crematory management

Cemetery Digital Change Management: Taking it from the Top

How we manage change can greatly impact its success or failure. We explore why buy-in from leadership is crucial for successful digital transformation.

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| Read time: 4 mins

Planned or unplanned, change within organizations is inevitable, and how we approach and manage that change can greatly impact its success or failure.

According to the Association of Project Management, change management can be defined as, “the overarching approach taken in an organization to move from the current to a future, desirable state using a coordinated and structured approach in coordination with stakeholders.”1

Change management of any sort may be broadly viewed as leading people through organizational change - that may be in a number of ways, involving to a greater or lesser extent, tenets of behavioral and social sciences, business solutions and information technology.

Speaking of which, the integration of technology and digital solutions is reshaping the way cemeteries operate, and we might view technological or digital change within the larger context of transformational change - often requiring a shift in systems, processes or culture, and a willingness to challenge the status quo.2

The cemeteries we talk to are increasingly focusing on digital transformation - often very well established organizations that are having to reinvent business models and processes using data and technology.

Getting there requires a realignment of how employees see the organization, their roles within it, and how technology is used to facilitate new ways of working that will ultimately provide benefits for all.

That's why effective change management is so important.

Change Management Strategy

We could fill tomes on the many change management strategies in the world of business discourse, but a basic principle of them all is the importance of stakeholder engagement. 

And not to get too deep into the weeds of ‘top-down vs bottom up’ management approaches - one thing is clear - one major challenge with change is the inherent unpredictability of people.

It’s not necessarily easy for people to embrace change - and even when they do, levels of positivity towards change fluctuate enormously as the process rolls on.

However - and herein lies the rub - engaging people successfully requires strong leadership and must have the full support of those at the top of the organization.

Without top level buy in, change is not sustainable nor will it ever realize its full potential.

That's especially true with technological change - impacting, as it does not just one specific team or department, but transcending the organization as a whole.

So why is top level buy in so important in practice?

Setting the Vision: Articulating the Digital Future

For cemeteries to be successful in their digital change management aspirations, a clear vision of what you are trying to achieve is required.

At the helm of any organization, the leadership sets the vision for the future.

In the context of cemeteries and crematories, where tradition meets innovation, it’s paramount for leadership to articulate a clear vision for the integration of digital technologies. 

This vision should go beyond adoption; it should encompass how digital solutions align with the cemetery's mission, will enhance service delivery, and contribute to long-term sustainability.

By setting a compelling digital vision, those at the top can communicate to the entire organization that embracing digital change is not just an operational necessity but a strategic imperative that will bring advantages for everyone.

While this top-down communication can help to foster a shared understanding of the purpose behind the transformation, it’s also important to involve those who will be most affected by the change in the creation of the vision of change for the cemetery right from the outset.

The more advocates you have, the more forward momentum your project will have.

Strategic Alignment: Integrating Digital Transformation with Organizational Goals

Digital change management will rarely be an isolated initiative; rather, integrated seamlessly into the broader organizational strategy.

Leadership plays a pivotal role in ensuring that the digital transformation aligns with the cemetery's overarching goals and objectives.

This strategic alignment requires a thorough understanding of the organization's mission, values, and the evolving needs of the community it serves.

By fostering a holistic approach to digital integration, leadership can ensure that every digital initiative contributes meaningfully to the cemetery's mission. This includes considerations of how digital solutions can enhance customer service, improve operational efficiency, and support long-term sustainability.

Strategic alignment therefore reinforces the idea that digital transformation is not a standalone project but an integral part of the cemetery's future.

Resource Allocation: Investing in Digital Infrastructure

Digital transformation will require resources - both human and financial.

With the commitment of resources resting squarely with the leadership, they will most likely be actively involved in the allocation of funds for new technology investments, staff training, and any other requirements that are essential for successful digital change management.

That requires buy in - and a clear and compelling demonstration of a tangible return on investment.

Investments in digital infrastructure go beyond the initial implementation - it is after all an investment in a long-term partnership, and leadership must have full transparency of the long-term implications (and benefits) of that partnership.

A clear commitment to resource allocation will ultimately demonstrate a dedication to the digital journey and underscores its strategic importance in the overall cemetery management strategy to the wider organization.

Cultural Transformation: Leading by Example

Change management within the context of digital transformation is not just about adopting new technologies; it will involve a change in processes and, oftentimes, a cultural shift within the organization.

The leadership team plays a pivotal role in shaping that organizational culture.

And that’s why it’s important to lead by example - demonstrating a willingness to learn, adapt, and integrate digital tools into their daily workflows.

By actively participating in training programs and showcasing the benefits of digital solutions, leadership can also foster a culture of continuous learning and innovation.

This cultural transformation can be contagious - in the best possible way - inspiring staff at all levels to embrace the digital mindset. When leadership is visibly committed to change, it can create a positive ripple effect throughout the organization.

Moreover, cemeteries that have been around for decades, in particular, will have a strong and engrained company culture - those unwritten rules, expectations and norms that no-one thinks about or even really notices, they can all help or hinder you.
Which is why it is important to create a ‘safe space’, again, leading this by example, in which staff can feel comfortable in exchanging thoughts, ideas or concerns.


Perceived Risk: Navigating Challenges with Strategic Oversight

As we know, bringing stakeholders along on the journey is important, and may involve allaying fears or concerns. Change, for many, after all, can be perceived as coming at a cost.

From perceived technology implementation issues to resistance from staff, the leadership's role in mitigating this perception of risk is crucial. 

Having a high-level perspective allows leadership to make informed decisions about risk tolerance, prioritize initiatives, and allocate resources judiciously.

A proactive approach to risk mitigation will therefore help to instill confidence within the organization, reinforcing the credibility of the leadership in steering the cemetery or crematorium through the change.

The imperative of digital change management in cemeteries can’t be overstated, and must have buy-in from the decision makers.

When employees see that senior leadership is actively endorsing and supporting change, it can enhance trust and confidence in the proposed initiatives.

And while senior leadership plays a central role in shaping the vision, and strategically aligning digital initiatives with organizational goals, here also lies an opportunity for forward-thinking cemetery owners and managers.

While change should be driven from the top, your lead IT person or project sponsor are also well placed to champion the cause in support of managers or CEOs.
Identify a capable member of your staff who you believe may share the desire to affect change. This is their chance to stand up and make a very significant contribution to the future of your organization.

1 APM Body of Knowledge 7th edition
2 10 Types of Organizational Change
Changing point, Aug 2023



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