Famous digital analyst and anthropologist Brian Solis¬†released¬†a report entitled “The Digital Change Agent’s Manifesto“. We read it so you don’t have to.

This manifesto is the result of 5 years of¬†work, including¬†30 interviews with people who have led the digital transformation in some of the world’s most famous organizations, such as Coca-Cola, VISA, Samsung, and Starbucks, among others.

Brian Solis makes a statement: technology and society evolve faster than companies¬†are able to¬†adapt, which compels the latter to try and foresee the future. Transformation is only dealt with by¬†a few of the company’s pioneers: the change agents, who are bold enough to try and (sometimes) fail to transform, convince their teams, and spread their vision.

That being said,¬†“there is no one type of change agent, however, they each bring to the table different skillsets, goals, and aspirations. But they all wear similar hats at different points in their journey, serving as data gatherers and storytellers, influencers and case makers, relationship builders, and champions of digital transformation.

The interviewees had successfully taken their businesses through the 6 stages of digital transformation, as described by Altimeter, the research component of Solis’ Prophet:

  1. Business as usual
  2. Present and active
  3. Formalize
  4. Strategic
  5. Converged
  6. Innovative and adaptive

Even though companies spend a great deal of money, time, and resources on their digital transformations, they still struggle to identify their champions. “These digital innovators are often hindered by an organizational culture that is risk averse and slow to change.” Their passion for technology¬†is not sufficient fuel¬†to lead the battle, and they need to¬†be supported with change management skills and processes and leadership. There is no such thing as¬†a natural change-management expert, so they’ll have to learn these skills¬†through action. The path to doing so¬†will¬†never be¬†straightforward.

Indeed, the tricky part will be to foster quick change while maintaining and protecting the “integrity of their organizations”.

From Where Do Digital Agents Rise?

As far as the report is concerned, some change agents are born natural leaders, but¬†others take on this new role reluctantly. “Their passions lie in technology and innovation but not necessarily in the political aspect of organizational life.

Digital agents can rise from anywhere in the organization, though many of them come from IT and Marketing – intrinsecally tech-savvy populations. There are two common ways digital innovators become change agents:

  • Grassroots: They rise above their day-to-day activities and are not officially supported by the C-Suite.
  • Executive-appointed: Leaders who drive change within their domain of influence.

There is more than one type of change agent; Brian Solis and his team have identified 4.


As they say, “Practice makes perfect.” Digital innovators will eventually learn how to become leaders by actually rolling¬†up¬†their sleeves and doing. For instance,¬†Sara Camden, Data-Driven Digital Marketing Strategist at Equifax, acknowledges:¬†‚ÄúI made up my current role for myself. […] Sometimes, you need someone to help pull you there.‚ÄĚ

The Critical Roles of Digital Change Agents

In order to successfully take on their new role, change agents will have to endorse new competencies:

  • Data gatherer and storyteller
  • Influence and case maker
  • Relationship builder
  • Champion

Common Challenges Digital Change Agents Face

As Leo Tolstoy famously said: “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” Digital Change makers will have to overcome several roadblocks to successfully transform their organizations: some will be internal, and some will be external. Sometimes when facing a challenge they will feel like they are unqualified. But, don’t worry, there is nothing abnormal about this.

Here are the biggest challenges they face:

  1. Managing ego: Whether it’s their own (which prevents them from building credibility and trust) or their colleagues’ (which prevent them from accepting new ideas that are not their own), egos will have to be delt with.
  2. Managing fear: Fear serves as a self-protection mechanism, as it leads individuals to believe
    that change or failure can threaten or be dangerous to their status or position.
  3. Managing Bias: Some common biases prevent people from accepting new ideas and adopting change, such as confimation bias, anchoring, groupthink, loss aversion, or present bias.
  4. Managing self-doubt:¬†Self-doubt can arise from one‚Äôs lack of self-confidence rather than just a lack of actual experience ‚ÄĒ¬†this is¬†also¬†known as the ‚Äúimposter syndrome.‚ÄĚ

But their biggest hurdle, according to the interviewees, are detractors. Detractors are individuals who passive-aggressively or publicly sabotage change, undermine progress, and poison the culture by instilling doubt and skepticism of digital transformation efforts.

Change Agents Need Leadership Support

Although change agents master their leadership skills, they can’t possibly succeed without support from the organization’s leadership team. Leaders can guide them through mentorship. “Without doing so, change agents can spin their wheels unproductively, feel unchallenged, and lose their drive over time” writes Brian Solis.

For instance,¬†Kriti Kapoor, Social Customer Care Leader at Microsoft explains: “Not being fully tapped had a profound impact on my self-confidence.”

The Digital Change Agent’s Manifesto

The interviews Brian Solis’ team led were used to build a practical framework from which¬†all change agents can operate while driving digital transformation across an organization:

  1. Embrace being a catalyst
  2. Organize with other change agents
  3. Learn to speak the language of the C-Suite
  4. Make allies
  5. Spread digital literacy
  6. Create a digital transformation roadmap
  7. Link digital transformation efforts to business and individuals’ goals
  8. Set metrics and milestones
  9. Democratize ideation
  10. Capitalize on their own inherent “super powers”

Conclusion: The Value of Digital Change Agents

The role of change agents goes far beyond the digital aspect of change. They challenge the status quo, instill curiosity, promote innovative mindsets, and create new opportunities.

Digital change agents may or may not intend to start out as such, and their journey, at times, might feel lonely. But they walk a promising path.

To read the full report, visit www.prophet.com


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