Digital transformation
7 min read
23 August 2023

Setting change in motion: getting management on board with digital transformation

Kelly van der Horst
getting management on board

So you want to make digital transformation happen in your organisation. You’ve done your research and know what change you want to make happen. What’s next? You need to convince the (other) decision makers of your organisation of this change as well. In this blog, we’ll give you several tips to do so.

Of course, getting everyone in an organisation on board with digital transformation is important in order to achieve a successful adoption. However, “the entire organisation” are not the first people who need to be convinced of the change. Because without (upper) management’s approval, you can count on the change not happening at all. It is therefore important to get not only their approval, but their support for the project as well. So how do you do it?

Tip 1: Do your groundwork

“Hey, I want to implement this workspace, because it seems cool” is not the most convincing argument. Whenever you want to convince someone that a digital transformation project needs to happen, you need to be a tad more persuasive than that. And it all starts with you doing the groundwork.

First of all, you need to figure out what exactly you want to change and how this change would be carried out. You want to replace all the hardware? Do your research on which, and why it will bring so much improvement. Do you want to implement a digital workspace? Determine which one, and why.

“Figure out the specific benefits your transformation plan has for your organisation, instead of only emphasising the benefits of the product itself.”

Tailor your arguments to your organisation’s needs and challenges

It’s wonderful, all that a digital workspace can do, but what’s in it for you? How will it improve your employees’ work day, and how does it solve your business challenges? Figure out the specific benefits your transformation plan has for your organisation, instead of only emphasising the benefits of the product itself.

Use real-life examples and cases and make it about why the change should happen, don’t make it about it being ‘your idea’. To make it more concrete, link your proposal to the organisational goals, mentioning every-day challenges and cases.

Get a head-start

Usually, people get an idea, prepare a pitch, and pitch their idea. Sounds logical, right? The only problem with it though, is that the people you’re pitching to are listening to ideas – which are intangible, scary, risky. Because executing ideas means taking a risk, because you have no idea how it’ll turn out.

Explore the market, see what your competitors are doing, ask customers about their changing need. If possible, get a head-start yourself and start executing your idea, whether it’s a trial of a new tool or creating a product prototype. This way, you’ll have a real life case, with real life experiences and maybe even numbers and figures to show. A lot more tangible than the way less concrete “would, should, could” of an idea.

Don’t have the opportunity to start executing the change yourself? Find others that have made the changes you want to make, and ask them if you can share their experiences.

Involve other people

As we discussed before, asking for other people’s experiences can give extra weight to your arguments. This does not only go for people in other organisations who’ve made the changes you want to make. You can for instance also ask experts and consultants in the field. But it even goes for your colleagues as well.

It’s easier to be convinced by many versus just the one. If management knows that there is already a certain amount of internal support for a transformation, the threshold immediately lowers. Then they already know that multiple people see these benefits, and are also ready and willing to work on this change as well.

Tip 2: Put yourself in their shoes

It doesn’t matter how high-up the people are you’re pitching to, in any case, they’re people too. People with thoughts, opinions, concerns. During your preparation as well as your presentation or pitch, you’d do well to remember that. So ask yourself, what emotional and rational arguments should you use, to appeal to them?

Talk to them individually beforehand

Before pitching your idea, try talking to the individuals you’re pitching to and get their perspective. Where are they in this change, what are their priorities at the moment? And an important one as well: what ideas do they have themselves? Because they likely have a perspective you don’t. Knowing how they feel about change and their opinion on the current situation and the possibilities of change, can drastically impact how you should tell your story.

“People are less likely to be convinced of your idea, when they feel like they have to point out the weaker spots in the plan for you.”

Anticipate objections

Once you start poking holes in a project, it’s hard to stop – and especially hard to stop seeing it as anything other than the swiss cheese it has become. People are less likely to be convinced of your idea, when they feel like they have to point out the weaker spots in the plan for you. Therefore, it’s important to anticipate their objections. Try to imagine why they would oppose to your plan (here, talking to them beforehand comes in handy too!) and include the refutation of these objections in your story – address them before they become a problem they can’t get past.

Don’t go too fast

Accepting your proposal and moving forward with your idea, means change. And change, by its very nature, is often scary. Presented the wrong way, all people see is time, money and resources spent, with no guarantee of a positive outcome. So take it slow. Don’t present your transformation as this huge out-of-this-world project that simply HAS to be executed RIGHT NOW, but go in steps. Perhaps not asking approval for the entire project start to finish, but just for you to take the first steps to set this project in motion, giving them an ‘out’ every step of the way.

Tell them what you expect from them

As said before, management remains people. And not much unlike “what’s in it for me”, they also want to know: “what do you need from me?”. Immediately make clear what you expect from them and what you want their role to be. Do you just want approval, or do you want contributions or cooperation from them too? This way, they know what they’re getting into.

Tip 3: Visualise your plan

To get your point across, show them, rather than tell them. Whether you create a vision to create in people’s minds, or actual visuals.

Present a future vision – the good and the bad

It’s important that people know why a change should be made right now, to make them feel the problem before offering a solution. But it’s not enough to really create that urgency for change.

So what happens when you do nothing? What effects will that have in the long-term? Sketch that future. And what happens when you do make this change? In most cases, there becomes a point where doing nothing is riskier than starting a new project. Present both visions of the future, the best-case and the worst-case. Show consequences and opportunities and emphasise the benefits of your change in the long-run.

Use visuals aids to strengthen your proposal

Most people process information based on what they see. In fact, 65% of us are visual learners. Therefore, use visual aids such as screenshots, infographics, graphs and videos to enhance your story and get it across as well and complete as possible.

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