In many cases, historical, dramatic changes and disruptions in politics, science and society have begun with revolutions. If you think, for example of the French or Industrial Revolutions, you envision highly dynamic scenarios, set into motion relatively abruptly, which caused a massive disruption in the existing conditions.
In the 1980s, digitization, triggered by digital technology and computers, also produced a disruptive, profound change of this sort in almost every area of life, leaving its mark everywhere. Numerous innovations and new technologies have their origin in the conversion from analog to digital values. The speed and impact of this so-called digital revolution fueled fears and uncertainty, because the unavoidable implementation of innovations which is characteristic of revolutions rarely meets with enthusiasm among all those concerned, let alone with understanding or participation. Rather, it frequently meets with resistance. Radical starting points give people a feeling of a loss of freedom and being overwhelmed.
Decision makers in companies also have little success in the digitization of their business processes when they proceed with a sledgehammer, run over their employees and fail to grasp the reasons for their fears, worries and skepticism. They will wait in vain for a lasting commitment to the project.
However, in order to design a digital transformation in the company to be lastingly successful and be able to push it forward, you need the counter concept to revolution – namely evolution.
Four aspects of evolutionary thinking are of key importance to companies here: slow, organic growth, adaptability, a corresponding modification of the DNA and mutually supported solutions and standards.
1.) Organic growth
The more drastic a change proves to be and the more complex the planned process changes are, the more time should be invested by a company in the lasting and successful implementation of digital solutions. Rome was proverbially not built in a day. A shut down of existing systems overnight is extremely risky.
Instead, digital solutions which implement new processes agilely and step-by-step, rather than radically altering the company routine are important. This allows affected employees to catch up in individual stages, to integrate into the flow and thus to consolidate new ways of working together. Participating stakeholders grow slowly with the transformation, have the opportunity to get involved in the individual project phases and to become familiar with the new digital processes. Improvements are implemented gradually. The pace of change is freely selectable here and adapted, in turn, to the individual needs of the customers and affected employees.
At the same time, an incremental procedure also offers more protection for the investment of the customer, since not everything is risked at once in a single implementation process whose outcome is fraught with risk. At the same time, a gradual implementation of new processes is characterized by lower complexity and project costs.
As part of this evolution, the software companies must link customers’ existing systems across platforms and integrate new services and interfaces to the IoT, digital signature, artificial intelligence and voice commands, and possibly even Hololens or blockchain in the future.
In order to successfully shape a digital change in a company, the counter-concept to the revolution – namely evolution – is needed.
As a company in drastically changing global conditions, in order not to be overtaken by the competition and forced out of the market, you need the ability to bundle your own core competencies and assets and to develop accordingly. In the 19th century, Charles Darwin wrote in his theory of evolution, “It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” The response to changes creates the possibility of reorienting departments and teams along modern processes in the organization, but also opens up space for innovation and a development of the business models.
3.) Modification of the DNA
Evolution also includes dramatic internal changes relating to the DNA. Carried over to companies, it requires the modification and creation of an appropriate company culture characterized by openness, curiosity and mutual exchange. Furthermore, it is experience and expertise, which have been gathered over the lifetime of the company and are strengthened by a strong, well-trained team. Likewise, courage and a spirit of innovation are key components of the DNA. Agile process models support a delegation of individual operations to self-guided teams which promote the innovation of the company. Success factors for this procedure are a change in the management culture and a shifting of responsibility.
4.) Mutually supported solutions and standards
In order to develop successfully, to grow and encourage change positively, project managers should take their employees and customers seriously and respond to their stated fears, views and suggestions. When every participating stakeholder feels met at their level, it creates a sense of participation and ultimately a mutual understanding, sense of responsibility and commitment. Individuals want to understand their role at the end of the change process, and this must be intensively communicated along the way. An open dialog about project goals and the individual steps is essential to this.
Companies which are directly exposed to drastically changing conditions as stakeholders, such as through digitization, can generally not afford risky, revolutionary action. Radical changes are met with rejection, misunderstanding and fear, because it is assurances that the different stakeholder groups, such as employees, customers or investors, demand. Revolutions – and with them a big bang – are not the best answer in this context. In order to ensure lasting economic action and with it, among other things, job security, product quality or investment in the change process, it takes rather an evolution.
One process at a time is the magic word when it comes to an evolutionary and thus incremental procedure. One process after the other should be converted in the new digital world, and lessons should be learned from every step. Proceeding like this creates quickly visible successes and holds a series of advantages. In this way, there are lower project risks, a faster ROI and, above all, a short time to market. Step-by-step transformation also requires smaller project budgets.
It is frequently demonstrated that an incremental and lasting implementation of new processes is more promising than radical disruptions and poorly thought out ad hoc measures. For digital projects, successes must be communicated continually to all stakeholders and involving participants must become the motto of the change process. That builds trust, and your digitization of business processes will also be successful!