Your People Model for Digital Transformation Success

Digital transformation is not more different than any other transformation or change initiative. Even though this buzz word signals something new, we need to learn from the mistakes we have made with any other change initiative.

It’s becoming more apparent that being a digital organization does not only mean having digital tools and processes to strengthen the operations within the organizations. Well known publishers and companies are calling for a Digital Transformation Culture. So, rather than only to look at the digital structure, organizations should also be focusing on the digital culture.

The Boston Consulting Group talks for example about that “It’s Not a Digital Transformation Without a Digital Culture”. And even the more technological focused companies such as IBM argue that when you want to have a digital transformation success, it is a people thing.

So, how to do this?

How can you change your organizational culture to a digital culture?

One of the leading companies in helping organizations with their digital transformation initiatives is McKinsey. On their website they argue it is a combination of “hands-on training and role modeling during projects, along with immersive learning experiences outside of the office“. These learning experiences outside the office are events in which the McKinsey consultant takes an “active role in convening forums for executives and thought leaders”.

When I read this, I am asking myself: is this really moving the needle? Are your executives the ones that need to be included in forums? And who are your thought leaders? It’s one thing to include them in training and learning events, but can they execute the task of moving the needle? Are they trusted throughout the whole organization?

For organizations to change successfully, you need to bring in someone who is trusted and the Edelman Trust Barometer for 2017 found that trust in peers is above 60% while trust in executives is below 38%. So, I ask again: why should we focus so much on the top, when your employees are the key to the success of your digital transformation initiatives.

I agree with IBM and McKinsey: you need to work with people. But don’t get blinded by the words only! To become a digital organization, you need to work:

with the RIGHT people for the RIGHT digital tasks

Your People Model for Digital Transformation Success

In every digital transformation, there are different tasks to be executed. These are all very different tasks which cannot be done by only one type of person. There are three abilities among your people you need to identify:



These are the people in the organization who are the first movers in organizational digital tools and processes according to their peers. This group of people are the ones to share new digital expertise with as early as possible, because they can help accelerate overall adoption.


These are the people who are part of the group of employees with the largest influence. This group of employees are trusted by their peers and drive the perception of the organization. Keep them therefore informed and positive and listen to them what the vibe is “on the ground”.


These are the people who have indicated that they both have time and the right skills related to digital transformation. They can be the people in your organization to test the new Digital tools and processes.


These three abilities lead to the RIGHT people for your digital transformation who you then can involve in the RIGHT digital tasks.

Who are the ones that have all three abilities? Who are the people who are the FIRST MOVERS and have INFLUENCE in their DNA, but feel they do not have the time or right skills to commit to Digital Transformation? All these different people – any many more when you use this People Model for Digital Transformation – should be engaged in Digital Transformation initiatives. How they are engaged, however, should be different.

To become a digital organization, build and manage your Digital Transformation Culture carefully!