Digital Workplace Success: Executive Support

Sep 18, 2018

It’s not from lack of effort that I see Digital Workplace projects failing. It’s not from lack of trying, or not enough people being involved, or not enough money. It’s just that some organisations don’t know what they don’t know.

There are nine pillars supporting the success of a Digital Workplace initiative and they go a long way towards creating an engaging, useful and future-proof intranet. You can do well in eight pillars, but if just one of them is missing the whole thing can come undone. I will be publishing a series of blog posts covering each of the pillars – let’s start at the beginning.


We are all guilty of projecting our thoughts and opinions on to others, assuming that how they experience and understand and value is the same. Surely the fact that everyone is frustrated with their outdated computer systems is obvious to the C-Suite?

The reality is that the executive team have a different kind of a daily life from most people working in a company. They’re usually removed from technology issues and don’t realise what a pain it is to work in an old-fashioned way, sifting through share drives for information and so on.

To convince them that Digital Transformation is worth investing in, you need to speak their language, talking about what’s in it for them:

  • Being more competitive
  • Automation / reducing costs
  • Attracting top talent
  • Having dashboards of information for decision-making

IT folk love talking about technology. We say, “Oh yeah, Office 365, Exchange, cloud, PowerApps.” Executives roll their eyes, they just want to get their work done. We need to elevate the conversation level to what they care about. If you’re able to do that, talking about saving costs, talking about innovation, then you can get the funding, you can get the visible support that is essential to make your transformation a success.

Let’s say you’re trying to embrace social communication within the organisation and none of the executive team bother communicating in that way. Pretty soon the next level of management think, “Well, if they’re not doing it, I’m not doing it. They might think I’m wasting time.” Which reflects down to the next level and soon enough there’s only little pockets of the organisation that are doing it. Executive support is crucial to send the message that “This is how we do things now”.

If you’re trying to position this initiative, it would be a mistake to focus on the tool – Yammer or Slack or whatever you want to use. What are the objectives of social, what’s the strategy? “We want to share leads across the sales team to generate 10% more revenue,” will gain an executive’s attention much faster than any discussion of functions. The app itself must not become the core thing or the debate will centre on the tool. Is it any good? Are there potential bugs? What if xyz happens? That’s not where you want to be having the conversation. You want to take it a level higher.

A couple of months ago, I was speaking with an IT manager from a company of about 1,200 people in the not-for-profit space. He was having trouble moving his Digital Transformation vision forward. He downloaded the three chapter extract of my book to read, and ended up printing it out and passing it along to his CEO. Lo and behold, the CEO read the chapters and gave a copy to all the executive team. Next thing, I’m meeting with the full team for two hours to discuss their Digital Transformation. They’re super keen and engaged, listing issues and problems and how can we solve them to transform how the business is operating.

It was not that the Exec team didn’t want to leverage technology to move the organisation forward, they just hadn’t had the case put to them in their language. Next time you are pitching a new technology, step back from the bells and whistles and try to see it from the CEO’s point of view. Your project will have the C-stamp of approval in no time.

Read more about the 9 Pillars of Digital Workplace Success in my new book Digital Transformation from the Inside Out. Click here for more information about the book and to download a free 3-chapter extract.

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