Advice and Information for Finance Professionals

How to Lead a Culture of Continuous Change

Guest Author

By Steve Cox, Group Vice President, ERP and EPM Cloud Business Group, Oracle

In an age when digital technologies are driving seismic disruption, most companies are keenly aware of the need to transform their operating models to keep pace. Businesses are looking to embrace a culture of continuous change in order to keep up with customer demands and unforeseen competition.

In my last post, I discussed the technology foundation required to enable this transformation. However, most of us recognize that technology is simply an enabler. The real change comes from people—and people can be much harder to manage.

Talk to anyone who has been involved in a large-scale digital transformation, and they always say that the hardest part was not the technology; it was the change management. In my discussions with finance leaders, colleagues and peers, there are some key steps that are mentioned again and again.

Let’s look at what a company needs on the organizational level to succeed in transforming itself.

6 Steps to Continuous Change Management

  1. Leadership. There’s no two ways about it: without sponsorship at the highest level, any major transformation is unlikely to succeed. It’s paramount that the entire management team becomes well-versed in the need for digital technologies; the “digital IQ” needs to be raised across the entire organization.
  2. Line-of-business cooperation. In most enterprises, the responsibility for implementing new technologies falls on the CIO’s shoulders. But rather than being the guardian of IT, the CIO should focus on creating solutions that allow the business to achieve its desired outcomes. That requires a deeper understanding of each business unit or function than CIOs have needed in the past.
  3. Clear business objectives. It is crucial that everyone understands and is aligned to the business objectives before considering and choosing the technology required to succeed. Without a clear goal in sight, the business will never get to where it needs to be—no matter how many new digital systems it implements.
  4. A strong key user network. Change agents should uncover and nurture a network of key technology users representing regions, functions, and business units across the company. These key users can help develop the transformation approach, and later, evangelize its benefits to their peers.
  5. A trusted partner. Evaluate your cloud providers as potential long-term partners: Are they developing in the right way? Do they have a vision for the future that aligns with where your business will be in three years? Do they have a sizeable R&D budget invested in emerging technologies, or are their offerings mostly marketing hype?
  6. Cultural change. The final step is not a step at all, but a broad-based cultural shift toward greater agility. What you’re asking the organization to do is to work differently, for people to play different roles and, often, for leaders to develop and enhance new skills. You can’t simply “manage” continuous change; rather, you can lead and manage it.

Taking the Next Step

Adopting a model of continuous change is a choice that remains in the hands of business leaders. The first step is developing a clear understanding of your customers and their changing behaviors. Set audacious goals focused on delighting your customers.

Next is a clear-eyed assessment of your organization’s current technology—particularly its capacity for future growth and agility. Map the options and routes to transformation based on both your current and future direction.

And finally, ensure you have the leadership drive to execute and overcome barriers.

To learn more, read the digibook, “Leading Digital Transformation.”

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