Digital Transformation Projects: Help Users Overcome Resistance to Change

Some digital transformation initiatives are grand, sweeping projects that replace the core of an organization’s technology stack. Others are a relatively simple upgrade of a single system. No matter the scope, these initiatives often fundamentally change how end users do their jobs. And though you’re likely to encounter a lot of stakeholders who are excited about streamlining their workflows and increasing efficiency, other users may not be so optimistic. It’s not uncommon for stakeholders to worry about how the transition to a new technology will affect their jobs, both in the near term and farther into the future.

If you’re a project leader, don’t underestimate the level of anxiety end users may experience as your digital transformation initiative moves ahead. Your team needs buy-in from everyone, and stakeholders who can’t embrace the new technologies could diminish your project’s final results.

Before you set out on your next digital transformation effort, be mindful of how users’ resistance to change might affect their commitment to the project. We’ve put together some strategies your team can use to help them overcome their worries and ensure your initiative delivers the best outcomes.

Some stakeholders may feel that transitioning away from legacy processes and platforms could put them out of a job. The fear of being replaced by technology is nothing new, but workers today face some modern challenges. Advancements in areas such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are creating fresh worries, and employees across many different functional areas harbor fears that the next digital transformation project could eventually lead to job loss.

Try this: Work with stakeholders to help them see how the new technologies will free up time to work on activities that have more strategic value. It might be difficult for users to envision functioning alongside a new system, so project teams may want to paint as much of the picture for them as possible.

End users might doubt the new technology will fix long-standing challenges. In organizations where some legacy systems have already been updated or replaced, stakeholders may point to past implementations as examples of missed expectations or botched rollouts. If users believe that the new system will add to their problems instead of solve them, you’ll be fighting an uphill battle.

Try this: Early stakeholder involvement is key to turning skeptical users into champions. Consider asking your technology provider to give a large-scale demonstration that shows frontline users how the system works. It may be doubly useful to conduct this early peek using sandboxed production data so users can see their own workflows in action. At a minimum, plan an awareness campaign so users are familiar with the technology’s capabilities and understand how those map to their day-to-day processes.

In firms with particularly lean staffing, users may have concerns that a lack of resources will hamper their ability to transition to the new system. Without the necessary support, they might worry about finding time to attend training, develop new workflows, and assess additional optimization opportunities. Their anxiety about an inability to maintain strong performance post-implementation could result in low user adoption rates and poor long-term productivity.

Try this: Secure a commitment at the executive level to provide top-down support for a comprehensive training program. An additional measure to prevent pushback among stakeholders should be active promotion of the full breadth of educational offerings available to help users become proficient with the new platform. This is also an excellent opportunity for the technology provider to showcase any innovative tools—in-app tutorials, automations, etc.—that can further build stakeholders’ confidence in their ability to master the new solution.

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