How can you set the spark of the digital transformation on fire? We always stress the importance of change in the era of constant technological evolution, but more than often it is not clear who should lead this change. Who is the agent of drift towards the future?
What it means to be a successful change agent in the digital economy is the main focus of the latest report published by Brian Solis, analyst at Altimeter. The prophet from the age of Digital Darwinism has shared, once again, the opportunities and hardships of moving a Brand from the old patterns and habits.
The report has a self-evident title: “The Digital Change Agent's Manifesto - How the People Behind Digital Transformation Lead Change From Within”. It starts with the awareness that technology and society still evolve at a faster pace than organizations. Even though they are investing in their digital transformation, most Brands are often too slow.
They react rather than act and anticipate the changes. The efforts of those who become the flag bearer of transformation “are often hindered by an organizational culture that is risk-averse and slow to change. Not everyone believes in change, however, nor that they need to learn or even unlearn skills and perspectives to compete for the future. Any effort to change comes down to people, and in the absence of supportive leadership, people typically form roadblocks.” (Brian Solis)
Behind this lack of agility, there is, of course, a cultural limit that should not be underestimated, but the main obstacle can be traced in the absence of a ‘digital change agent’:
“In most organizations, however, these digital transformation efforts often take place in isolated pockets, sometimes with little coordination and collaboration across the enterprise. Even still, these movements are important and often driven by individuals who share a deep expertise and passion for digital and are ardent advocates of its potential to help their companies compete more effectively. These individuals are the digital change agents and they represent the future of the organization.”
The idea of a digital change agent coming from within is powerful, nonetheless difficult to identify in today’s structured organizations. Who is this agent? Where does it come from? What should be his core capabilities? There is not a simple, one-fits-all answer to these questions. The change agent, in fact, is hardly someone trained to play this role:
“While change agents are well-versed in all things digital, they aren’t necessarily seasoned
or trained at navigating the cultural dynamics that drive change in an organization. They
typically pick up leadership and change-management skills on the fly as they learn to face
and manage the behavioral challenges that often prevent colleagues from accepting their
perspectives, ideas, and digital innovations.”
Given the premise, it is evident that there is no one type of change agent. Each one brings to the table different skillsets, goals, and aspirations, “but they all wear similar hats at different points in their journey, serving as data gatherers and storytellers, influencers and case makers, relationship builders, and champions of digital transformation.”
What are the highlights of these digital agents?
- Although digital transformation is one of the biggest trends in business today and companies are investing heavily in new technologies and innovations, many still do so as a grassroots effort driven by resourceful individuals — digital change agents — across the organization.
- Digital change agents are passionate about digital innovations and ardent believers in their potential to help the organization succeed — but they are sometimes reluctant to step into a leadership or change-management role.
- Change agents can rise from anywhere in the organization and often begin as digital advocates — employees who introduce or promote new digital ideas or products — and eventually progress to experienced transformers.
The research shows how these agents should operate from a strategic manifesto to guide them in their digital transformation efforts, expedite change, and minimize complications and detractions. The agents move across different steps of a journey that unravels inside and outside their company:
- Embrace being a catalyst;
- Organize with other change agents;
- Learn to speak the language of the C-Suite;
- Make allies;
- Spread digital literacy;
- Create a digital transformation roadmap;
- Link digital transformation efforts to business and individuals’ goals;
- Set metrics and milestones;
- Democratize ideation;
- Capitalize on their own inherent “superpowers”.
As a CEO, you should always ask yourself what can you do to make the digital change agent feel less lonely. Of course, transforming and leading the organization towards the future is never easy but, when all the pieces align, there you will find the evolved digital organization you have been longing to achieve.
We strongly advise you to download The Digital Change Agent's Manifesto, a thoughtful, brilliant piece of research by Brian Solis.
Photo by Slava Bowman on Unsplash
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