When leading digital transformation, a thorny patch you are likely to encounter is securing buy-in from senior stakeholders within your organisation. Whether through a lack of understanding of the benefits of going digital, or sometimes out of personal interest (some stakeholders will cling to the status quo on which their careers were built), you are likely to meet some opposition in your work to drive digital transformation.
This is why we put participants on our Digital Transformation Strategy short course through a Digital Strategy ‘dragon’s den’ on their final day, where they pitch their strategy proposals to a panel of industry and academic experts.
Here are five simple strategies to help you leverage your diplomatic skills and gain that crucial buy-in:
1. Balance change and continuity
Within every successful business is a legacy worth keeping – including brand, strategic position and audience.
Showing leadership that you understand this is key. You need to reassure them that digital change will carry the business forward.
This point will be easier to get across if you can provide case studies of other companies that have successfully implemented a digital strategy without compromising their existing brand.
If you can show your leaders how your digital project could strike a balance between continuity and change, you will likely improve your chances of getting their buy-in.
2. Know your audience and what motivates them
Who are your leaders and what do they like? You can use this information to identify cultural touchpoints that will help you connect with them.
Everyone likes and expects to be rewarded when their actions benefit the company. In a corporate leader’s case, this means getting credit for making smart decisions on key issues like digital transition.
Why not offer a senior leader the opportunity to act as a figurehead for the project, or even as a bridge between the digital transformation team and top-level management? Through such an arrangement, they can earn fully deserved credit for their role in the project and you gain a valuable advocate and champion.
3. Make sure they’re up to speed on what you’re doing
Senior team members in any business are often ridiculously busy. If you’re involved in a complex digital project, they will often be coming to it cold whenever you meet up.
With this in mind, try introducing your progress meetings with short, sharp recaps on the project’s status (“As you remember, last time we met we signed this off; this session we’re doing X, Y, Z.”).
Most consultancies do this sort of thing as a matter of course, but when you’re working within an organisation it can be easy to forget that your project may not be as fresh in everyone else’s mind as it is in yours.
4. Demonstrate ROI
Digital projects can be brilliantly measurable, which provides digital champions with a prime opportunity to make a fact-based case for digital.
The simplest way to do this is through pilot projects, experiments or case studies to demonstrate the ROI for a digital project.
If your corporate leaders are particularly focused on ROI, you might also consider proposing that your team will work using the agile methodology, which uses ROI as the measure to determine which job gets done next. On a regular basis (typically weekly or fortnightly), the team’s financials are measured and the project/activity with the best ROI gets put straight to the top of the to-do list.
5. Make digital fun, familiar, interesting and engaging
There’s an incredible variety of ways to engage, inform, and even delight audiences using digital. Making the most of these opportunities is an absolute must when you’re pitching a digital project to leadership.
A key rule to bear in mind if your audience is non-technical is to highlight the most important functionalities and outcomes, rather than technical details. Outcomes are what matters to corporate leaders.
If you’ve ticked off all five points from this article, your leaders should now be convinced that your digital project offers the right balance of change and continuity, and will deliver strong ROI for the business. They will have a good handle on what you’re working on, and they’ll think of your team as engaging, interesting stakeholders in the organisation. Finally, they’ll understand that digital is not a threat to their career; it’s an opportunity. These factors combine to provide a great chance of corporate buy-in for digital.