Episode 67: Lessons in Digital Transformation from Johnson Controls

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Nate Beck10/26/2023

The COVID-19 pandemic forced organizations worldwide to accelerate their digital transformations practically overnight. With employees sent home to work remotely, digital collaboration and communication platforms like Microsoft Teams went from “nice to have” to “must have” seemingly instantaneously.  

On this episode of the #shifthappens podcast, we spoke with Nate Beck, Office 365 and Collaboration Enterprise Lead at Johnson Controls, about how their global organization rapidly adopted Teams and built a Digital Champions program to enable this massive shift.  

With over 100,000 employees scattered across 200 countries, Johnson Controls faced a monumental challenge in transitioning the workforce to remote digital work. However, with strong support from leadership and cross-functional partnerships across the business, they succeeded in record time.  

Here are some of the key lessons we learned from Nate about how to drive digital transformation in a large enterprise environment:  

Get Executive Buy-In

Having the CEO and leadership team onboard was critical. After successful hybrid meetings with the Board of Directors and Executive Committee using Teams, the CEO mandated adoption across the company. This top-down support stopped rogue procurement of other tools and aligned everyone on a common platform.  

Train Digital Champions

Early on, Johnson Controls partnered with Microsoft to create a Digital Champions program. They recruited eager employees from across business units and regions to become power users. These champions then helped multiply training efforts and drive Teams adoption across the company’s diverse workforce.  

Partner Across Functions

Instead of just an IT initiative, they took a cross-functional approach. Communications helped market the tools and training. HR considered how to optimize the onboarding experience. Legal, Sales, Field Services and more all provided input and support.  

Incentivize Participation

To motivate Champions, they used leaderboards, rewards points, recognition, early access to new features and more. This gamification kept engagement high despite the extra workload.  

Plan Ahead

Previous failed attempts at building a Champions program taught them to carefully plan first. They created a defined program with training curriculum, communication calendars and success metrics before recruiting. This foundation was critical to delivering value.  

Build Momentum

By maximizing momentum through ongoing training, social sharing, hackathons and more, they accelerated adoption. Regular touchpoints like “Ask the IT Expert” sessions continue keeping employees engaged.  

Listen to our full conversation with Nate Beck for more details on how Johnson Controls partnered cross-functionally both internally and with vendors like Microsoft to rapidly shift over 100,000 employees to Teams and collaboration.  

The key takeaway? Digital transformation requires more than just great technology. With strong leadership alignment, strategic planning and partnerships across the business, you can successfully drive large-scale change.

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