change an organisation than it does to run one. Of course there will be some cross over, which is why many organisations assume they can transform with the skills they’ve already got.

However, a better approach is to look at maturing the skills you already have or get some external help.

So, do you need to outsource transformation capabilities?

I actually think you should use your internal resources and work with a consultancy. There are two reasons for this:

  1. There are some elements of transformation that will work better and progress faster with internal skills because people trust their colleagues. They know these people and they know the business
  2. But you will also need to lean on people outside the company. You’re going through a change that you’ve never experienced before and these third party companies have seen projects of a similar size and scope

It’s done best when it’s a mix of internal and external expertise. Internal knows the market and the business. External have an ‘outside’ view and can fill the gaps.

Pace and ownership

In my 30-minute conversation with Ian, we also discuss the pace a transformation initiative should run at. It depends on the organisation and the type of transformation, but the capabilities you have involved in the project will play a major role in dictating this.

Additionally, Ian explains why a CEO should be the one to own and lead the project above all other Executives.

Want to listen to all of the above in more depth and discover further tips and tricks? Scroll up and hit play to listen to the episode. Or, search for ‘ColumbusCast’ in your podcast app.

The ultimate cheat sheet to digital transformation

The skills and capabilities required to successfully transform depend on the type of transformation. But most will feature a digital element or some technical expertise/knowledge. But that only covers the tech part.

So, to sum everything up, putting value first will help you fall into the 30% of organisations who achieve the outcomes they intended.

Download our Executive’s cheat sheet to digital transformation to learn more.

Grab your copy


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