Getting stakeholders to buy into digital transformation

Your company is in the process of carrying out a system overhaul to align itself to the digital revolution. As it transits from legacy systems to modern operational models, the firm is bound to encounter a number of setbacks.

Among the first hurdles is resistance to change as highlighted by a new report, CEO Perspectives: The State of Digital Transformation in Kenya released yesterday.

Resistance to change, the survey conducted by Nairobi-based tech solutions firm Xetova, states is “one of the prominent impediments to transitioning into the digital economy”.

“The implementation and adoption of new technologies is not an easy task. Some people may be reluctant to change, and this static culture is an impediment to our economic growth,” states the study which interviewed top CEOs of 50 corporates in Kenya between October 2021 and June 2022.

Many efforts do not easily yield to the imperatives of technology adoption because the process demands that stakeholders do things differently, and away from their comfort zone, says the survey.

The challenge, therefore, is to convince stakeholders, especially the C-suite to see the importance of going digital and hence buy into the idea of transformation. Once the top executives and managers are persuaded on the utter necessity of technological use, the acceptance of change will be easily cascaded to the lower cadre of staff.

If the solution requires the end-user to go through significant or lengthy learning, the research found, the intended change will spark resistance. “However, when the introduction of new technology is executed in a gradual manner that the end users find it easy to grasp, there is limited resistance if any,” the report says.

Top executives credit part of their success to their ability to obtain buy-in from their C-suite and other management staff.

Different companies, it was revealed, adopt various approaches in their bid to ensure that the relevant stakeholders in the automation journey all see the overall vision and projected benefits.

The Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM), for instance, conducts capacity-building programmes like the Annual Kaizen Congress, in partnership with the Kaizen Institute. Under the programmes, KAM members are trained on existing smart manufacturing practices and technologies to enhance uptake.

The National Treasury put in place “a Change Management Plan” before embarking on implementing digital solutions. The plan was meant to stave off resistance to the implementation of the Integrated Financial Management Information System (IFMIS).

The anticipation of resistance was borne out of the realisation that the ministry previously operated under a purely manual transaction system. It was, therefore, crucial to bring all the players comprising staff, top managers and suppliers up to speed with the forthcoming changes, a process that was done in a variety of ways including training, awareness campaigns and talk shows.

The Treasury’s Change Management Plan, “involved the use of events, media campaigns, talk shows and training to sensitise users and suppliers on the benefits of the new system.”

To illustrate the centrality of stakeholders’ buy-in in the transformation process, Treasury established The IFMIS Academy in partnership with the Kenya School of Government. The core responsibility of the academy is to equip users with tech skills and know-how through physical training and online modules.

The Treasury is also banking on capacity building to foster a nationwide rollout of the electronic government procurement (e-GP) system. Some of the solutions the government is rolling out is enhancing ICT skills through scaling up the Digital Literacy Programme, the Ajira Programme and the Presidential Digital Talent Programme.

“The Ajira Digital programme has been particularly instrumental in equipping the youth with skills to ensure quick acceptance of digital technologies. The programme targets to train 1 million youth to enable them to plug into online jobs in an environment of the fast-growing gig economy,” notes the report.

“The allure in implementation of tech-based solutions in the provision of government services and in addressing national pressing challenges lies in the hefty rewards it promises,” it adds, stating that taking into account the experiences in other jurisdictions, it is estimated that the e-GP solution will yield significant cost savings in the magnitude of between 10 percent and 15 percent of the total government public procurement expenditure.

The Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA), which participated in the Xetova study, has rolled out a number of initiatives to bring SMEs on board the digital journey. One of these is the SMEs Lab programme, which focuses on the digitisation of business activities.

Through the E-commerce Booster Program – in partnership with TradeMark East Africa, Kepsa has trained more than 2,000 SMEs on digital skills and building capacity to operate in the digital market space.

This included onboarding them onto existing digital market platforms locally and overseas. This initiation has ensured a reduction in cost drivers and an increase in technology-driven solutions, a move aimed at meeting the growing penetration of digital solutions through enhanced stakeholder buy-in.

Also, the study found, Kepsa in partnership with Zydii has launched free digital courses for SMEs to train and equip them with skills to operate their businesses online. These will go a long way to ensure that Kenya’s digitisation journey is embraced by all – businesses, their employees, customers, and suppliers alike.

Stakeholder buy-in in the adoption of digital skills and digital tools will open new and exciting opportunities for Kenyans in e-commerce and business process outsourcing (BPO). This will create jobs, generate wealth for the country, foster local, regional and international trade and grow the economy.

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