Digital Transformation: What doesn’t work

What's the main problem with digital transformation? Messaging! Within digital transformation, oftentimes there is a change team. The problem is that the message from the change team is often overlooked. Digital transformation can be much more complicated than it appears and it needs more intensity and respect devoted to making it a success. This podcast, featuring Janet Robb, examines what doesn't work in digital transformation---- and what does, including the three key factors of successful user adoption. We're not kidding when we say this is a conversation not to be missed!

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Janet Robb on what doesn't work in digital transfomations

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We listen for personal messages and we listen to corporate messages, and we only listen to them if the right people give that message. 

Digital Transformation With Janet Robb

Janet Robb, Senior Customer Success Manager, Microsoft

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The quick overview

Janet Robb, an expert in digital transformation with Microsoft, shares her invaluable insights on the significance of proficiency and adoption in driving successful outcomes in digital transformation projects.

She emphasizes the need to understand the personal journey of individuals and provides practical strategies for organizations to secure buy-in and combat change fatigue. Robb also highlights the importance of benchmarking success factors, recognizing the value of change practitioners, and rethinking training and change management approaches.

This thought-provoking conversation offers essential lessons for anyone involved in digital transformation initiatives, reminding us to prioritize people and their personal journeys for successful digital adoption. 

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The full transcript

[00:00:00] Digital Transformation with Microsoft’s Janet Robb

Rick McCutcheon: Hello everybody. My name’s Rick McCutcheon and I’m a Microsoft Dynamics MVP. And I want to welcome you today to ClickLearn’s Digital Adoption Talks. Thank you for joining us. And we find that it’s a fascinating topic as we get more and more guests on.

We brought this podcast together because there’s now 300,000 professionals on LinkedIn with Digital Adoption Specialist in their titles. Today with my co-host, Joachim Schiermacher, the CEO of ClickLearn, we’re going to welcome Janet Robb. Now Janet is a former senior success manager for Microsoft and is now co-creator of the Tech Role Revolution podcast. Hello, Janet. Tell us who you are and what you do.

[00:01:00] Digital adoption is more than communications and training

Janet Robb: Thank you for having me. I’m just going to, before we really get into this, I’ve been described as annoyingly perky, so I will try and tone it down a bit. 

So first of all, thank you very, much for, having me. I am surprised, Rick, at what you said, about 300,000 people saying they’re digital adoption specialists because I spend a lot of time just talking to people that think digital adoption is communications and training, and that is all it is. I’m, very pleased to be here, so thank you very much.

[00:01:20] In Dynamics since version three

Rick McCutcheon: So Janet, I was looking at your LinkedIn profile. You have been a customer success manager. You’ve been a change management and user adoption consultant, and you’ve been a dynamics adoption specialist. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about your career and what brought you here today to this podcast?

Janet Robb: First of all, everybody loves Rick, so that’s why I’m here. That’s the quick one. I have been in Dynamics since version three, I think. That wasn’t yesterday. And before that, I’ve always worked in IT from the age of about 22. I’ve been it an IT consultancy hard coding kind of stuff.

[00:02:00] Evolution to Dynamics Adoption Specialist

Janet Robb: But then one day somebody came into the office and said, Janet, you’re going to a firebrand training course in version three dynamics. And I went, what? And my life changed. I went and I did this intensive training course near killed me, and I came home and I suddenly appeared to be a genius because I could do the point and click, I could do the configuration.

There was no middle man anymore. And I loved it. I loved it. I loved it. I loved it. I loved it. And I loved how it helped customers really, quickly. And I, have a big span of what I’ve been doing in dynamics since version three. The, one that you called out, the Dynamics adoption specialist, Rick, that is I, always use this in my presentation.

Janet Robb: I worked for myself for three years. I didn’t have a website. I didn’t know how to make one, I didn’t have a mobile phone. I knew how to buy one, but I never bothered because people find me.

[00:03:00] How things get easier as an adoption specialist

People find me because their projects were failing and they always failed on adoption. That’s all it was. I spent three years working as an adoption specialist, and I got to work with the coolest customers.

Janet Robb: And I got to work in, oh, so many different areas. And the lovely thing is when you get to work in so many different areas, you get to pattern match and the next customer, and the next customer and the next, and it all becomes a bit easier.

So I’ve I’ve had a long history in dynamics. I’ve been I was an adoption and change management specialist for Microsoft.

