by Marcus Dervin.
The importance of executive backing for any project is a given, but for digital transformation, where the organisation is experiencing fundamental changes – support from the C-suite is essential. If senior leaders have invested their efforts in shaping the project they will be more likely to get behind it when challenges inevitably arise, as well as leading user adoption after launch.
“I think the biggest item that needs to happen is that there is a realisation on the executive level that digital transformation is happening.” – Mike Golz, North America CIO at SAP
If you are trying to build a business case to secure executive support for a new Digital Workplace, you must demonstrate outcomes that your CEO prioritorises. In today’s volatile business environment, executives can be hesitant to spend precious cash on projects that will not yield an obvious and immediate financial return. In some organisations there is a complete absence of appreciation from the CEO as to what collaboration technology could do – Microsoft’s Asia Workplace 2020 Study found that only 32% believe their organisation’s leadership is committed in bridging the digital skills gap in the workplace.
“The art of leadership is saying no, not saying yes. It is very easy to say yes.” —Tony Blair
If you are passionate about the potential for Digital Workplaces (and honestly, who can blame you) it can be tempting to get sidetracked by funky features and details but when you get in front of your potential sponsors, tie this project to broader business goals. What business problems will you solve? If we solve those problems what will happen? If you do nothing what will happen?
Demonstrate how your digital workplace will:
- Attract and retain top talent
- Increase business opportunities
- Drive innovation
- Leverage the latest technologies to make advances and become more competitive
- Automate processes to reduce costs
- Enable new dashboards that will support quick, effective decision-making.
The requirements gathering process itself can help you build your case – share user stories and opportunities that come out of your focus groups to tell a story to senior executives.
Ideally, your CEO would announce the project to the business, simultaneously signalling his or her support and accepting a degree of connection and responsibility with its success.
Once your project is implemented, if people can see their leaders obviously embracing the new direction and technology, it makes a tremendous difference to the success of the change. Top brass must publicly and consistently engage with the platform – it’s not enough to just have the CEO posting once a week. Senior leaders need to comment on posts that other people have made, ‘like’ suggestions or articles and give their two cents’ worth on a topic that’s been raised.
Strategies for getting your executive team to engage can include:
- Requesting at least one post or comment each a day
- Encouraging them to use their own voices and not sound too corporate
- Asking them to share any wins on the Digital Workplace first
- Getting public dialogue going between executives and showing that they’re working together on initiatives across the organisation.
- Having an assistant schedule posts for busier executives (better than nothing)
Also ask your senior team to ask and respond to tough questions. For example, if the company is undergoing challenges, address them via the Digital Workplace. Make sure people are free to comment on and discuss the issues. Avoid sweeping things under the carpet and you’ll notice a healthier workplace as a result.
With any new project, senior leaders may not see the benefit from day one. To maintain interest and engagement, give them use cases, stats and success stories for at least the first 6 months to reinforce the value & benefits. When we launch a project for a WebVine client, we make every effort to keep the executive suite in the loop as their Digital Workplace develops and reinforce the organisational benefits at every opportunity. It pays dividends both now and in the future.
Securing the involvement of the executive and senior leaders in the organisation is imperative to the long-term success of enterprise social initiatives. These leaders play a core role in setting the tone of the organisation, steering the organisation’s culture, and demonstrating expected behaviours.
My sessions at DWCNZ 2018 will focus on the planning and strategy behind building a successful Digital Workplace, including how to build a model proving ROI for senior leaders.