There are nine essential elements of every Digital Workplace project – nine pillars that form the foundations. Experience has shown that if you miss even one of these pillars, your project is at risk of failing.  When people tell me that their Digital Transformation project was unsuccessful, it’s always because one of the nine pillars is missing. I will be posting one a week, starting with the pillar that often holds the key to the whole project: Executive Support.

For digital transformation, where the organisation is experiencing fundamental changes, support from the C-suite is essential. If people can see their leaders obviously embracing the new direction and technology, it makes a tremendous difference to the success of the change. That’s especially true if the leaders are admired and liked.

Additionally, when senior leaders have invested their efforts in shaping the project they will be more likely to get behind it when challenges inevitably arise, as well as leading user adoption after launch.  Gartner research indicates that 80% of social business efforts do not achieve intended benefits due to an overemphasis on technology and inadequate leadership. I’ve seen organisations where the CEOs showed no appreciation whatsoever for the benefits collaboration technology could offer. That affected the leadership group, which in turn affected middle management, and that in turn affected the worker bees. Knock over the first domino, and the rest quickly fall.

If you are trying to build a business case to secure executive support for a new Digital Workplace, you must demonstrate outcomes that your CEO prioritises.  In today’s business environment, executives can be hesitant to spend on projects that will not yield an obvious and immediate financial return. In some organisations there is a complete absence of appreciation from the CEO as to what collaboration technology could do – Microsoft’s Asia Workplace 2020 Study found that only 32% believe their organisation’s leadership is committed in bridging the digital skills gap in the workplace.

 “The art of leadership is saying no, not saying yes. It is very easy to say yes.” —Tony Blair

Don’t get sidetracked by funky features and details when you get in front of your potential sponsors, tie this project to broader business goals. What business problems will you solve? If we solve those problems what will happen? If you do nothing what will happen?

Demonstrate how your digital workplace will:

  • Attract and retain top talent.
  • Increase business opportunities.
  • Drive innovation.
  • Leverage the latest technologies to make advances and become more competitive
  • Automate to reduce costs.
  • Enable new dashboards that will support quick, effective decisions.

Requirements gathering can help you build your case – share user stories and opportunities that come out of your focus groups to tell a story to senior executives. 

Once you get your exec team to buy in to the project, your efforts should not end there. Post launch, if people can see their leaders embracing the new Digital Workplace, it makes a tremendous difference to the success of the change. Senior leaders must publicly and consistently engage with the platform – comment on posts that other people have made, ‘like’ suggestions or articles and give their two cents’ worth on a topic that’s been raised. 

Strategies for getting your executive team to engage can include:

  • Requesting at least one post or comment each a day.
  • Having an assistant schedule posts for busier executives (not ideal, but better than nothing).
  • Encouraging them to use their own voices and not sound too corporate.
  • Asking them to share any wins on the Digital Workplace first.
  • Getting public dialogue going between executives, and showing that they’re working together on initiatives across the organisation.

With any new project, senior leaders may not see the benefit from day one. To maintain interest and engagement, give them use cases, stats and success stories for at least the first 6 months to reinforce the value & benefits. Keep the executive suite in the loop as your Digital Workplace develops and reinforce the organisational benefits at every opportunity. It will pay dividends both now and in the future.

Executive Support is just one of the 9 Pillars or Digital Workplace Success featured in my new book: Digital Transformation from the Inside Out.  Download your free 3-chapter extract or use Discount code: ‘Collab365’ for 20% off the hard copy.

Review the other posts in this exclusive community series:

Pillar 9: User Adoption
Pillar 8: Governance
Pillar 7: Social Technology Strategy
Pillar 6: Document Management
Pillar 5: Search
Pillar 4: Usability and Design
Pillar 3: Information Architecture
Pillar 2: The Right Team
Pillar 1: Executive Support (this post)

About the author 

Marcus Dervin