[00:03:30] Change Management: More than training & communications

Janet Robb: There were a hundred of us globally. So I got to do that. Genuinely, I live and breathe change management. I just do not believe it’s training and communications. It’s a lot more in-depth than that. 

Joachim Schiermacher: I’m super excited about finally having someone who’s a dynamic adoption specialist because this is an area that we’ve obviously been working on for quite a while.

[00:04:00] What is digital adoption?

So I was about to say that you are the specialist the one that is left in the world. But it’s, really good to have you here and I really look forward to our conversation today.

Joachim Schiermacher: I think we’ll, have some interesting thoughts.

Rick McCutcheon: So Janet, after what you said, I’m going to jump to our third question, which is, could you share some insights on achieving customer success in the business applications world? Because I want you to tell us what you feel digital adoption means.

[00:04:30] Recipe for digital adoption success: When proficiency, ROI, and adoption are attained

Janet Robb: Oh, wow. Okay. So adoption. Success is only when proficiency is hit. Return and investment is hit, and adoption is hit. Those are the three things. So you might have the biggest, most swankiest, the coolest piece of tech going. But if the people that the tech are using, the tech don’t have full utilization, aren’t proficiency to the level that is required and haven’t adopted it, it doesn’t matter what you’ve got because nobody’s using it.

[00:05:00] Forgetting user groups dooms digital transformation

Janet Robb: And that means it all comes down to people. That’s all it comes down to. And guess what, that’s the bit that people forget about. Very rarely are the, I call ’em the impacted user groups because there’s too many to count end users as individuals.

So, the impacted user groups are forgotten about and success factors are put at a corporate level and not at an individually lower level of the impacted group level.

[00:05:30] Not benchmarking dooms digital transformation

Janet Robb: So there are so many times where I’ve wanted to go outside and scream because I’ve been sitting in a boardroom. I’ve been sitting in a steering meeting. Never once have I seen success factors written down. I’ve never once seen benchmarking of KPIs say, this is where we were. This is where we hope to get to, and, oh, did we get there?

[00:06:00] Digital transformation: The tech works, the people don’t

Janet Robb: Yes or no? So for me, digital transformation is: The tech works, folks. Dynamics is brilliant. Power platform is brilliant. You might get the old rogue coder who’s made a mistake, et cetera, et cetera, but that’s. It. It works. It works. I’ve seen it work so many times. I know it works. What doesn’t work is the people.

Janet Robb: It’s the people being included in the personal journey, What is going to turn Janet Robb on to using this system? What is going to get her desire factors up? Why? What will be her resistance to this system and change is happening so quick. Oh my goodness. So quick change, and therefore so much change is happening.

[00:06:31] People don’t listen to the digital transformation change team

Janet Robb: People are beginning not to pay attention. And the one key thing I’ll say within digital transformation is people, sometimes people are really good and they have a change team. Woohoo. With a change team, nobody and I made nobody listens to the change team. Nobody’s, nobody cares. We only listen to two different types of people.

[00:07:00] Digital transformation is complicated

Janet Robb: We listen for personal messages and we listen to corporate messages, and we only listen to them if the right people give that message. So digital transformation is a lot more complicated than people realize, and therefore it needs a bit more intensity, it needs a bit more respect, and it needs a little bit of money applied to it.

Rick McCutcheon: Perfectly said. Joachim, would you like to add anything?

Joachim Schiermacher: Oh, it’s common. It’s listening to me. It’s exactly what I’m preaching. No, I think one of the interesting questions out there, because we’ve had a lot of guests on, this show and we always discuss what is, what are the most important aspects of user adoption.

[00:07:35] Most important aspects of user adoption

Joachim Schiermacher: And, we get a lot of anchoring in management. Obviously we need to have the anchor there. But rarely does someone say that it’s a personal journey, which I really agree with. Now, the apathy that might hit people is it’s not going to hit on a, on management level. It will hit the individual users the Debbies, the Johns that are using the technology and trying to apply that.

[00:08:00] Importance of management vs. motivated users to digital transformation

Joachim Schiermacher: But where do you see that? So that’s where I want to go. Where, do you see that? What do you think is most important? If you could only choose one, you could anchor with management to have the most motivated management team around you is that this is like the most wonderful technology.

We are all going to make this come through. And then having motivated people that are working with the technology.

Janet Robb: Sorry, just to clarify, you’re asking me what I think is the most imp If I had to pick one thing?

Joachim Schiermacher: yeah it’s the island test. The island test.

