The road to digital transformation is paved with countless challenges—and successful change management involves buy-in at every level of an industrial company, from the individual to the entire organization.
However, employees often experience individualized levels of fear and distrust toward digital transformation. Job roles and responsibilities are evolving in light of ChatGPT and advanced AI/ML technologies, and some employees may be reluctant to share decision-making authority and oversight with algorithms and other data-driven technologies.
In addition, each function across the organization approaches its work differently, possesses distinct areas of domain knowledge, and prioritizes disparate objectives. For example, consider how IT and OT teams can work together. OT teams possess deep domain-level expertise and are largely focused on production uptime, equipment maintenance, and process-related issues. On the other hand, IT teams, which prioritize supporting an organization’s technology infrastructure and digital initiatives, are accustomed to adopting and deploying new technologies as required.
To overcome these challenges, industrial organizations must address personal concerns head-on—and work alongside employees—to ensure workers are onboard with new technologies and processes . In fact, organizations with a strong change management strategy are six times more likely to meet or exceed their objectives.
The following five elements are crucial to achieving successful change management and ensuring digital initiatives stay on track.
1. Build intentional roles, teams, and leaders
Interpersonal dynamics sit at the center of every organization, which is why it’s important to focus on team formations and management structures that establish clear roles and responsibilities, include diverse perspectives, and foster cross-functional collaboration.
Industrial organizations may find value in restructuring reporting lines to align various stakeholders within the same team, streamline approval processes, and eliminate potential political obstacles. It’s often easier for teams to report to a single leader who has the final say and can advocate on their behalf, rather than several stakeholders who each espouse their own opinions. For example, integrating IT and OT teams into a single division aligns routine reporting structures, working environments, and objectives. This increased synergy harnesses the strengths of both teams and the benefits of IT/OT convergence, paving the way for smooth technology introduction and management.
2. Establish a shared data framework
Teams must have access to accurate, reliable, and relevant information to make informed decisions and advance smart manufacturing processes. However, only 22 percent of business leaders say teams share data effectively—leading to disparate data sources that cut off access to information across the organization.
Create a robust data framework—and consistent, centralized data management practices— enabling the entire organization to share a basis of knowledge and the information necessary to drive sustained behavioral change. In particular, many organizations benefit from a centralized data repository that aggregates data from various sources into a single, scalable location.
3. Set clear goals and objectives
Clear goals and objectives are essential when measuring the success of technology adoption and change management efforts. By defining measurable outcomes from the outset, organizations can continuously evaluate progress and the effectiveness of their initiatives—allowing them to make ongoing improvements and adjustments.
Organizations should not only measure financial and productivity goals, such as metrics about operational efficiency, reduced downtime, or energy consumption, but also technology adoption, implementation progress, and behavior change. How employees feel about new digital investments is a telling (but often overlooked) success barometer.
4. Foster open communications
Poor communication plays a significant role in change failures—and should be a major focus for all manufacturers, especially large enterprises. Establishing transparent and open communication channels prevents information dilution and ensures messages are conveyed accurately and consistently leading into, during, and after digitalization efforts.
In addition, strong communication recognizes and celebrates progress—building motivation for digital initiatives throughout the organization. For example, visualization technology, such as an emissions monitoring dashboard, places increased energy and focus on efforts to reduce the organization’s carbon footprint.
5. Link digital initiatives to broader organizational objectives
Companies that help employees understand the objectives behind technology initiatives move twice as fast on their digital transformation journey. Throughout digitalization efforts, leaders should step back to look at the broader picture and ensure initiatives are aligned with overarching organizational objectives, values, and strategies.
While progress takes time and effort, managers, senior leaders, and C-suite executives can provide a sense of purpose and clarity for employees, connecting individual efforts to a greater vision of digital transformation. In doing so, it’s important to demonstrate empathy and support for those impacted by the myriad challenges of digital projects — and a clear, compelling vision for why their hard work is worth the effort.
The implementation of digital initiatives in industrial organizations is a complex endeavor that requires addressing challenges at multiple levels. There’s no doubt that advanced technologies, data-driven processes, and a strong roadmap are crucial to moving digital initiatives forward. But equally important are the change management practices that help individuals, teams, and organizations embrace new technologies and drive innovation into the future. Digital transformation journeys require everyone onboard and working together—and an organization capable of fostering a shared vision and strategy for success.