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‘Digital champion’. Seems like a buzzword, doesn’t it? In fact, they are a very real, tangible thing. What’s more, they’re incredibly important to your workforce and culture as you experience digital change. 

So, what actually is a digital champion? How can you benefit from one, or even two? Why is it one of the very first things our experts recommend to manufacturers? And is there such a thing as an unsuitable candidate for this role? Read on for the answers…  

The role of digital champions
  • Digital champions defined

    A digital champion is an employee within the business that’s chosen to help lead change, promote digitalisation, and influence their colleagues to support the smooth onboarding of technologies. For instance, they may be a factory floor worker who is well respected and trusted. As they engage with a new robot and show enthusiasm for the change, the rest of the workforce will accept it more openly.  

    They should preferably be appointed as soon as the business has made the commitment to embark on digital projects, which is why it’s one of Made Smarter’s very first recommendations. It’s a key part of our people-first mentality here, where we believe that it’s how we choose to use technologies that determines whether we unlock their full potential. 

    Larger organisations may wish to have more than one champion – one from the leadership team, and others from the shop floor. This way, they can gather opinions that are more representative of the wider business, and relay crucial information to a greater number of people.  

  • What to look for when selecting a digital champion

    A digital champion is arguably the initial advocate of digital implementation – they both want and need digital change to occur. They completely appreciate that, if the change doesn’t happen, they can’t obtain the benefits or accomplish the company’s objectives. They also realise that the company will lose ground to its competitors if it doesn’t make the necessary advancements. Simply put, they’re someone who wants your company to succeed, and someone who supports the decision to move to digital. It could be someone who has worked in your business for many years, and feels that now is the time to change the way things are done.  

    The digital champion is paramount because they understand the technical and business side of a transformation. They act as the single point of communication between senior management, staff and the suppliers of the digital solution. As the change catalyst, they recognise all the challenges that your team may face, making them primed to support everyone else in implementing new ways of working or using emerging tools.  

    Without their endorsement, your team may dismiss or reject the digital transformation. Realistically, the candidate for this role needs to be someone with a level of trust that enables them to communicate successfully with all parties involved. As an active supporter of the change, they need to be incredibly vocal about its positive impact, and keen to help struggling individuals to ensure no one is left behind.  

    Every business will have someone that ticks all of these boxes. It’s often the individual that everyone knows and talks to, that knows the business inside and out, and that will always make time to speak with others in the team and lend a helping hand.  

  • The key benefits of a digital champion

    Digital champions can demonstrate how to follow your business’ digitalisation journey, and actually make the adoption of new technology a seamless process. They’ll act as the main point of contact for your people – giving them someone to discuss any worries with, or suggestions and ideas. This results in better communication, especially as they can also talk about the intent and advantages behind new technologies.  

    On top of this, your digital champions can gather thoughts from all departments of the business. This enables them to establish that digital projects are actually fit for purpose, as well as flag potential areas of concern around skills or uncertainty so that they can be managed. What’s more, they’ll ensure that the organisation can keep up momentum, prioritising the project even when interest or motivation wanes.  

    Any new followers they gain will then lead to further followers. As more employees join in, the transformation is no longer seen as something to be feared – it can instead create a movement. And the secondary benefits of this are worth mentioning too. A happy workforce and a positive culture can boost productivity, reduce absenteeism, and make it easier to attract and retain talent.  

  • Good vs bad digital champions

    For someone to be classed as a fantastic digital champion, they need to be respected and approachable by employees across a variety of teams and levels. Equally, they should be engaging and passionate about digital transformation so that they can effectively enthuse others. That doesn’t necessarily mean they need to be an expert at all things digital; qualifications and experience are less important than the characteristics of leadership and motivation. They simply need to see the value of your new digital project, and they’ll work to bring all your employees on the same journey too.  

    Additionally, the digital champion needs to be intuitive – isolating any conflicts or problems. They don’t have to have all the answers though; being a champion is more about wanting to help.  

    As for ‘bad’ digital champions? We wouldn’t want to rule anyone out, but there are candidates that are perhaps less suited to the role. For instance, contractors, external project managers and consultants aren’t permanently employed by the business, and so could be perceived as not having your best interests at heart. We would also recommend that your digital champion isn’t a CEO or someone of a similarly high level in the organisation. 

  • Transformation support with Made Smarter

    It’s clear that, if you choose the right digital champions, they can have a great impact along your digitalisation journey. Your workforce and culture are so crucial for your transformation, but identifying their role – along with the right technologies – can be tough. This is where Made Smarter’s digital transformation workshops can help. 

    Take Brainboxes, an electronics maker. Support from Made Smarter helped secure buy-in from one of their department teams: 

    “There was scepticism among our production staff about what a robot would do to their livelihoods, but the Made Smarter team were extremely good at helping us understand what the benefit was and communicate that to our workforce.  

    “Now my production staff aren’t saying to me ‘the robot has taken my job’, but suggesting where the technology could also be adopted. Taking the right approach has converted digitalisation sceptics into champions in our business.” – Luke Walsh, Managing Director. 

    Or furniture maker Starlight Bedrooms: 
     
    “Working with Made Smarter has been incredibly valuable. The experience of creating a digital transformation roadmap and the subsequent support and expertise has given us a lot of confidence to invest in the tools and technology we need to take Starlight Bedrooms to the next level.” – Karen Callard, CEO. 

    Made Smarter has supported many businesses through culture change and digital transformation. Whilst we do offer support like funding, it goes much further than this – including the likes of our specialist advice, leadership programme and digital technology internships. Together, we can create an impact, secure employee buy-in, and ensure that team members feel valued.   

    To find out more about how you could benefit from our different types of support, get in touch with the Made Smarter team today. 

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