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Mastering the art of change in the digital domain

Digital tools can accelerate transformation and adoption in real time

Organizations wrestle with a variety of questions that require critical answers if they are to effect change. How does my organization engage a multi-generational workforce? How can we modernize ways of working in this age of digitalization? How do we manage change when functions and roles are quickly evolving—and when repetitive work can be performed robotically?

In today’s world, transformation requires a new change management approach—one that is enabled by digital tools that can accelerate transformation and adoption in real time. Radical change requires radical thought. Employees are ready and digitally enabled to challenge the organizational status quo. Is your organization prepared to meet that challenge?

For decades, businesses formulated and followed change management approaches that relied on resource-heavy tools dependent on traditional methodologies and time-intensive processes. Internal practitioners and third-party consultants followed a rigorous step-by-prescribed-step, top-down approach. And often, outcomes were gleaned not from empirical data or input from listening strategies, but rather from intuition based upon the “art of change.”

But that is no longer the path organizations can follow. A 2016 IBM Institute of Business Value (IBV) Global Skills Study of nearly 6,000 executives across 47 countries found that more than 50 percent placed “willingness to be flexible, agile and adaptable to change” as a critical success factor for their workforce

Inside out to outside in

This willingness to be adaptable is causing current organizations to become more lean, more agile and more transformational in their thinking and actions:

  • Listening to and synthesizing the sentiments of their socially and digitally empowered employees, partners and customers
  • Constructing new operating models and reshaping cultures to form more agile environments
  • Embracing a tiered delivery model: varied resources (onsite, near shore and offshore) for greater utilization and savings (see Figure 1)
  • Incorporating new user-centric design thinking into their processes, planning and product development
  • Implementing learning and educational programs to rapidly build scale and change mindsets
  • Continuously measuring outcomes, readjusting their plans in real time to achieve optimal results and responses.



Think about this: transformations in the past (such as large and complex ERP implementations) often required a dedicated commitment of resources, skills and investment over an extended period (two years or more). Now with an agile approach that uses digital tools and the cloud, implementations (for example, mobile sales workforce application) may take months, if not weeks, to roll out.

In this social, mobile and data-driven world, there is a paradigm shift in transformational thinking and action taking place: just the type of change for the better many will seek. Let’s see how change management in the current digital environment is transforming organizations from the outside in.

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Meet the authors

Tina Marron-Partridge

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, Global Leader, Talent & Engagement, IBM Global Business Services

Maria-Paz Barrientos

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, Vice President and Partner IBM Talent & Engagement Global Center of Competency

Elizabeth Whiteford

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, Global Offering Lead and Solution Architect, Digital Change Talent and Engagement Center of Competency

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