[00:08:30] The one thing that makes adoption work

Janet Robb: If I had to pick one thing that would make adoption work, I would say understand the ’what’s in it for me’ for each impacted group?

Because it doesn’t matter what is in it for the, sponsor or the tech team, if we can find a reason. So when we change, we don’t realize, but we actually make a decision to change. There’s something inside us that spurs us on to go, oh, for me I’m going to go on a diet because my jeans don’t fit.

[00:09:00] Digital transformation: understand motivation for impacted groups

Janet Robb: That was my thing. Something told me that I need to go to the gym and get in a diet. If somebody told me, Janet, we are bringing this new system and it is going to take that report that drives you to drink on a Friday night away from you and you will never have to do it again. We promise Janet. I’m going to go, oh, okay.

That’s something that really bugs me. So I’m going to pay attention. I’m going to help get that system involved. So if we take, so remember, the thing that makes a project successful is proficiency, utilization, and adoption. And those are the three things that are going to turn as an individual I will bring to the game.

Janet Robb: And if I don’t have to do that report, And I can have a gin and tonic on a Friday night because I don’t need to worry about it anymore. I’m going to pay attention. So it is about, the one thing I would say is understanding the, what’s in it for me per impacted group.
Joachim Schiermacher: How much I’m, really, because that’s really the, buy-in process, you probbably have it’s, like a three minute thing, right?

[00:10:00] What’s the ‘Bozo Bit’, anyway?

Joachim Schiermacher: You have three minutes to convince the you. So otherwise they’re going to turn that Bozo Bit, which is basically ’Whatever. We don’t care.’ I think that’s a Microsoft term that you turn the Bozo Bit and you say, ’I don’t care what you’re saying anymore. It doesn’t matter. I’ll ignore it and I’ll go into my own apathy state and I’m not going to adopt anything you’re saying from here on.’

How much time do you think you have to demonstrate that for, a group of, people?

[00:10:30] 10 minutes to convince someone of something

Janet Robb: To be honest with you, if I, think you genuinely have about 10 minutes. 10 minutes to turn somebody on to something. Why? Because change is happening too often and we’re hearing about it too often. The second thing is, guess what I’ve got to do? I’ve got to do a day job. Exactly. You want me to do my day job as well as go through this digital transformation and I’m already maxed out.

[00:11:00] Convince using relevant communication

Janet Robb: Yeah, so you have 10 minutes to convince me, and the way you’ll convince me is by talking language I understand. Using phrases that I understand, my pain points, that I understand, and providing me a solution. All right? And say, Janet, you were doing five a day. This system will allow you to do. 10 customer reports a day and I’m going to go, really?

Janet Robb: That’s fantastic. That means I can do, I have more time to do X, Y, and Z. And we find that we start to have a desire for these things. Don’t give somebody a desire. Don’t give somebody, if my jeans didn’t fit, I wouldn’t be on a diet. There has to be something that turns you on.

Joachim Schiermacher: Let’s, assume that I actually convinced you now, Janet, that you know, you need to make this jump right in the 10 minutes.

[00:11:30] How to gain proficiency in a solution

Joachim Schiermacher: You need to make the change because there’s something in it for you, which is really basic. So now the next hurdle that’s going to hit you, that’s around proficiency, right? Can I gain proficiency in the solution? How do you, work with that?

Janet Robb: Oh, I do. You know what? I love that question.

[00:12:00] Proficiency is often ignored in digital transformation

Janet Robb: Proficiency is often ignored. So I describe this proficiency as when you passed your first driving test. Think about what was it like driving on the motorway. We were all nearly wetting ourselves. We were all terrified because it was new and it was difficult. Now, driving on the motorbike, you’re really, quick.

[00:12:30] Proficiency takes time for digital transformation

Janet Robb: Proficiency comes with time, but when it comes to digital transformation journeys, for some reason, people just think you can go on a training course, you can look at a book, and so I describe it as business applications.

It’s usually the engine of your car. You need it to run your business. So why are we giving people the driving lessons of our business and giving them one driving lesson?

[00:12:45] Test for proficiency

Janet Robb: Not even giving them a test, not even doing proficiency with them, not even going back and doing checks with them. Why? Why do we give people the keys to our business? Without testing the proficiency. It is crackers, utter crackers.

[00:13:00] Proficiency is often overlooked

Joachim Schiermacher: Do you think we are doing enough for the proficiency part? Because I’m obviously very engaged in that part.

