Digital transformation is a change management challenge

lan629 digital transformation is a change management challenge

Amid all the talk today of digital transformation and digital disruption, it’s easy to forget that underpinning these phenomena is something that is not necessarily digital, disruptive, or transformative: it’s simply change. Change of any kind, especially in a large organisation, must be managed if it is to be successful, and to that end a huge change management industry has emerged.

Not surprisingly, fuelled by digital transformation, it’s thriving. As Cap Gemini Consulting puts it: “Digital transformation has become the ultimate challenge in change management because it impacts not only industry structures and strategic positioning but all levels of an organisation (every task, activity, process) and its extended supply chain.”

The 2015 Harvey Nash CIO Survey, produced in association with KPMG, represented the views of almost 3700 technology leaders from more than 30 countries. It identified skills in big data as the most sought after. And the next most sought after? Change management.

How things have changed. The website of management magazine, stategy+business carries an article  10 Principles of Change Management it says:

“Way back when (pick your date), senior executives in large companies had a simple goal for themselves and their organisations: stability. Shareholders wanted little more than predictable earnings growth. Because so many markets were either closed or undeveloped, leaders could deliver on those expectations through annual exercises that offered only modest modifications to the strategic plan. Prices stayed in check; people stayed in their jobs; life was good.”

“Market transparency, labour mobility, global capital flows, and instantaneous communications have blown that comfortable scenario to smithereens.

In most industries — and in almost all companies, from giants on down — heightened global competition has concentrated management’s collective mind on something that, in the past, it happily avoided: change.”

strategy+business published an updated version of its 2004 article in 2014 10 Principles of Leading Change Management, and not-surprisingly even the 10 principles have changed.

Here’s the list for 2004, and the list from 2014.


  • Address the “human side” systematically
  • Start at the top
  • Involve every layer
  • Make the formal case
  • Create ownership
  • Communicate the message
  • Assess the cultural landscape
  • Address culture explicitly
  • Prepare for the unexpected
  • Speak to the individual


  • Lead with the culture
  • Start at the top
  • Involve every layer
  • Make the rational and emotional case together
  • Act your way into new thinking
  • Engage, engage, engage
  • Lead outside the lines
  • Leverage formal solutions
  • Leverage informal solutions
  • Assess and adapt

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of a comparison between the two is that culture is now the number one priority where it was seven and eight in 2004, and last but not least there’s the acknowledgement today that change is constant: “Assess and adapt.”

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