Toni Melisma and Sid Muzumdar are Strategic Engagement Leads at Salesforce and they join us on the blog today to share some of the insights they've picked up from overseeing many successful digital transformations.

The most typical transformation projects of companies are related to technology, digitalisation and digital transformation. Surprisingly, however, technology plays only a small role in change. Change, and especially its success, is always about people and how management manages to steer people and culture in the desired direction.

Despite this, companies often set out to make change technology-driven. This is often a recipe for failure. Of course, technology has a role to play. It must serve the business either by improving sales, customer experience, operations, or business model. But technology is not a value in itself, it is a tool for creating business value.


Definition of change management

At its simplest, change management is about how a company moves from situation A to situation B. Whether it is the introduction of new technology to support sales or the digital transformation of the entire organisation, change projects aim to improve business in one way or another.

Change management is guiding people along a chosen path, from the initial situation towards the goal. So it’s all the ways, the doing, the skills, the tools that take people into account in change and how to get everyone moving towards the goals set.


The cornerstones of change management

The two most important things in successful change management programs are answering two questions:

* Why is this important for the company?

* How is the change going to help me?

Management needs to be able to communicate the story of change, the big picture, clearly to everyone in the company. Why is change being made? What is its purpose? What does the desired change look like? What is our vision for the future? How will change help achieve it?

It is then necessary to communicate what the change means. The key message of change must therefore be tied to the daily lives and goals of each employee. For sellers, the message could be that the software will improve their ability to make deals and increase deal win rate. If the adoption of technology requires change from other units and roles as well, they equally need to think about the key messages that are appropriate for their roles.


How to manage change

So you’re sold on the approach, but how should you actually do this stuff? 

1. Document the different roles in the company that are impacted by the change. You can think about these at the unit level: IT, marketing, finance, HR, etc. Or delve deeper and think about the roles within the unit - for example, sales managers and individual salespeople are interested in different things and the change can impact them differently.

2. Determine the readiness of different roles for change. Ask and discuss with different people what they think about change, what worries them, what motivates them, what challenges they foresee and where they want to go.

3. Involve customers and other stakeholders. This is surprisingly often forgotten. Usually, change is made precisely because of customers: you want to improve the customer experience, sales, product, or business. 

4. Think about the key messages for the different roles. Once you have talked and figured out the perspectives of the different roles extensively enough, next think about the key messages based on these. You will need the appropriate key messages for each role, any objections, and answers to them.

5. Make a communication plan. Record key messages and think about how and in which channels they are communicated. Share responsibilities for implementing messages and consider metrics: how do you know messages have gone through in the organisation and how do you figure it out.

6. Track progress. Constantly ask for feedback and test how well the messages have gone. 

7. Communicate and Celebrate successes.


The most typical challenges of change

Here are some tips for the situations we encounter most commonly. ⬇️

Start change management before starting the change: many companies start thinking about changing management only after they’re in the middle of a stalling transformation program. Have a proactive approach and plan ahead.

Think big, start small: you’re reaching for the stars, but the biggest projects are the most certain to fail. Instead of huge big bangs, why not split your transformation up into smaller, manageable pieces that you do one by one?

Make it concrete for the people: describe how the change will affect each individual role - this makes the plans concrete. Validate your approach with the people who will be changed to get their feedback.

Explain what the change specifically means: Concretise the change for each role. What new things does sales need to do at the beginning of a customer relationship? What things are done more, less in HR? What new information does financial management need to produce?

Lead by example: It is not enough for management to communicate and tell where to go, they also need to show that they too are doing and changing their ways. 

Choose your battles: big transformations can’t be successful on all fronts. Continue on avenues where you see progress, showcase the realised benefits and sooner or later the laggards will catch up too.

Get quick wins fast: transformations are like marathons, and even true believers get fatigued at some stage if they don’t see concrete results soon. Besides your long-term initiatives, try to get some small victories to celebrate as soon as well.

Listen to resistance to change: You can’t completely eliminate resistance to change, that’s the point. But you can minimise it. Listen, be interested, and show that you consider everyone’s capacity for change. 


Nothing is as certain as change

The speed of change isn’t slowing down. Change management is more important than ever, if you want to realise the benefits of your digital transformation initiatives. Think of a people-first, instead of a technology-first approach. Not only will you increase your likelihood of success, you’re also teaching your entire organisation how to change continuously. Start building that change management muscle now, as you’re bound to need it later.

Learn more about change management in Trailhead or see how our Professional Services can help you.