Janet Robb: And indeed I think it ha I’m going to be honest. Proficiency is forgotten about. And it is one of the key things I’ve said a number of times now, the proficiency equals return on investment.

[00:13:30] Make it easy to assess proficiency

Janet Robb: It gets ignored. But one of the reasons it gets ignored is people don’t know how to assess it. People don’t know how to build systems to be able to assess it. A lot of people aren’t giving the system enough time.

They think it’s going to be really expensive. I feel if we can make it easier for a customer to assess somebody’s proficiency and give them guidance on how to do that, people will buy in more.

[00:14:00] Figure out who owns the project before it’s too late

Rick McCutcheon: Janet, I have to agree with you on that point specifically. And where I want to take this conversation next is: I’ve got a lot of experience with this being a CRM MVP and I was an independent person, so I’d always get hauled in. Yep. Keep going. I’d always get hauled in to projects that were, what I’ll call down, people would say, ‘We invested all this money in CRM and people are just not using the crm.’

Rick McCutcheon: So I always started by getting in the boardroom with the executive team and saying, okay, who owns the project? Okay. And they would all spin their heads around trying to figure out who owns the project. And a lot of times it would be that IT director sitting there owns this project. And then I would say, okay, that’s our starting point.

When you walked in as a success manager into an organization that had what I call a down system, where did you start?

[00:15:00] Start by running a health check

Janet Robb: The first thing is I would’ve ran what’s called a health check. Okay. And basically all a health check is giving people a safe environment to come and talk to me and tell me why they weren’t using the system, what was the issue, and then I would document what that is and I would document it at the personal journey of that impacted group.

[00:15:14] Place emphasis on the people

Janet Robb: Because remember, I don’t give a flying hoot about the tech. I give about the person using it. So I used to correlate all of this and keep put up statements, et cetera, et cetera, and I would play it back to the project team who would all be having a heart attack and calling what I was saying was rubbish. And do you know what?

[00:15:30] Think about the people adopting the system

Janet Robb: It was never rubbish. Nobody had ever taken the time to actually work out what success would help the personal journey for the user to adopt this system. They had only concentrated on their area and didn’t think about the fact that Janet is exhausted already. Janet is working at 110%.

[00:16:00] People don’t want to give up existing systems

You’re asking Janet to adopt this system, but she knows this other system really well and she doesn’t want to leave this other system.

Janet Robb: So now she’s resentful. So I always started with a health check. I also, Rick, I laughed when you said the IT manager. I used to have a PowerPoint that started, “Beware of the IT manager because they might be lovely people, but nobody knows them.” Nobody knows them. Why is it important that they know them?

[00:16:22] Types of messages people listen to: Personal & Corporate

Janet Robb: Because we only listen to two different types of messages. Personal messages and corporate messages from people you respect in those key areas. And when the IT manager struck, the change manager writes to you, you go delete, I dunno what your inbox is but there’s quite a few thousand not opened in mine.

Rick McCutcheon: Joachim, would you like to add anything?

Joachim Schiermacher: It makes completely sense and I think that one of the journeys that we need to undertake now as we see that the amount of digital transformation that we are putting into users now. It’s nowhere comparable to what we did 10, 15 years ago where we had every 10th year we changed our major European system.

[00:17:00] Introducing more system changes for users

Joachim Schiermacher: That was like the biggest transition we did. And we could do that event-based, so we could basically take everyone out, fly them to Vegas and have a great time training them on that system. And they knew that’s the only system I need to understand. Now we are introducing 10, 15 changes annually into everyone’s lap.

And we are expecting that the same methodology still applies somehow. That it’s like the event based training method that we are going back on. And I, don’t understand that why the, training has been unable to at least transform with the challenge that we have ahead of us.

So, that’s basically what we are working at in our team. Trying to see how can we, make sure that those two meet and that, they transform equally and that the burden that we put on our employees, that is somehow in the same amount of time that we used to, it shouldn’t be more.
And so I think that this is absolutely. I agree.

[00:18:00] Change fatigue is a real thing

Janet Robb: Can I just add one thing there that you said? Because I couldn’t agree more. We are all singing in the choir here, all three of us. But there is a real thing, genuinely. People bat this word about people say change is hard. Yeah, we heard you, but nobody’s listening.

So we’ll use this. Then they’ll use other phrases like, change fatigue. It’s a real thing. It’s, like long covid people didn’t believe you. You could get long covid and now everybody’s talking about it. Change fatigue is real. We’ve got. Fed up with it. We’ve got, we just don’t want to do it anymore. 

