Change Management in the Digital Services Era: Are You Taking the Right Steps?

Arvind Mehrotra
10 min readFeb 27, 2024

Digital services are now ubiquitous, from consumer needs, such as FMCG and utilities, to business operations like printing, fleet management, marketing, and sales. In 2023, the average US consumer spends nearly 3% of their total expenses on the digital service economy. It poses a significant opportunity for enterprises to explore new horizons in 2024. Reports suggest that, on average, an Indian user spends Rs 1000–1500 while the majority is on mobile, streaming services and transaction fees on digital services. However, the spending among younger generations, i.e. Gen Z and Millennials, is higher due to gaming, online shopping and higher digital literacy. It points to the fact that the growth and potential of digital services is enormous.

The Rise of the Digital Service Economy in 2024

Digital services have not only changed consumer behaviour but also transformed entire industries. For instance, the growth of streaming services has disrupted the traditional broadcast television model. Similarly, e-commerce platforms have revolutionised retail, challenging brick-and-mortar stores.

For B2B managed service providers, service catalogues have replaced complex portfolios, empowering customers and leading to more significant revenues.

In other words, the digital service economy is a powerful force that reshapes the business landscape, offering new opportunities and challenges for companies worldwide.

While this transformation has been in the works for a while, the future of digital services looks even more promising. As technology advances, the expectation is that even greater AI integration will occur, making digital services more intelligent and efficient. With the rise of 5G networks, internet speeds will increase dramatically, enabling faster and more seamless user experiences.

Moreover, emerging technologies like blockchain can potentially revolutionise cybersecurity and data privacy, providing users with increased trust and transparency. So, what are the change management steps that organisations need to take to prepare?

The Impact of Poor Change Management on Digital Service

Let us also analyse the effect of poor change execution while offering newer digital services.

India’s digital landscape is undergoing a transformation driven by several factors, namely a large and growing internet user base; the estimation is that India has 830 million internet users, making India the second-largest online population globally. Indian government initiatives like the Digital India program are pushing for building digital infrastructure, financial inclusion, and e-governance. Another factor contributing to the affordable mobile data is Jio’s disruption, which has reduced data costs and fueled mobile internet adoption. The vibrant startup ecosystem with innovative solutions across sectors is changing and making newer services accessible. Another factor is the digital payments boom; it is evident that UPI has revolutionised digital payments, leading India to be a global leader and effecting payments to unorganised sectors, thus making them part of the digital ecosystem.

While growth and impact are rosy, we have new challenges to address; India has the most extensive digital divide, leading to unequal access to the internet and technology, especially in rural areas, which hinders inclusivity. Another factor making digital service adoption is that data privacy and security concerns about data misuse and breaches require robust regulations and awareness. The lack of a transparent cybersecurity regime and increasing cyberattacks necessitate strong cybersecurity measures. Many institutions are not providing adequate defence and support mechanisms to their customers, and a lack of compliance does not draw punitive measures from authorities.

In 2007, the London Ambulance Service implemented a new IT system called “Lorenzo” to manage patient data and dispatch ambulances. However, poor communication, inadequate training, and technical glitches plagued the project’s success. It led to delays in emergency response times, data inaccuracies, and staff frustration, eventually forcing a costly rollback to the previous system.

Let us dive deep into the insights via critical Indian programs that faced challenges due to potential shortcomings in change management without naming specific initiatives. Programs facing change management challenges:

  • Large-scale infrastructure projects often involve complex stakeholder groups, diverse geographies, and evolving technological landscapes. Lack of clear communication, inadequate stakeholder engagement, and resistance to change due to displacement can hinder success.
  • Digitalisation initiatives: Shifting from paper-based processes to digital systems requires significant cultural and operational changes. Inadequate training, insufficient support for adapting to new technologies, and ignoring existing workflows can lead to user resistance and low adoption rates.
  • Social welfare programs: Successfully delivering benefits to large populations requires effective communication, understanding diverse needs, and adapting to local contexts. Poor communication, lack of transparency, and top-down approaches can lead to program misuse and unintended consequences.

It’s important to understand that attributing sole failure to change management is often oversimplistic, as other factors can also play a role. Critical change management aspects in these programs:

  • Clear communication and stakeholder engagement: Proactively communicating program goals, benefits, and potential impacts to all stakeholders and actively involving them in planning and implementation is crucial.
  • Targeted training and support: Providing tailored training and ongoing support to users, beneficiaries, and impacted groups ensures smooth adoption and minimises disruption.
  • Cultural sensitivity and adaptability: Understanding and respecting local contexts, cultural nuances, and existing workflows are essential for successful implementation.
  • Agile and iterative approach: Being open to feedback, adapting to changing circumstances, and continuously improving programs based on learning are crucial to success.

Attributing failure to change management is often overly simplistic. Other factors like funding constraints, technical challenges, and external factors can also play a role. Learning from past challenges and implementing effective change-management strategies is crucial for the success of future programs.

4 Essential Change Management Practices for the Digital Services Era: Act on These Now

To thrive and not just survive the digital revolution, organisations need to follow change management best practices very closely:

1. Adopt a top-down leadership and communication model

In this approach, leaders at the organisation’s top effectively communicate the vision, goals, and strategies related to the transformation to employees at all levels. This clear and consistent communication creates alignment and fosters a sense of purpose, ensuring everyone understands and embraces the changes necessary for success.

The goal is to inspire confidence and encourage buy-in, motivating employees to participate actively in the change and transformation that digital services inevitably require.

