The ‘End-Ups’ Journey to Successful Digital Transformation

I have always been fascinated by startups and their nascent position in the economy.  We all have either worked for a startup, know someone who has, or have been witness to the history of the go-go economy that threw off many startups looking for success.  And we have all seen the headlines when start-ups struggle:

“As WeWork crashes and Uber bleeds cash,  the consumer-tech gold rush may be coming to an end.” — Derek Thompson, The Atlantic,  “The Millennial Urban Lifestyle is About to Get More Expensive,” Oct. 15, 2019

Then there are the “end-ups.”  They are the ones who managed to navigate change and climb the learning curve to ultimately develop into a new organization that could sustain their business model and growth. They are the successes.

“Change comes naturally to a startup,” said John Maeda, President, RISD, in a blog post titled “Startups are great, but we can learn a lot from ‘end-ups,’ too.” “Startups have little, but also little to lose. End-ups have resources; startups have commitment.”

I admire the commitment of a startup to grow into a solid, ongoing, profitable organization and have seen the considerable change that is required to become that “fully grown” company.  I remember when I worked for one that was four years old. The CEO’s secretary did all the billing, and consultants who deployed into customers to set up a system or do training were the same people who developed the software. Four o’clock on Friday afternoon was happy hour and you could all hear the clinking of the beer bottles or wine coolers.  Today, the business is going strong with 22,000+ employees, and with some support from a private equity firm has gone public.

Managing change

Some startups manage change well and end up as successful businesses that have transformed their culture from a very entrepreneurial environment to one that is a more structured business.  Getting a company through a structural change can be tough, but also getting them through a cultural change can be equally, if not more, difficult.

With digital transformation, most organizations are not reorganizing their business units, but asking their employees to change the way they work.  In this journey, the companies want to end up better off with:

  • Efficient ways to search and filter data to save the time of a manual search
  • Information delivery within a quick time frame to requesters (as with FOIA) to improve the customer experience
  • Getting data organized and digitized, eliminating the ROT (redundant, obsolete and trivial)
  • Automating the manual workflows with robotic process automation
  • Enhancing data security with rules for authorized access

But, to “end-up” where you want, you have to plan and manage the expectations of your employees.

“We’re going to be helping you find your stuff.” — AIIM Leadership Conference, Oct. 17, 2019 , by a guest customer panelist in records management

Communicating the expectation

At a recent AIIM Leadership Conference, we heard from a panel of customers who shared their insights on how they have been handling their own transformation from paper to digital and some key elements for success.  They acknowledged that it is a major cultural change, especially in organizations like government where lifelong employees are used to doing things one way, and reluctant to give up their strong hold on old processes.  From what I could glean from the panelists, the success formula was Honesty + Transparency + Authenticity = Mutual Trust

It is hard to digitally transform.  Don’t sugarcoat it.  Be realistic, but firm. To work, everyone has to participate.  It is the cooperation, interest and enthusiasm that make the transformation a success.

You will have to train to learn what is new.  It does not happen by osmosis.  Even when the decision-makers introduce policies and procedures for uniformity and organization with the data, ultimately the user acceptance is critical.  They need to know it will take a while, but there will be help.

This change is for the betterment of everyone.  Share the strategy and long-term vision.

  • For the business, the organization becomes more agile.
  • For the customer, the experience improves through better access to information and quicker response times from you.
  • For the user, it’s time to have the ease of data access at work that you have at home.
  • Not that tech-savvy?  That is why the company has to ensure that after the ‘go-live’ date there is training, review and support to help users transition comfortably to the new way of work.

Our vendor is our partner and we’ve outlined the expectations mutually.  A mutual discovery of what you want and what you will get for what your budget allows should be spelled out. If you know what to expect, you can better communicate it to your users.  If you want more, you are in a position to build the right roadmap with the right expectations with your vendor.

Honesty + transparency + authenticity = mutual trust

If you are starting your digital transformation, make sure you take the time to address all internal constituents and their concerns. Speak plainly and honestly on how you are going to help them do their jobs.  And, if you are in the midst of your journey, be sure to reflect on your communications to date so you end up successful.

Joanne Novak is a program manager at Konica Minolta Business Solutions U.S.A., Inc. and is responsible for program development with the company’s Business Intelligence groups, including the Intelligent Information Management (IIM) practice. Her responsibilities are to build sales and customer-facing educational and thought leadership insights as well as strategic initiatives for IIM.