Talk the Walk: How to Level Up Your Digital Transformation With Strategic Communications

Haywood Hamilton
March 14, 2022
March 14, 2022
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Talk the Walk: How to Level Up Your Digital Transformation With Strategic Communications

Digital transformation is everywhere – but is it working? Certainly, those who failed to make investments pre-pandemic were left vulnerable to global disruptions that exposed outdated systems and processes across the enterprise and the supply chain. Now, in an effort to future-proof operations, executives are accelerating their digital infrastructure investments, with global spending on digital transformation projected to hit 2.4tn USD by 2024 (Statista).

But throwing money at platforms promising AI and machine learning is not a shortcut to tangible business value. Case in point: according to Forbes, 84% of companies fail at digital transformation.

You’ve probably already recognized the need to invest in change management to increase the likelihood of success. And the strongest change plans will include a healthy dose of strategic communications. In considering a digital transformation effort, it’s critical to develop as much understanding and gain strong alignment about the goals of the effort as early as possible. That can only happen through clear and concise communications. In fact, strategic communications could be the deciding factor in the success of your transformation efforts.

Get leadership talking -- and aligned

Many digital transformation efforts seek to increase transparency and break down communication silos across the enterprise. Ironically enough, however, these efforts often fail due to “people problems” like poor communication about overall goals. The Harvard Business Review, for example, cites “unspoken disagreement among top managers about goals” as the top challenge for digital transformation.

Leadership teams often focus on the business opportunity at hand but fail to discuss the change effort required to get there, benchmarks for success along the way and more. Talking about a new platform or solution only in terms of the opportunity it brings for the business can often lead to executive misalignment as the transformation effort unfolds. And that misalignment will only intensify as it proliferates throughout the company. It’s important to make sure everyone at the top agrees on the answers to the following questions:

What’s changing? Why?

What’s our destination?

How do we define success?

What are the consequences of not changing?

Once leadership can agree on the big ideas, they’re better positioned to communicate the purpose and value of an upcoming change to everyone else in the organization.

It’s time to market change

High-level articulations of a transformation’s purpose and goals are a good start, but they’re not enough to drive adoption throughout the enterprise. As your change management program uncovers how the transformation impacts the day-to-day roles and responsibilities of your people, use that information to put yourself in the shoes of your employees and help them understand what to expect.

As you communicate change to impacted stakeholders, you’ll want to make sure to use multiple channels. In other words, don’t rely on a single email to do the job. Consider these tips for making sure the message comes through loud and clear (and makes the necessary impact):

Tip #1: Make it relevant

Individual employees need to understand how to translate high-level transformation goals into the context of their daily responsibilities.

Tip #2: Make it concrete

What will tangibly change for people? Be as specific as possible.

Tip #3: Make it recurring

A one-time announcement is not enough. Communications should be frequent – and preferably face-to-face.

Bonus tip: Leverage your influencers

Influencers: You know the one - the person in the room everyone naturally looks to for guidance. Their opinion is valued, and their influence is considerable. Internal champions can not only encourage adoption but also gather valuable feedback that helps benchmark progress and identify needed adjustments.

Words matter

Simply put, you can’t successfully manage changes inherent in a digital transformation program without strategic communications. In fact, how you communicate the purpose and relevance of new capabilities could be the influence you need to derive actual business value from your carefully chosen investment. When it comes to strategic communications, we combine art and science to help our clients reach the right people with the right message. Let’s connect on how we can help you win over hearts and minds in your next transformation effort.