You can’t escape talk of “digital transformation” these days. It seems like everywhere you turn, someone is going on about it. There’s the common opinion: “Digital transformation is so important.” The advice: “You must do your digital transformation correctly, or you’ll run into a multitude of issues.” And the scare tactic: “If you don’t start your digital transformation now, I mean yesterday, your business is really going to suffer.”

Of course, some of that is hyperbole. Agile digital transformation takes many forms and can mean different things to different companies. It’s not all or nothing. It’s expensive to upgrade technology and implement a transformation, so it’s normal to change one piece (or maybe a few interconnected pieces) at a time. It’s always best to tackle the business area or technology that will bring the biggest benefit first.

So your company listened to the advice, researched the technology you were interested in, planned the rollout, and implemented the transformation pretty smoothly. It took a lot of hard work — which is still ongoing to keep up with the latest trends and issues — but you’re officially part of the “digitally transformed.” Many of your clients have also digitally transformed. Often, though, there’s one organization that’s a little behind. For whatever reason, they haven’t embraced the idea of digital transformation. And, of course, it’s your client.

What do you do when your organization has undergone a successful digital transformation, but your client hasn’t? How do you work with clients who are still living in an email and spreadsheet world when you’ve moved to the future with a collaborative work management system? How do you maintain your systems and workflows (not to mention your budget and sanity) when your clients aren’t enthusiastic about getting on the digital transformation express? It’s definitely a challenge, but it’s a challenge you can overcome. Right?!? Are you ready?!?

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(Source: Photo by Lance Grandahl via Unsplash)

First things first

So how do you work with a client who is still using email and spreadsheets for project management? It’s not impossible but will take some flexibility and adjustments. One note: It’s never a good idea to pretend you’re something you’re not, so don’t act like you still use those same tools. Share your enthusiasm about your collaborative work management system and how your work has been transformed. It’s always better to be positive! 

Taking on a client-centric approach is essential to navigating these difficult differences in technological proficiency. Try to keep in mind the client-centric approach definition — which Investopedia cites as "a strategy and a culture of doing business that focuses on creating the best experience for the customer, and by doing so builds brand loyalty."

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If your client insists on it, you can download files and reports from Wrike and send them via email. And then upload revisions and copy comments into the task so it’s all being tracked in your workflow management system. It will take more time but will combine both work styles without putting too much burden on the client — and allow you to continue working efficiently on your end.

A better solution

There might be an even better solution though: You can introduce your client to your collaborative work management tool. Make your client a Collaborator within Wrike! That means your client can change a task’s status, add comments, view existing custom fields, add and delete file attachments, and submit request forms. They can enjoy an introduction to the multitude of benefits inherent in a collaborative work management system. 

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Their powers are limited, though. Collaborators can’t create new tasks, folders, or projects, or edit the task description field. That’s actually a good thing since it’s your workspace and you need to manage it. Collaborators can only view what they’ve been tagged on (the project or task), so they won’t have complete access to your Wrike workspace either. That means no clients browsing all your files and checking out what you’re working on for other clients, if that makes you feel better.

There are lots of benefits to making your client a Collaborator. It makes it easier for them to review and approve assets. Collaborators can also both view and provide comments and status updates. They receive a notification, check the task, take a look at the asset, comment with feedback, and move on. No need to send the asset via email and then have to transcribe feedback from a phone call or email response to the task. Bonus: It demonstrates your dedication to being responsible with their budget.

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(Source: Photo by Fabian Blank via Unsplash)

It’s really the best of both worlds. Your company can continue using your hard-earned, streamlined project management system. You can show your client the benefits of collaborative work management. Your client can still use their company’s current methods while getting a peek into the future. And they can ask questions of you, an expert resource, as they learn about collaborative work management. As you work together in Wrike, even in a limited capacity, you have an opportunity to educate and encourage your client to jump on the digital transformation express. That enhances your reputation as a trusted resource and reinforces your relationship.

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(Source: Photo by Kobu Agency via Unsplash)

Tips to encourage client digital transformation

So how can you encourage your client to dive into digital transformation? Obviously, you can’t create the plan or approve the budget for your client — that must happen on their end. But you can show them the benefits, make their job easier, and help them show their managers how a digital transformation will completely transform the company’s operations. 

Transformation is scary, but it’s scarier to be left behind, unable to keep up with the competition. Don’t let your client fall behind. Here are some tips to help encourage your clients to start their digital transformation.

1. Highlight the collaboration benefits

Let’s be real: Working together — collaborating — makes work easier. Whether you’re brainstorming a product name, figuring out how to eliminate a roadblock, or lending a hand to meet a critical deadline, it’s better to work together. A study by McKinsey showed that implementing social tools (like collaborative work management) can increase productivity by 20 to 25%. That’s a huge number when it’s multiplied by the number of employees in an organization. 

Collaboration makes organizations more nimble and flexible. Employees tend to be happier when collaboration makes it possible to work from anywhere. Better solutions can result from ongoing conversations and engagement. Relationships are improved when people are in the loop and know what’s coming their way. Everyone knows what’s expected of them. Employees are empowered to get their work done, so productivity and profitability soar. It’s a win-win-win-win-win-win all around. 

2. Demonstrate the power of visibility

Visibility is key to working efficiently. When information is more accessible across the department or organization, rather than siloed in email inboxes, anyone can do a status check anytime, anywhere. Rather than interrupt someone’s workflow or call a meeting for an update, people can find the information when they need it. That reduces unnecessary meetings and makes communication smoother. 

Speaking of siloed information … spreadsheets and documents can be a nightmare of revisions and version creep. These are typically outdated as soon as they are shared, since comments and changes will likely be made by the people receiving them. It’s a pretty inefficient way to work. Collaboration using Wrike or another collaborative work management tool also makes it easier to spot roadblocks before they stop progress. And being able to view workloads and calendars and better manage resources means managers can work to ensure balance. That means deadlines are met and people are (hopefully) less stressed — another win-win.

3. Encourage a change management process 

Change management” is another buzz phrase du jour, but it should be an integral part of any transformation. Change management focuses on the fact that people are at the heart of change. For any change to be successful, the people involved must be on board. People’s feelings, concerns, and fears will delay or stop a digital transformation unless those feelings are addressed and managed. It takes some time and planning, but change management can help ensure every digital transformation is successful.

Change management is an excellent topic to be familiar with as you work with your clients in general, especially as you introduce them to collaborative work management tools. Find expert resources, such as PROCSI and educational institutions, and learn about change management. Then share those resources with your clients. 

(Source: University of Virginia)

4. Share your story

There isn’t much that’s more powerful than a personal connection. According to Nielsen, 84% of people somewhat or completely trust the recommendations of people they know. If a friend or colleague has adopted the service, implemented the process, or purchased the product, we are more likely to consider it seriously. So with that in mind:

  • Talk about the challenges you were facing and your search for a solution. 
  • Discuss why your final choice was the best fit for your organization. 
  • Offer tips on where you researched technologies and tools and what you learned. 
  • Encourage them to read Three Snapshots of Digital Transformation from McKinsey. It can be a quick overview or a deep dive, depending on what they are ready to learn.

Bottom line: Make yourself available as a resource as your client undertakes the process of digital transformation. This helps build your relationship, potentially meets training requirements (if you have those), and gives you the satisfaction of helping. 

Get on the digital transformation express

Digital transformation is critical to success, but it’s also very challenging. The more you can support and help your clients in their digital transformation journey, the more success you’ll have working together — and the better your long-term relationship will be. Check out the Wrike resources below for more information and tips you can share.

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