12 Tips To Manage The Human Side Of Omnichannel Transformation

09.26.19   |  

Originally published at Econsultancy

The shift toward a more customer-centric, omni-channel approach to marketing is a fundamental transformation affecting many industries.

In the Pharmaceutical and Life Sciences industry, for example, it arises in response to multiple trends including customer adoption of digital technology, changing customer access dynamics, a shift to outcomes-based compensation, and rising patient empowerment.

Most companies have embraced this shift and are investing significant resources behind enabling it, including investments in technology platforms, process change and training.

Unfortunately, in our experience, the impact of these investments is severely limited by a lack of attention to the human side of change. Preparing employees for change is a “make or break” factor but it rarely gets the amount of planning time it requires. In fact, research from McKinsey and Company shows that 70% of all transformations fail due to many human-related factors such as poor communication, lack of participation and buy-in, enough training or resources.

Omnichannel marketing transformation is an example of an emergent change, arising in response to steadily evolving trends. This sort of change is challenging for organizations because there isn’t an immediate threat that compels employees to alter their behavior. It can be much easier for employees, including senior leaders, to remain in their comfort zones. Individuals will readily admit the environment has changed, but since there is no immediate crisis that compels sustained, dramatic change, only incremental progress is achieved, often at the level of isolated individual projects.


12 Tips for addressing the People Element

In the table below we review the “people” elements of successful transformation plans which are frequently overlooked. We then offer 12 tips for successfully executing each of these elements.

Transformation Stage (Often overlooked) People Elements
Prepare * Executive sponsor
* Cross-stakeholder coordination
* Role definition
* Change management milestones
Implement * Prepare employees for change
* Sustain employee engagement
* Change champions
* Early wins
Embed * Change momentum
* Rewards
* Review and continuously improve
* Celebrate



Prepare phase

1. Executive sponsor: Many initiatives fail due to lack of senior leader support. To combat this, appoint an executive sponsor, and take care to clearly define the expectations and requirements of the role including the ability to make difficult and bold decisions, providing funding and sustaining belief in the initiative.

2. Cross-stakeholder coordination: Creating truly customer-centric experiences requires aligning stakeholder activities across functions, but many organizations fail to achieve this level of coordination.

Take time to coordinate the dependencies that exist between functions. For example, in Pharma, Medical and Marketing should ensure content plans are non-redundant, meet the needs of HCP audiences and are coordinated to provide a pleasing experience. Similarly, Marketing, Medical and Market Research should coordinate measurement approaches.

3. Role definition: The shift to customer-centric omnichannel marketing necessitates the evolution of existing roles and the creation of new ones, from marketing to sales to market research to agency partners. The absence of clearly defined roles can lead to duplicative activities, inefficiency and confusion.

Use a formal model like RACI (responsible, accountable, consulted, informed) or DAI (decide, advise, inform) to clarify internal and partner roles.

4. Change management milestones: When assessing goals and milestones, in addition to the organisational performance, consider individual and change management performance. Factors such as adoption metrics, employee feedback, training participation and effectiveness are all indicators and are critical in sustaining change.


Implement phase

5. Prepare employees for change: At the onset of the initiative, take time to clearly and openly communicate the business context that necessitates the change. Create visuals and have discussions on ‘what success would look like’ based on personal experience, gaps in present practice or real world case-studies. Be open, respectful, empathetic.

6. Sustain engagement: To keep employees engaged research shows employees want to hear early in the process about the personal benefits of the change. Create WIIFM (what’s in it for me?) statements – framed from a positive stance such as ‘upskilling from traditional marketing’ or ‘increasing one’s marketability’, these statements will amplify buy-in.

7. Change ‘champions’: Nominate informal leaders of change, or champions. These individuals embrace change, are not afraid to take calculated risks, and positively influence the skeptics. Throughout the change journey there will be many challenges, resistance and ‘bumps’. Champions play a key role in promptly identifying these.  Their regular involvement and feedback will pre-empt and allow for a prompt response.

8. Early wins: Ensure initial efforts focus on identifying where quick success and payoff are probable. Start simple to build confidence and soften resistance.  Showcase the early wins to acknowledge innovators and help motivate the laggards.


Embed phase

9. Change momentum: Keep sponsors, employees and champions engaged throughout the whole change journey. Ensure that senior leaders remain committed and empower change champions to positively influence their peers through periodic upskilling.

10. Rewards: Use rewards and incentives to promote and sustain change.  Highly visible rewards and recognition plus change related bonuses are highly effective.

11. Review and continuously improve: Failure and set-backs are to be expected in the change process. Expectations of iterative improvement and adaptation should be incorporated into the overall communication, avoiding the misperception of failure when it does occur.

12. Celebrate: Celebrate, celebrate, celebrate! Take time to recognize the demands of change and the individuals involved.



Change leadership is never easy. By recognizing the critical importance of consciously managing the human side of change, complex “emergent” change initiatives can perform better. This is especially true of the evolution to customer-centric omnichannel marketing, as it represents a fundamental shift in the practice of marketing that has been in place for years.

Category: Digital Transformation, Pharmaceutical & Biotechnology

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