Becki Hyde, Practice Lead, Agile Practice Leadership Enablement and Sean Olszewski, Practice Lead for Agile Practice Leadership Enablement, Pivotal Software…

Becki Hyde, Practice Lead, Agile Practice Leadership Enablement and Sean Olszewski, Practice Lead for Agile Practice Leadership Enablement, Pivotal Software

The benefits of a successful digital transformation project will manifest across entire organisational structures: teams make and act upon decisions faster than they have in the past, products and services are being delivered to users faster, employee morale is on the rise, operational costs are decreasing, and legacy systems are being upgraded or retired far quicker than many in the business can keep pace with. However, once change gets into full swing, it’s typical to see some employees begin to question their roles in the company, or whether they want to remain at the company at all. Things are changing fast—technologies, processes, expectations—and that can make for a difficult adjustment. Understanding why employees feel the way they do is crucial–not just to keep great people, but as a gauge to understand if the business is transforming in the right way.

There are different types of people within an organisation that are at risk of becoming alienated or otherwise unhappy during transformation periods. Here are some traits to look out for and some advice for keeping those people not just around, but also happy.

  1. Frustrated converts

The frustrated convert gets exposure to a new way of working and is then forced to go back to the old way – to what is often perceived as cumbersome process, wasted time, dead ends, and a lack of autonomy. These blockers often occur due to senior leadership being bought into an effort but failing to cascade the intent and importance of this to middle management. Because of this breakdown in communication, middle management doesn’t allow individual contributors the flexibility they need to deliver effectively, creating frustration and ultimately causing them to leave.

To prevent turnover of otherwise engaged and excited employees, work toward support for the change at all levels of your organisation and provide air cover until that is achieved. Having one or two key allies at the manager, director, and vice president levels goes a long way toward preventing converts from ever becoming frustrated. By knowing they have direct leadership support, employees will be able to weather the challenges of introducing change for much longer than if they feel they are doing it alone.

  1. High achievers

High achievers are employees who thrive in an agile environment, becoming so effective at what they do that they begin to be courted by other companies, or seek promotion opportunities elsewhere. Time and time again, we see this issue come up as companies undergo change, and the strongest way to combat it is to have a strong, protected culture of learning, with a fair and competitive compensation structure.

But supporting high achievers isn’t just about salary and benefits. The most engaged and motivated participants in change can become disengaged if they aren’t given opportunities that align to their interests and professional development – and have a measurable impact on the business. After seeing success on their teams, some employees naturally want to spread the principles and practices they’ve become so passionate about. This gives them an opportunity to grow professionally, and to have a larger positive influence on company culture.

  1. Opt-outs

When people are asked to change the way they work, some will self-select out. This is especially likely in companies where employees stay in roles long-term and develop well-understood processes over years of experience. Opt-outs don’t like or aren’t convinced of how effective this new way of working will be. It’s not uncommon for people to have seen many attempts at changing their enterprise and are therefore sceptical of further change.

As you introduce change, think ahead to how you can support these potential opt-outs. Opt-outs are normally better suited for work which isn’t related to the company’s digital transformation efforts, therefore change may in fact represent an opportunity to become involved in other areas of the business. They can however prove to be effective advisors in their area of expertise, or perhaps there are other teams in the company that could benefit from their experience and knowledge. Regardless, if you don’t consider these employees’ concerns and manage their transitions, they can poison others who are interested – but nervous about the change.

  1. Graduates

Some of your best team members will get promoted, perhaps onto a different team or into a new business unit. On the surface this is good news, however, if people leave early, or several leave in quick succession, the team leading the change may struggle to maintain maturity and momentum in their absence.

Because it is important to keep teams intact until there are people ready to backfill leadership roles, start succession-planning early — even down to the individual team level. While you can encourage people to stay in place for a period of time by providing them with interesting work and fair compensation, preparing for the future early ensures your efforts won’t stall out. When you are ready for people to move on, consider planning for graduates to seed new teams in pairs or small groups, so that they can support one another and have greater influence on others.

Final thoughts

While high turnover feels alarming, it can be a good sign. It’s evidence that you’re effecting change. Instead of feeling powerless, proactively preparing for and guiding changes in staffing can keep your transformation on track. While you may not prevent people from leaving, you can learn valuable lessons from the reasons they leave, which you can then leverage into actionable insights that help you on your journey.

A cultural shift in attitudes to analytics will be essential for businesses to compete in the age of digital transformation,…

A cultural shift in attitudes to analytics will be essential for businesses to compete in the age of digital transformation, *research has revealed. 

A quarter of the 500 professionals surveyed by MHR Analytics said resistance from senior management was preventing their company from adopting analytics, suggesting that many could be left behind as their forward-thinking competitors advance.

A further 23 percent said their company’s traditional reliance on manual spreadsheets was holding them back from taking advantage of widely available technology.

The survey of finance and technology professionals working in large UK organisations was conducted by MHR Analytics and Censuswide to understand the barriers some companies face in progressing their analytics capabilities, and their technological aspirations for the coming decade. 

Internationally acclaimed AI expert Bernard Marr and MHR Analytics have released a guide entitled “Advancing with Analytics: Spreadsheets to AI,” to help break down these barriers.

It includes practical tips and examples from a range of organisations that have managed to move away from error-prone spreadsheets and adopt more sophisticated analytics, and even artificial intelligence (AI).

“For me, the examples in the guide demonstrate how the data maturity journey is about taking manageable steps, rather than huge leaps,” said Marr.

“From better planning and decision making, to smoother operations and automated processes, data analytics fuels business improvements. Yet, for the average business, adopting advanced analytics techniques like AI is never going to be an overnight shift,” he said.

