Digital Transformation: Tackling Technology Adoption
Digital transformation of organisations is under way; however, the adoption and diffusion of new technology can be painstakingly slow, causing much frustration among management teams. As leaders lack effective communication strategies to engage staff in the implementation process, technology suppliers must lead the way and curate their technology with the reluctant new user in mind.
Adopt now or defer until later?
Robo-advisory, Internet of Things, 3-D printing, cloud computing, alternative energy, virtual and augmented reality… few ecosystems are untouched by the ever-changing technologies carrying the flag of disruption. When MIT Sloan Management Review and Capgemini Consulting surveyed over 1,500 executives, they found that 78% stated “achieving digital transformation is critical” to their organisations, while struggling to translate this vision into an action plan. The number one most cited organisational hurdle? Lack of urgency or no “burning platform”.
As new technology solutions arise, often briskly and abruptly, the pace of adoption across institutions has been strikingly slow; 63% of interviewed executives agree. At the outset, uncertainty is to blame: uncertainty about a particular technology’s evolution, future profit streams, limited information about benefits and irreversible sunk costs. There is an option value to waiting before sinking the costs of adoption, which may tend to delay adoption.
“Digital transformation needs to come from the top”
David Kiron, executive editor of MIT Sloan Management Review’s Big Ideas initiatives
Perception is everything
When a decision to adopt the new technology is made, communicating its strategic benefits is key. “Digital transformation needs to come from the top” said David Kiron, executive editor of MIT Sloan Management Review’s Big Ideas initiatives. The higher the uncertainty surrounding the change, the worse the knee-jerk reaction from those who oppose novelty or are not tech-savvy.
93% of employees will endorse a business leader who shares his vision on digital transformation
By definition, disruption carries negative implications of disturbance, interrupting the flow of events, activities, or processes. Fears are fuelled and paranoia sets in as management, looking to onboard staff on the band-wagon of innovation, emphasises the breadth and depth of changes to come versus the current state of affairs. When it comes to digital transformation, only 36% of business leaders share a vision with their employees. A beacon of hope, however, is that those 36% are endorsed by a stunning 93% of employees.
Recent change management research shows that in order to overcome resistance and build support, two parallel communication strategies are essential: a powerful and appealing vision of changes to come in combination with the emphasis on continuity. According to a survey by BCG Gamma, under a third of employees believe that the development of AI will revolutionise their workplace. Largely because they are unaware of how important AI has become as a strategic issue in their organisations.
Yet outlining the right communication strategy cannot rest solely with the implementing company. It is a shared responsibility which should start upstream with the technology supplier. Building effective technology is no longer enough. Suppliers must give business leaders appropriate tools to foster early and speedy adoption.
User-friendly is critical
While decisions to implement a technology solution are made by clients, suppliers of new technology greatly influence the weighing of costs and benefits. Intuitive and approachable systems can expect a head start.
If shifting from old processes to a new solution calls for complex new skills and expensive or time-consuming training, adoption is bound to stall. Plus, it is key to be aware of imperfections inevitably part of any new technology in its earliest stages; its rate of improvement will be crucial. Ultimately, the overall employee experience is a major factor for a successful implementation.
Suppliers can make a sizeable impact in rates of enterprise adoption by strategically building use-case scenarios illustrating their technology’s added value both in terms of people performance and process efficiency. Thoughtful UX design capitalising on those use-cases can then drive organisational learning.
Who is doing it right?
One brilliant example of successful implementation of new technology is the current boom in robo-advisory. Until recently, the wealth management industry believed that face-to-face interaction was irreplaceable in order to successfully service clients. In spite of this belief, WealthTech focuses on clearer, cleaner UX and interfaces. It facilitates more productive relationships between AI and humans, offering strategic advice adapted to each client.
Similarly, the challenger banks have revolutionised access to banking services by simplifying the experience, starting with the client onboarding process. It will only take you a few minutes to open your current account with Starling Bank or Monzo.
Shifting the focus from a fear-mongering narrative of “disruption” to positive innovation is essential for any firm looking to implement a new technology solution. Take heart in the knowledge that over two-thirds  of employees in workplaces using AI-powered tools state that those have already had a positive impact on their effectiveness.
 Adoption of new technology, Bronwyn H. Hall and Beethika Khan. April 2003.
 MIT Sloan Management Review and Capgemini Consulting survey. 2013.
 Ipsos survey for BCG among 7077 people in Canada, China, France, Germany, Spain, UK, US. June 2018.