So we have to find a way to make it fun, enjoyable and, make people want not to turn off.

Rick McCutcheon: I agree. Okay, Janet, thank you very much and I want to close things off by talking about Tech Role Revolution podcast that you and Lucy Bourne has put together. Give us the story behind your show.

[00:19:00] The show about why people aren’t paying attention
Janet Robb: Basically the reason behind the show is just exactly what we were talking about. We were talking about why aren’t people paying attention.
Janet Robb: So what happened was somebody was speaking to me, I am a big advocate for women in tech. I really am. And I was talking to somebody and somebody, yeah, Janet, we have to talk about the tech more. We need to talk about the tech more. And I went, oh, I’m not very good at tech anymore. Oh, And I started to feel very. I don’t, I couldn’t describe the emotion.
[00:19:30] Women in tech can feel like the can’t compete
Janet Robb: I felt that I couldn’t compete in the world. I was too old and I wasn’t technical enough to be a woman in tech, and I couldn’t understand it. And I went for a walk and I was still in a bad mood when I got back and I went in another walk. I was still in a bad mood, went in a third walk, and I suddenly realized what was wrong.
Janet Robb: I wasn’t even valuing my role. In tech, I do not code anymore. You would never want me to, I don’t even point and click anymore again, I don’t think you would want me to.

[00:20:00] People in tech need to value their skills
Now I am, I’ve de-skilled myself, but I’ll tell you what, I have value, but nobody sees me. The person I’ve been talking to about that should have no, I didn’t even see value in me.
Janet Robb: I specialize in adoption. I specialize in success. I can buffer and understand technology enough to talk to the customer. I can make proficiency, adoption, and utilization come to life. But I’m only a change practitioner, and I suddenly went, hold on a minute. A change practitioner should have as much value as the system architect.
[00:20:30] You need to see your value for the customer to see your value
Janet Robb: But if I am in IT, and I am the female, and I am the person, and it doesn’t matter if you’re female or male, this is about roles, doesn’t see the value. Why the heck should the customer see the value? Why should the customer put the effort in? So Lucy and I were having a good aisle rant. We, Lucy is amazing and we, were ranting about it and I said why don’t we do something about it?
[00:21:00] Change management adoption programs make digital transformations more likely to succeed
Janet Robb: Why don’t we, I’ve been shouting about it for so long, and people aren’t listening. They’re playing lip service to it. They’re doing their calms and they’re doing their training plans and they’re ditching the training, and they’re not doing proficiency assessments. They’re not doing any of this stuff. So you know what?
Janet Robb: I’m going to keep talking about it. I’m going to tell you that my value is amazing. My value will save you. The statistic from ProSight is if you put a change management adoption program together along with your digital transformation, you are six times more likely to succeed. Let’s monetize that. And all of a sudden you’re going to pay for your change manager.

Janet Robb: You’re going to pay for your success monitor. You’re going to understand why I’ve run a three-day workshop on benchmarking K P I, why I’ve taken time to understand the needs of that personal journey, why I’m torturing that sponsor to send that email and not me send as the change manager. So I wasn’t valuing myself and people are not valuing because we are still in the 1990s, we think, as you mentioned earlier, it’s the big 10 year ERP project.


[00:22:00] There is a revolution in the technology roles

Janet Robb: It’s not with 15 apps landing this year. 15. So I want people to start. We’ve talked about the tech revolution, let’s talk about the technology role revolution. So it came about me feeling sorry for myself really.

Joachim Schiermacher: It’s not a bad start.

Rick McCutcheon: Okay, Janet. I’m going to look forward to your next podcast, Joachim, would you have any closing remarks for today?

Joachim Schiermacher: It’s been an absolute pleasure. That’s my closing remark, and it’s a mic drop from Janet. I don’t need to say anything here. Oh, it’s perfect.

Rick McCutcheon: Perfectly put, Janet, any closing remarks?

[00:22:30] A conversation exclusively about adoption

Janet Robb: You know what, even though sometimes. We in, the tech community, we talk to each other. It’s so refreshing that the conversation has all been about adoption.

Janet Robb: It’s all been about success, and we didn’t talk about tech, as in keyboard, point and click coding once. That was so refreshing. Thank you.

Rick McCutcheon: Alright, perfect. Okay, Janet Joachim, thank you for your time today and I’m sure Janet, we’re going to have you back on this show at some point to enlighten us more about the world of digital adoption.

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