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Change management models and digital transformation with Matt Parkes of Elsevier

5 min read
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In a recent discussion, Conga’s Chief Marketing Officer, Randy Littleson, and VP of Digital Transformation at Elsevier, Matt Parkes, talk about the complexities that come with digital transformation and change management. The following are key takeaways from that discussion.   

Digital transformation: the proof is in the metrics 

Digital transformation is not a one-and-done project. It’s an iterative process of refining, reworking, optimizing, and adapting. But more than 50% of digital transformation initiatives fail. Randy asked: How can you ensure yours won’t?  

The goal is to better serve the customer. Begin by recognizing where an organization fundamentally wants to change. “In my experience, technology can be a great catalyst and an enabler for change,” says Matt, “But you really need to be careful to ensure the project doesn't become too tech-led or become all about the technology. It's important that the transformation is solving real customer or colleague challenges.” 

First, capture necessary metrics for a baseline to continuously measure against progress. Once the transformation is complete, you will then be able to perform a complete before and after comparison. “In terms of the amount of metrics, I would always encourage a balanced view. In any large transformation, there are many different personas and roles—both at the customer level and within the organization—that will reap those benefits. So, it's important that the metrics cover all the bases to really measure the impact you're having on that customer experience or the customer relationship,” says Matt. 

Change management and transforming the customer’s mindset 

Randy asked: So clearly leading one of these initiatives is a big change for a company. What best practices can help manage change and drive adoption? 

Change is difficult for everyone but that doesn't mean people are unwilling to change. Matt says, “I always use the example of someone being asked to move their desk in an office. If I just came up to you and said, ‘I need you to move to this part of the office, I know you've been comfortable there for the last five years, but you're moving.’ You're probably going to want to push back because you're comfortable there. However, if I asked you to be part of a pilot that's trying a new office layout and there is a complimentary breakfast every morning, you'd be a lot more interested and less resistant. Transformations have the same challenge. We're asking employees to work differently and use new tools. Unless we can articulate clearly and in a compelling manner what's in it for them, they're going to struggle to engage or get on board.” 

Remember to always get ahead of the change and acknowledge that this is much more about people's emotions as opposed to the new system or the new features. Find leaders within the organization to help get others on board. “It's important that you lay out a clear vision, really identify change advocates to drive that anticipation,” says Matt. You're looking to create excitement that the program is really going to make a huge difference in the lives of the user; make their life easier and their work more efficient. 

If you take people on that journey and continue to answer those questions, you get to a point where the whole organization is kind of committed and rallying around the change. And that's really when you get that smooth path into a successful launch.

Matt Parkes
VP of Digital Transformation

But with any change, there will always be those people that are uncomfortable. “I think it's important to really zoom in, support them and put your arm around them,” says Matt. “But then sometimes there is the requirement to have that top-down mandate and sponsorship to really take those final people over the line.” 

Crushing complexities in the digital transformation process 

Randy asked: Most companies, through these initiatives, are really trying to streamline and simplify processes. That's hard enough to do. But then you talk about mergers and acquisitions, and they add new complexities. How do you simplify and streamline a process like this? 

Complexity and lack of standards hurt the customer experience. You really want to look closely at an organization’s current processes, understand how they operate today, and what they're looking to achieve. Once you've understood their goals and high-level processes, it’s time to fold in a solution. Typically, whatever kind of process you're looking to automate or manage, there is a solution that can streamline it. If you can bring that to life and reduce any complexities, then the organization is going to get a much better win and benefit from that implementation. 

“My advice is to always be very clear on your standard…and as you onboard a new company or a new acquisition, really try and drive towards that standard template and standardize the way your organization operates,” says Matt. 

Establishing good data management 

Randy asked: Today, companies rely on data to make decisions. So, through a digital transformation project, how can you establish good data management? 

It is essential from the get-go to establish solid data foundations. Whether it's customer data, product data, or employee data; it’s increasingly important to connect the dots, the islands of information commonly seen across large organizations. “Unless you get those foundations right, you're really going to struggle to get the right insights,” says Matt, “I still see a lot being scattered around an organization in different silos. And clearly, if you're transforming your organization, you must create that single version of the truth in order to join up those processes, create a smooth customer experience, and deliver the insights an organization wants when partnering and engaging with customers.” 

Meet the needs of the customer for every transformation 

Randy asked: Any digital transformation initiative will fail if it doesn't ultimately meet the needs of the customers. Yet during a project, there are so many different priorities and so many tensions pulling it in different directions. How do you stay focused on the customer through a project like this? 

The voice of the customer is so critical but can often get lost in the shuffle. It’s always important, throughout the transformation, to keep an open line of communication with champions internally and with customers. Have an approach that empathizes with and defines the user’s needs in a clear way. Then, co-develop a solution with the customer to ensure they have that voice. “As you get to a point where you've got a solution that you can actually put out, keep that dialog going, test and learn and capture feedback to ensure that the product or the solution is being continuously designed and evolved with the customer's voice front and center,” says Matt. And finally, once you have launched a solution, “continue to respond to and listen to what your customers are saying.” 

To learn more and get first-hand insights, watch the full video with Matt Parkes and CMO, Randy Littleson as they discuss the complexity that comes with digital transformation and change management.     

This blog post is an abbreviated version of the video that's been condensed and edited for readability.

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