Therefore, prioritise open and transparent communication channels. Regular town hall meetings, team huddles, and one-on-one check-ins can foster dialogue, encourage feedback, and address any resistance or confusion. Furthermore, actively listen to employee concerns, incorporating their insights and ideas into the digital services strategy.

This collaborative approach helps create a shared sense of ownership and accountability.

2. Upskill the workforce in digital literacy

65% of hiring managers find it challenging to acquire qualified digital talent, a massive roadblock to the success of the digital economy. Upskilling the workforce in digital literacy is essential for organisations to successfully adopt a digital services model. Think of it as providing your team with a toolbox filled with the right tools for building a solid foundation in the digital service economy.

Investing in digital literacy training equips your employees with the competencies, skills and knowledge necessary to wade through the complexities of the digital landscape. It enables them to understand and embrace new technologies, effectively communicate and collaborate in virtual settings, empathise with the needs of digital-first customers, and make data-driven decisions.

Provide targeted training programs focusing on crucial digital literacy skills, such as DevOps, digital marketing, data analysis, UX design and cybersecurity. Also, fostering a continuous learning culture and providing opportunities for ongoing upskilling ensures your workforce stays updated and agile in the ever-evolving digital service economy.

3. Build a digital-first culture that is not change-averse

The objective is to cultivate a growth mindset that embraces new possibilities and technologies, like a garden that thrives when nurtured.

Foster a culture that values continuous learning and innovation; by this, you create an environment where employees can explore and experiment with digital solutions and how they can positively impact end-customer experiences.

By instilling a digital-first culture, you enable your workforce to actively participate in and drive the adoption of a digital services model. You promote collaboration and cross-functional communication, breaking down silos and facilitating the exchange of knowledge and best practices, which is vital for digital service delivery in any industry.

Providing opportunities for employees to know and learn about emerging technologies, engage in cross-training initiatives, and create channels for open dialogue and idea-sharing. Recognise and celebrate innovative efforts, encouraging employees to take calculated risks. Leverage agile and iterative development process, build product mindset by defining product owners, and use infrastructure as a code practice besides DevOps culture, i.e. continuous integration and deployment (CI/CD) for automating build, test and deployment processes to minimise human error.

Building a digital-first culture fosters agility, innovation and learning; however, it is vital to couple it with robust processes and practices to minimise the need for system rollbacks and ensure smooth digital services.

4. Instill a data-driven culture in performance reviews, product decisions, and organisational change.

By leveraging data in performance reviews, you can objectively evaluate the impact of digital initiatives and specific employees or teams, identifying areas for improvement. Data-driven product decisions enable you to understand customer preferences and behaviours, optimise user experiences, and innovate in response to evolving market demands.

In organisational change, data provides valuable insights into the effectiveness of new strategies and initiatives. By collecting and analysing data throughout the change process, you can identify potential roadblocks, adjust your approach, and ensure smooth adoption of the digital services model. By adopting data-driven monitoring, you continuously gather and analyse data throughout the change process, allowing for real-time tracking of progress, identification of deviations from plans, and course correction as needed.

As you progress in your digital services adoption roadmap, develop processes for collecting, analysing, and visualising relevant data. Defining data-driven performance metrics programs by defining and tracking relevant data-driven performance metrics allows for objectively evaluating the change program’s effectiveness and identifying areas for improvement.

Encourage employees to embrace data-driven decision-making and provide training to enhance data literacy across the organisation. Additionally, it emphasises the importance of regularly reviewing and updating data-driven strategies to stay aligned with the dynamic digital service economy.

What’s Next?

As the world as we know it continues to change — at an unprecedented pace — a robust digital service capability will keep organisations nimble and quick on their feet. There is ample demand at both the B2B and B2C ends of the spectrum. Companies can win by partnering with the right managed service providers on their digital journey and prioritising change management.

While challenges abound, some companies excel at digital service change management. Here’s what sets them apart; learn how to adopt some of these practices:

Strategic Clarity: Companies with compelling vision and goal, i.e. A clear and communicated vision that motivates stakeholders and aligns their efforts. Doing a thorough impact assessment while understanding the full scope of change minimises surprises and facilitates planning. Finally, a Change champion by appointing a dedicated leader drives momentum and champions the change throughout the process.

People-Centric Approach: It is essential to have transparent communication, which translates to regular and open communication. It builds trust and understanding, leading to reduced anxiety. Involving stakeholders in planning, decision-making, and training fosters buy-in and ownership. It also provides inputs for targeted training and support, i.e., developing tailored training and ongoing support, ensuring smooth adoption and minimising disruption.

Technical Excellence: It requires rigorous project management, well-defined plans, clear timelines, and effective risk management to mitigate challenges. Secondly, focus on compatibility testing, which is thorough testing that ensures seamless integration of new technologies and processes. Lastly, a well-defined data migration strategy minimises data loss and ensures data integrity.

Additional factors supporting effective change management or implementing new digital services include adopting agile and iterative approaches. These are critical because adapting to feedback and adjusting the plan increases the chances of success. Any new digital service is a renegotiation with three parties: the human (customer, workforce and leadership) adopting the system, the technical system, which changes productivity and performance and finally, the new process. Thus, to validate that the change is successful, it is critical to measure and evaluate progress, measure outcomes, and learn from successes and failures to improve ongoing efforts besides guiding future initiatives.

Thanks for reading! To discuss these insights with me or to share your own, please email me at



Arvind Mehrotra

Board Advisor, Strategy, Culture Alignment and Technology Advisor