Digital Transformation – Adoption Pull not Delivery Push?

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In the first and second blogs of this series on how Business Change needs to adapt to be effective for digital transformation, we set out an agenda based on the ways in which digital transformation is different, and made a case for treating it as culture change not systems implementation. Both blogs stressed that what Afiniti is about is adopting different ways of working and changed behaviours, not really about getting people to use technology per se.  But what do we mean by adopting; what is it; and how does focusing on adoption inform Business Change activity and planning?  That’s what this blog is about.

We talk about adoption in many different domains.  Adopting a child is both a legal event, but also (I’d suggest) a process of settling into a new pattern of family – for adoptive parent(s) and adopted child(ren). But we also talk about adopting new identities, nationalities and behaviours; we speak of new processes and systems being adopted; and we even refer to individuals and groups adopting things such as fashions, chants / songs, or postures. What can we learn from this? Perhaps it’s that adoption is a journey undertaken as much as a single event,

If one of the things that distinguishes digital transformation from other change journeys is that the use of the tool(s) it provides can be optional (see our first blog), then successful adoption of new ways of working enabled by digital tools is surely a process involving both breadth and depth.  Breadth – what proportion of the group / organisation has taken on new ways of working by using the tool(s); and depth, to what extent (for how much of what they do) have they changed what they do by using the tool(s) – perhaps even how much of the potential for improvement have they unlocked.  And if our goal is the adoption of new ways of working, enabled by the technology, then adoption cannot be anything but a process – and a process that begins with the tools being made available, not one that ends at that point.

What might a process view of adoption, one focused on increasing breadth and depth, mean for Business Change?

First, we’ve found that it means the Business Change activity after a technology ‘go live’ will be at least as important as, Business Change activity before any ‘go live’. And, since programmes tend to come to their end relatively quickly after ‘go live’, this in turn means that much of the most important Business Change activity will not be programme-driven but will have to be delivered as part of business-as-usual. Whilst many organisations are beginning to recognise this need we see few that have successfully risen to the challenge.

Second, if adoption is a process of broadening and deepening, it’s difficult to see how it can be ‘delivered’ – or ‘pushed’ at colleagues within an organisation. Rather, we at Afiniti find, adoption is better encouraged and stimulated by building pull – creating the desire at a grass roots level to seek out new tools and adopt new ways of working. This means creating a programme team and champion networks that are sufficiently in touch with how and where ways of working are changing to spot examples that will be attractive to others in the organisation, and which can therefore be used to build ‘pull’.

We’ll explore in the next blog how perspective persona-based engagement and a strong ‘champion’ network can be re-thought and cascaded to accelerate this pull.

For now, though, how does this square with your experience – does this model of adoption as a process of increasing breadth and depth make sense?

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