Impact of Digital on How We Implement Change

By Audra Proctor

No one doubts the effectiveness of face-to-face workshops for organisational change implementation. But the practicality of things, such as, availability, time, expense and choice of venue, to name a few, makes running training workshops a challenge for many organisations. In this article Audra Proctor of Changefirst unveils how advancement in digital technology and digital delivery methods has brought many organisations alternative, equally effective and cost-effective solutions.


I was quite taken by a recent article in the September (2015) issue of People Management, CIPD. The article was really about the power of video to transform L&D efforts, but it also provided an interesting insight into the impact of digital in the world of organisational change implementation.

ImageThe article kicked off with an interesting snippet from the British builders’ merchant and home improvement retailer – Travis Perkins. Based in middle England (Northampton), it operates 1,900 outlets across the United Kingdom & Ireland. Around 12 month ago, the organisation created a YouTube account and from that time period to now, more than 570 videos have been uploaded to the account. It transpires that when Travis Perkins first receive a new product line, employees can be seen capturing immediate intel and experiences on their smartphones; from the unpacking, to assembling and testing new products, which is then uploaded to YouTube in a matter of minutes and available to colleagues far and wide.

With over 26,000 employees spread over large warehouses in different locations, getting people into a classroom to learn and try out for themselves had been increasingly difficult and therefore it had to be ‘pushed’ out to staff. However, these short, user-generated video clips were not only creating a ‘pull’ for just-in-time learning, but resulted in an estimated £1m saving in product training over the time period.

This is very reminiscent of change implementation across the global organisations we support. For years, our clients had wrestled with the inconvenience, lack of availability, time, and expense of face-to-face workshops. No one doubted their effectiveness, but travel expenses and venue fees alone quickly added up – not to mention the cost of creating and running the programmes, and the loss of work time for participants. Even just a two-day offsite training programme could cost over £50,000, and in 2014, we were able to help a client slash a £400,000 organisational training expense to a £50,000 one – while training four times more people – with an e-learning programme created in Articulate Storyline.

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This is just one of the impacts of digital on how we implement major organisational change – being able to build employee capabilities to manage and adapt to change quickly and cost effectively, without geographical limitations. Yet, some organisations seem to be struggling with embracing new approaches to learning. Deloitte’s recent 2015 Global Human Capital Trends survey reported that only 40% of organisations rated their organisations as ‘ready’ or ‘very ready’ in learning and development. In the report the authors make a very important observation: “Faced with gaps in talent and skills, CEOs are turning to CHROs and CLOs to ask for more and better learning platforms and products. Just when the need is most urgent HR organisations face a massive digital transformation in the learning and training industry, plus new expectations by employees for on-demand learning opportunities.” In other words, we are in the midst of a transformation and some people and organisations are struggling to keep apace.

We have been developing online training and tools for almost 15 years, but have never seen the level of interest that there is right now in digital learning combined with application tools, roadmaps, virtual help etc.

The challenge is substantial. But what is driving this requirement for more digital support? We have been developing online training and tools for almost 15 years, but have never seen the level of interest that there is right now in digital learning combined with application tools, roadmaps, virtual help etc. I see five main drivers.

  1. The technology that powers all of this is cheaper, more reliable and simply much better. The advent of open-source platforms, mobile, video and increased computing power have all contributed to making this possible. As a layman, it just all feels much easier to develop and use.
  2. Suddenly there are online offerings everywhere! For example, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) are being offered by over 400 universities now. To show the potential, over $400 million was invested in providers such as Khan Academy and Coursera. Plus the learning technology market has grown by over 27%.
  3. The population called the ‘digital natives’ are moving into key management positions. Digital natives are people who were born into an age where technology was ubiquitous. They inhabit a world where personalised digital experiences are the norm. YouTube, Amazon and Netflix set their expectations, not a 10-year-old LMS system. They want corporate learning to feel like this.
  4. Digital gives organisations the opportunity to support projects on a ‘just-in-time’ basis. For example, when organisations launch a strategic initiative they can ensure people have had the right training and are equipped with a set of tools to help them plan, analyse and deliver change much more effectively.
  5. A ‘sea-change’ has happened in organisations in the last decade. Multiple trends are making organisations focus on digital delivery methods contributing to this. To give you a couple of examples:
  • People believe that they are overwhelmed by work and time away from the desk will only increase the load, not help with it.
  • Fierce and relentless focus on cost reduction means that organisations see the cost of people travelling to and attending workshops and meetings is no longer affordable.

