October 2023 | Point of View

Beyond data alone: Why humans are the true catalysts for ROI in digital transformation

Why a people-focused approach is your key to unlocking organizational change

Beyond data alone: Why humans are the true catalysts for ROI in digital transformation

In today's ever-evolving business landscape, organizations face the constant challenge of driving successful change while optimizing their return on investment (ROI): 61% of the C-suite executives we surveyed in our digital Signature Research said digital transformation was a top priority for them—and 38% others said it was an ongoing effort.

Beneath the surface of data-driven strategies and fast-paced innovations, however, lies a critical yet often overlooked factor: the people within the organization.

Effectively managing organizational change requires a people-focused approach that acknowledges the importance of human behaviors, motivations, and resistance to change. We’ll delve into the key themes that underscore the significance of prioritizing people in change management—and how this human-centric approach becomes the secret sauce to unlocking the full potential of ROI realization.

Sustaining energy and driving change

The pace of change can be slow and challenging. Though 85% of executives say their organization is effective at ensuring alignment on digital vision, 47% also said less than half their employees have embraced digital. Creating a movement and sustaining energy throughout the change process are critical to achieving success. To do this, it's essential to have the right team in place and invest in keeping that energy alive.

Connecting the change initiatives to bigger corporate goals and the priorities of senior leaders helps maintain momentum and engagement among employees. By aligning the change efforts with what matters most to the organization, the chances of success increase significantly.

Navigating resistance to change

Resistance to change is a common challenge faced by organizations during any transformation process: 31% of executives said the inability of their organization to embrace change was a top-3 digital transformation mistake. Resistance can be seen as a positive sign because it indicates that people are engaging with the change and are willing to question and challenge the new direction. Instead of viewing resistance negatively, it should be embraced as a part of the change curve that leads to the eventual acceptance and adoption of new practices.

To address resistance effectively, middle managers need to be equipped with the skills and knowledge to manage resistance among their teams. Building a culture of accountability, setting clear goals, and recognizing and rewarding positive contributions to the change effort can help overcome resistance and ensure sustained commitment.

Ability, courage, values recognition, measurement, and motivation

A people-focused approach involves recognizing the abilities and courage of individuals to embrace change. A culture of ownership and experimentation—where failures are seen as opportunities to learn and improve—encourages employees to embrace change and take calculated risks.

Understanding the values and ways of working that are already ingrained in the organization can be a powerful tool to promote change adoption. 62% of C-suite executives said their digital vision is “somewhat” clear across the organization—just 35% answered “very” clear. By linking the change effort to employees' personal and career aspirations, organizations can inspire greater commitment and motivation among their workforce.

Accountability and trust in data

Building accountability and trust in data is essential to drive successful data programs. One way to achieve this is by creating a stamp-of-approval process, where individuals responsible for data can be held accountable for their work. Measuring readiness and adoption for change and having a dedicated data governance council with representatives from both business and technology ensure a structured and accountable approach to data management.

Gamification and innovative ideation

To further enhance the people-focused approach, gamification can be utilized to incentivize and engage employees in the change process. Gamified programs that encourage collaboration, innovation, and capability development can result in creative solutions and improved readiness for unforeseen challenges.


In a data-driven world, organizations must recognize the importance of being people-focused to realize a successful return on investment. That reality is top-of-mind for many C-suite execs: The top response of the primary goal with their organization’s latest digital transformation? Improved efficiency and productivity.

But sustaining energy, navigating resistance, recognizing abilities and courage, building accountability and trust, and promoting innovation are key elements of the secret sauce to ROI realization—and ones that must be addressed head-on to ensure success.

Organizations can build a committed and motivated workforce by prioritizing people and aligning change efforts with their values, aspirations, and needs. Embracing resistance as a natural part of the change process, and equipping middle managers with the necessary skills, ensures a smooth transition.

When organizations invest time, attention, and capabilities in their data programs and governance, they pave the way for a successful ROI realization. Ultimately, a people-focused approach enables organizations to harness the full potential of their data-driven initiatives and achieve sustainable success in a dynamic and ever-changing business landscape.

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