AI-Ready Transformation Demands People-Centric Strategies

Despite efforts to modernize IT infrastructure and integrate AI-driven solutions, cultural resistance continues to hinder transformation, says Kunal Patil of TEKsystems.

5 Min Read
person holding an digital AI icon in their hands

This article was written by Kunal Patil, director of enterprise modernization, at TEKsystems.

The “do more with less” business environment has propelled AI adoption across sectors. Already this year, 75% of business and technology leaders are ramping up AI-related business expenditures.

It’s a prudent move. Confronted with evolving customer demands, persistent staffing challenges, and a rapidly changing technological landscape, leaders recognize the necessity of modernizing legacy technology to integrate AI-driven solutions.

However, despite the push toward modernization and an uptick in AI investments, a significant barrier still stands in the way: cultural resistance to change.

Roadblocks to Modernization and AI Adoption

As AI adoption becomes a competitive necessity, organizations realize the need to modernize their IT infrastructure. In fact, 34% of technology and business decision-makers say replacing or upgrading legacy tech is a top goal this year – higher than in any previous year – according to TEKsystems’ 2024 State of Digital Transformation report.

And there’s certainly work to be done on the tech front. Many organizations still rely on systems and applications built on legacy technologies. Outdated IT infrastructure and applications are difficult to maintain and lack the scalability, flexibility, and bandwidth to support modern, AI-powered technologies.

Related:Generative AI's Impact on ITSM: Is It a Game-Changer for IT Engineers?

As an IT leader, it’s easy to get caught up in technical logistics and even the excitement of your modernization journey. However, it’s important to remember how these initiatives affect your employees — the people required to use the technology daily.

This oversight can lead to resistance to change, which often stems from a lack of clarity and speculation among employees about job security. This hesitancy is particularly evident among development teams accustomed to specific methodologies and tools. These teams often reject evolution when it involves upskilling or altering work routines.

But without employee buy-in and support, even the most well-planned technical upgrades falter. So, as part of your enterprise modernization efforts, it’s crucial to address cultural resistance head-on through clear communication and cross-team involvement.

4 Questions to Consider as You AI-Proof Your IT Infrastructure

Your organization's competitive edge depends on successfully integrating AI into daily operations, achievable only through modernized IT infrastructure and employee buy-in. With 92% of enterprises actively pursuing at least one application modernization project, the pressure to stay on pace is high — and the need to get employees on board is even higher.

To overcome cultural resistance and future-proof your IT ecosystem, there are several questions to consider as you develop your modernization strategy.

1. Are your initiatives cross-functional?

Cross-department involvement in modernization projects enables more comprehensive oversight and execution. Welcome stakeholders from various fields to help identify technology use cases that a diverse swath of employees can implement and benefit from. Likewise, include IT teams during the project phases to ensure their needs are considered and business continuity is maintained.

Moreover, it’s wise to distribute communication plans and a responsibility matrix that clearly describes each department or individual role. Assigning responsibilities upfront can help shift the perception of modernization from something merely happening to employees to something they are actively participating in and contributing to.

2. Have you set clear objectives?

Establish and communicate measurable goals that define what your modernization project aims to achieve and how you’ll determine success. This level of transparency provides a clear direction and can help alleviate employee apprehension, aligning modernization efforts with your organization’s overarching objectives and employees’ daily workloads.

Start by identifying key performance indicators related to platform, business, and delivery agility. From there, document your current state values for these metrics to benchmark against. Quantify your target metrics post-modernization and consider an ongoing approach to tracking performance and soliciting potential improvements.

Continuous tracking of target metrics supports ongoing assessment and adjustments, promoting sustained improvement throughout the modernization process. This approach enables you to celebrate milestones and demystify the project’s purpose and expected outcomes — important levers in overcoming employee resistance to change.

3. What’s in it for employees?

Whether it’s through an internal kickoff meeting or a series of company-wide emails, you must ensure all employees across your organization understand the “why” behind any modernization efforts. Instead of focusing solely on how modernization supports market competitiveness, highlight how these efforts will benefit employees in their day-to-day activities.

For example, modernizing certain applications can streamline workflows and automate mundane tasks, enabling employees to focus on strategic, engaging, and value-added activities. Make sure to communicate with transparency and use clear, relevant examples to engage employees. Since 65% of employees are anxious about AI replacing their roles, they may drag their feet if they feel like a new technology solution will come for their job.

4. How will you upskill and reskill employees?

Digital transformation and modernization efforts often require employees to learn new skills. A quarter of IT and business decision-makers cite establishing a culture of continuous learning and workforce upskilling/reskilling as a top barrier to digital transformation. As a result, you must approach learning and development (L&D) strategically.

By aligning L&D initiatives with your organization’s transformation goals, you can demonstrate how upskilling and reskilling efforts directly contribute to achieving these modernization goals.

Focused change management training helps employees adapt to new processes and technologies while involving them in decision-making. This proactive inclusion fosters a sense of ownership and engagement during technological evolutions and assuages employees’ fears about falling behind.

Harnessing AI Requires an All-Hands-on-Deck Approach to Modernization

Modernization must remain a strategic priority as AI continues to reshape efficiency and innovation for businesses. Modernized technologies offer greater agility, scalability, and intelligence, enabling your organization to deliver seamless digital experiences to customers, operate cost-effectively, and respond swiftly to market changes.

But none of these benefits materialize without employees at the helm. By fostering a culture of adaptability and continuous learning, you can transform cultural resistance into a catalyst for growth and innovation.

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