TechWyse, one of Canada’s largest digital agencies, embraces a human-centered approach to change management

TechWyse CEO DJ Kennedy stands with his arms cross wearing a gray cardigan

Today’s workforce craves modern technology, according to 91% of knowledge workers polled in Workfront’s most recent State of Work report. And 88% believe companies need to “reconsider the way we think about technology in the workplace”—a process that’s well underway, considering IDC’s prediction that by 2022, companies will be spending roughly $2 trillion annually on digital transformations.

The constant and accelerating technological changes enterprises face today, even when they’re welcomed by most workers, can be disruptive and disorienting to the humans sitting at the center of the whirlwind, trying to get their work done.

Just ask TechWyse, a Toronto-based digital agency that operates within one of the most rapidly evolving industries around—internet marketing. The company has been providing strategy and consulting, creative design, traffic building, and measurement and tracking to global clients since 2001. And if you can recall what the Internet was like back then (remember Ask Jeeves?) you’ll understand just how much transformation the company has undergone since its founding.

We recently had the privilege of chatting with the company’s CEO, DJ Kennedy, about what has helped TechWyse maximize the potential of its international workforce, streamline its services across multiple countries in a volatile market, and become one of Canada’s largest internet marketing agencies.

“The marketing industry specifically can be very rewarding,” Kennedy says. “Not only do we get to learn how advertising works but we get to do it for many different verticals.” But managing the sheer volume of work that goes along with servicing hundreds of different clients, in countless different industries, in the midst of a worldwide tech revolution, is no small feat.

Kennedy attributes TechWyse’s success to a combination of internal self-developed tools and external operational management systems, including Workfront as its enterprise work management platform of choice. For any team that may be looking to similarly platform their work processes and data, Kennedy has some additional advice—seven change management tips that will help modern enterprises keep a relentless focus on their people throughout a current or future digital transformation.

1. Take the time to plan.

Kennedy: “Undertaking a new platform is a big deal. What we are asking our team members to do is not only do their regular jobs—but also spend time learning a new system and making sure that it is set up properly. Proper configuration is vital to effectively launch. Spend time on the planning. Make sure you understand the business and have the right person in place to lead.”

2. Involve everyone in your transformation.

Kennedy: “Employee buy-in is important for a successful transformation. What worked well for us was making this a democratic choice where we asked all our employees for their thoughts about our next operations tool. It’s important to understand what each department’s pain points are, what currently works for them, and what they’d like to see improve. By giving everyone a voice, we were able to have buy-in from the get-go. Transforming how the organization operated through our new operations tool still took time, but definitely less than if we had to do all this from a top-down approach.”

3. Be clear about expectations.

Kennedy: “A service-based business is about its people. I would always recommend going above and beyond in terms of expectation setting. Make sure that anyone that you work with understands how they can be great at their position. Give key performance indicators and let them know how they are doing on a monthly basis.”

4. Work on your communication skills.

Kennedy: “What has been true in the past still holds on to the future here. The #1 skill set is still understanding and managing people. Day in and day out, this is the primary function of any role. You’ll always be communicating, and as such, being good at it is critical. You might be a genius developer, but if you can’t convey that, you’ll have a harder time demonstrating it.”

5. Embrace standard operating procedures (SOPs).

Kennedy: “SOPs aren’t there to make anyone's life harder, but rather to streamline efficiencies across the organization. When taking a look at operations from a senior management point of view, there are many questions that need answers. How is x department functioning when compared to y? Are they having the same pain points? Do they have enough budget and support? There are many questions that need an objective basis to support them. SOPs help create that baseline across those departments, while still catering to the specifics of each team.”

6. Involve stakeholders.

Kennedy: “Having a voice is a core value everyone appreciates. When stakeholders know their opinions matter, that change can come from their feedback, that the commonality of our work coming together is for something tangibly greater—this resonates and motivates well. The larger you grow, the harder it is, of course, to keep this going. There will be a critical point where the new mechanism becomes focused on feedback loops instead of everyone having a say in the matter.”

7. Welcome positive friction.

Kennedy: “Positive friction is a great tool that gets everyone going. It allows for differing opinions from different departments to rise up, and then get diplomatically resolved. I don’t like environments where people shy away from their opinions for not conforming to the norms. There are limits to everything, of course. But I believe positive friction allows a company to grow and learn quickly.”

Thrive in a digital transformation by putting people first.

A digital marketing agency that was founded three years before Facebook, four years before YouTube, and five years before Twitter would have to be a master of change management to still be alive and thriving. And TechWyse is clearly doing both. “The opportunities to learn and grow is the biggest gift the digital marketing industry gives us,” Kennedy says, “but our biggest reward is when we do a good job for our client base.”

Because they’ve digitally platformed their core work processes and data in a centralized online hub, TechWyse will continue reaping those rewards. Supported by an enterprise work management platform, they’ve been able to set strategy and guidance from their Toronto headquarters, while providing development and ancillary services from their international offices—which keeps their global workforce aligned and moving toward a common vision.