“Adopting more advanced analytics can seem like a mammoth, unachievable task. That’s why I prefer to think of analytics as a journey, with analytics techniques gradually becoming more advanced as you progress further along the road.”

“A business advances on this journey one stage at a time, gradually meeting more and more business needs through data analytics.”

“Progressing to planning analytics – stage three of the data maturity journey – tends to be a key milestone for most businesses, since this is the stage that bridges the gap between basic reporting and more exciting, forward-looking technologies. Therefore, I have placed more emphasis on planning analytics in the guide than the other four phases,” he added.

Other barriers to advancing analytics revealed in the MHR Analytics survey included a perceived lack of skills within organisations, siloed working practices and concerns about data quality, data protection and security.

In addition to Marr’s Spreadsheets to AI guide, MHR Analytics has also provided a data maturity quiz to help organisations find out where they are on the data journey and receive free tailored advice about how to progress with analytics to remain competitive.

Ranked by LinkedIn as one of the world’s top five business influencers, Bernard Marr regularly contributes to the World Economic Forum and is a strategic business and technology advisor to businesses and companies around the globe.


*The survey of 500 UK finance and technology professionals employed by large UK companies was conducted by Censuswide on behalf of MHR Analytics in August 2019.

About MHR Analytics

MHR Analytics is a specialist provider of business intelligence, analytics and financial performance management.

The MHR Analytics team enables businesses to capitalise on the data available to them, to identify opportunities and prepare for the future – whatever stage of the data journey they are on.

With an end-to end-suite of quality solutions from IBM, SAP, Tagetik and Microsoft, MHR Analytics supports customers to go beyond intuition and act based on real evidence.

The growing business has been established for 10 years and has a presence in eight countries and more than 20 different private and public sectors, with a proven track record of over 750 successful implementations. Customers include Admiral Group, Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council, Edinburgh Napier University and Loughborough University.    

Today, every company is an IT company. It’s a cliché but it’s true. There cannot be a single business today…

Today, every company is an IT company. It’s a cliché but it’s true. There cannot be a single business today that has not changed and developed as information technology has come into play; even the smallest one-person micro-business makes use of smartphones.

At the higher end, though, enterprise-grade ERP and CRM systems have revolutionised how business is done, and the cloud is busy changing how people interact with not only software but storage, processing and even professional services.

If there is one thing that can be said for sure about IT, it is that it delivers change.

Cultural shifts

There are other IT clichés, too, though. Less kind ones. Think Channel Four’s The IT Crowd: recalcitrant, conservative and unenthusiastic, the laggards of corporate culture rather than its leaders.

Unfortunately, there is some truth in this cliché also, although not because of mythic systems administrators who cannot or will not communicate. One issue is that IT is often a pain point in an organisation: as with the primary care health services, people only contact the helpdesk when there is a problem. When you add to this the impossible demands made by users whose daily use of Microsoft Word or Facebook makes them think that their tech skills are stronger than they actually are, you have a recipe for trouble.

Despite this, as IT has a central role in business, it can also be used to improve the business itself. And this move from IT being seen as the people who are fitting print cartridges to something that can change the culture of an organisation has been made easier by the presence of IT at board level.

Communication is key

David Dunn, principal development engineer at a leading graphics company in Cambridge, says that IT has a central role in how modern organisations work, primarily around communication.

“We rely on information radiators and information flows to keep employees informed about key business indicators,” he says.

Dunn’s company uses a range of technologies and services to ensure that communication goes as smoothly as possible.

“It’s critical to our business that engineers can communicate directly and simply with each other across multiple development sites in a transparent and visible way.

“We rely heavily on video conferencing technology, such as LifeSize, information flow systems such as Microsoft Teams or Slack and Flowdock, and information radiators which are highly visible around the office,” he explains.

Social communication software such as Slack, for instance, can replace incomprehensible e-mail chains and keep projects moving along. After all, there is no need to stop everything just to get a point of information.

History of change

Of course, IT has always changed the culture of organisations. The 1980s saw the first tentative moves from paper-based filing to electronic storage, radically changing how administrative tasks were performed—and who they were performed by.

Today, full-blown digital transformations are underway, with an emphasis on web-first and online self-service for customers. In addition, entirely new business operations have been developed, including analytics and widespread mobility.

“I think IT can make all the difference in a business,” says Dr Bill Mitchell, director of public affairs at BCS, the UK’s Chartered Institute for IT.

Mitchell warns that businesses that rely too much on subcontracting and other external relationships put themselves at risk.

“Where is the IP? Where is the intelligence? A lot of it is embedded in your IT systems [and] if your systems are woeful then your IP is locked-up or you may have set it up in someone else’s platform,” he says.

Mitchell has a clear idea of what good IT should look like when it comes to business.

He says: “Where it has been made so that it is modular usable and extendible, your organisational culture will be much more agile and much more able to embrace change.”

Taking advantage of new technologies requires cultural change, though. Deploying new software and services does not mean that they will be utilised properly. And yet, IT is rising to the challenge with practices founded in IT moving out into the wider culture of a business.

Agile solutions

For example, agility is something that has dominated IT debates in recent years with the deployment of devOps becoming almost standard. This increased flexibility is a business need, but it is one that is being delivered by IT departments.

What matters is that the change process has buy-in at both board and staff levels, rather than simply being a case of forcing the latest shiny technology on unwilling or confused workers.

Once the right IT systems are deployed for the right reasons then change will follow, naturally and progressively.

Risks remain, however. As Bill Mitchell puts it, IT’s central role in business operations today means that it is not simply a case of seeking to effect positive change. Rather, it is a case of get it wrong and there will be trouble.

“If you have bad IT you will create silos and inhibit communication across an organisation.”