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Change management programmes: the key to digital transformation

Findings

Digital tools are now available in abundance and are being used at an increasing rate by individuals, both for personal and professional reasons. Administrations now need to catch up quickly or they will be left behind.

However, transformation processes often respond to the same postulates but also encounter the same pitfalls. The focus is on the development and implementation of tools, which are intended to be performative on paper, in a context of a well-established competitive process and on the basis of scrupulous specifications, filled with technical criteria and functional imperatives.

Putting the human back at the heart of the device

Users needs are still not really being taken into account. Often, the user remains trapped by the form and the deadlines for the delivery of the document, which doesn’t consider the interested parties. It is believed that the truth is in the tool, whereas human needs are very sensitive to contexts: the “graft” of the same tool may not work for many reasons.

Private companies are known for including change management components in their transformation programs, in the ongoing search of improved performance. This is not always the case for public administrations, for whom budgetary issues and statutory particularities often lead to neglect of these components.

Breathing in the digital culture

When it comes to the technological choices and the configuration of solutions, projects seem to run out of steam when it comes to helping users get to grips with the new solution. It is as if, once the tool is installed and the time comes to use it, this is when ownership and guidance should follow, notwithstanding the technological, psychological and cultural ruptures that are sometimes caused. Any HR department will tell you: user training at the end of a project is not enough, as its participants retain only a small portion of what they have seen and heard. Without an early and careful handling, the expected level of productivity will never be reached, and the group dynamics and the cohesion effect – although traditionally expected from transformations – will not become reality.

Remedies and must-haves

Making use of digital levers has undeniable virtues in transformation contexts. Consultation with future users must be the cornerstone. Organized on a collaborative platform, in open or anonymized mode, it must be sufficiently explained to motivate their participation. Never time-consuming or irritating, it will allow us to get to know our audiences better and to segment them according to their needs, like people. Fully including users is a breakthrough, as the following examples illustrate:

 

  • The evolution of PPPs (Public-Private Partnerships) which have ended up becoming “Participatory PPPs” (e.g. in the context of drinking water equipment in developing countries in 2009 by Suez, a French water and waste management group, the world’s leading private water supplier) [1].
  • PPP-Producers (for agricultural value chains in Africa under the aegis of the International Fund for Agricultural Development in 2016) [2].
  • PPP-Populations promoted by 4P International that truly put the individual back at the heart of the strategies.

Training and ongoing skills development

A training system promotes user involvement in the adoption of change. Starting with an initial training session to help users get started, the training can continue on an ongoing basis in the form of micro-sessions, freeze-frames and other tutorials – the ideal being blended learning, to “embody” what will become a community.

Increased participation

Finally, forums can be set up to answer questions but also to test public opinion on specific themes and issues by means of short surveys on a periodic basis The community will have a sense of permanence and will be more willing to get involved, contributing to the continuous innovation of the system.

 

However, none of this is possible without prior digital awareness. The managerial apparatus needs to be further strengthened in this respect. If the remedies exist, then we can see that there is still a lot of work to be done. And let’s not hide the fact: it is not up to the administrations alone to manage change. On the other hand, they must have sufficient budgets to mandate and continue to rely on private operators, who are used to working with both private and public companies, to acculturate and support them.

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