All of this creates an environment where enterprises and employees believe that time is a very precious resource and the possibility of being overwhelmed by work is always just around the corner. In fact, in some cases it is here right now. Solutions that can offer convenient help when and where people need it are likely to be prized over more fixed offerings that involve travel and days away from work and family.

A few years ago, I was talking to a senior manager at a global client of ours, headquartered in the US. She told me she had been asked to attend a leadership development programme that was for the first time being delivered solely online. It involved some upfront learning, completing a set of personal assessments and receiving both expert and peer-group coaching. She told me that she hadn’t been looking forward to it very much. She said: “At the end of the day I learned what I needed to know. Sure I missed meeting up and socializing with my colleagues. But you know, when I thought about it I didn’t have all the hassle of travelling to the workshop. I was able to spread the learning over a few weeks to fit my schedule, I didn’t have to work in the evening while attending the programme to catch up with emails and I didn’t have to be away from my young family. All in all it was the best use of my time and one that worked very well for my employer and myself.”

This senior manager’s explanation is a lot less evangelical than many of the articles you will read and the speeches you will listen to about how digital is transforming the world. But what struck me so forcibly when I listened to her was that whenever technology can simultaneously solve both personal and organisational problems then it is going to get used.

Digital is not only the most effective delivery method but also one that meets the needs of many organisations and their employees.

These trends are combining to bring digital solutions to the fore. Somehow there is a trade-off emerging here where digital is not only the most effective delivery method but also one that meets the needs of many organisations and their employees.

It was summer 2009 when we began to envision a very different type of support than we had offered to enterprises in the previous 15 years. In addition to needing to get quality change knowledge and tools to impacted groups just-in-time and cost effectively, there were a few other deployment challenges which our clients were facing, such as:

  • How to help a global project team to better prepare to receive change with geographically dispersed user groups?
  • How to deploy a set of change tools to help with building and deploying change management plans in a consistent fashion?
  • How to track the progress of change plans being deployed in different local areas?

So, in response to this we developed our digital and cloud based platform – e-change®, delivering an end-to-end change management solution for business around the globe and giving them the tools and training to implement change; leader and employee education, diagnostics, planning templates, reporting tools as well as a social learning functionality all instantly accessible no matter where or when. We based our platform on our proven and industry-leading People-Centred Implementation methodology, so to enable companies to create an environment of sustained change themselves and to help them implement change more successfully. But what’s the real impact of digital ….?

In just a few clicks:

  • Change and project managers could be working on any number of change projects simultaneously, with information stored all in one place
  • Change managers could feel more confident to lead the Programme Board with a visible evidence base of segment and benchmarked decision-making data
  • Senior change agents could work together with global peers, assigning specific change plans / sections to colleagues and then be able to consolidate their feedback into one single plan
  • Project managers could be effectively analysing risks on projects and acting quickly and efficiently on high risk issues  
  • Users would be able to benefit from just-in-time coaching, practical hints and tips from a virtual coach to help fast track their application
  • Users would improve their change productivity, working quickly because of the 24/7 availability of tools, status indicators and embedded work flows
  • Change and project managers could increase their credibility as a result of trustworthy data and processes at their finger tips

Incidentally, our learning has been that all this technology has to be supported by processes that build leadership support and create a core team of internal experts (people that can consult, teach and coach). Nevertheless, having a strong basis for conversing with, and engaging, key stakeholders – on demand, on the iPad or tablet and on the move, can help people feel more confident about the difference they can make and that’s why digital platforms will be increasingly important to organisations over the coming decade.

To find out more about Changefirst, PCI® our People – Centred Implementation methodology or e-Change® our cloud based, end to end change management solution please contact us on or 0044 (0) 1444 450777.

About the Author

Author-SiteAudra Proctor is the Board Member and Director of Research & Development at Changefirst. For the last 20 years Audra has been helping global organisations to develop capabilities and improve their productivity to execute business critical change initiatives. It is her strong belief that change is far more sustainable when critical skills, processes and tools are transferred inside an organisation, to people who then control and deliver their own changes.




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