As increasing numbers of businesses consider the need for “Digital Transformation”, clarity of purpose is essential. On occasion, the broad terminology used in the digital arena can be confusing and embarking on this journey without a clear plan of action can lead to wasted opportunities, as well as the obvious risks around budget and time.
Within this piece, I will attempt to demystify this process, and highlight the key elements which underpin the success of such an initiative.
For ease of reference, let’s break it down as follows, step by step, then delve into each:
Identify Business Opportunity
Gain Stakeholder Support
Map Out Change Management Strategy
Defining the Program Plan
The Business Opportunity
When embarking on a program of transformational change, one question is key: “Why?”
Why are we doing this and what does success look like - described in quantifiable and measurable objectives. The fundamental purpose that is driving the need to transform the business. Financial models, testing, and investigation of market opportunities are all elements to consider, as is validation with the ultimate users of the transformed business.
Before changes are made, a solid business case should be detailed, specifying tangible reasons for such changes to be made, incorporating a clear rationale as to why this is important, where value can be created, how that will be measured, and the expected timescale for return on investment. This should be described not only in financial terms, but also care taken to detail the less direct benefits to the program, such as culture, ease of doing business, brand position and the creation of platforms for future growth.
Gain Stakeholder Support
Once you have a business case, by far the most important step is to ensure you have engagement and support from key internal stakeholders, whose areas of business will be directly impacted by this change.
This, in itself, is not a one step process. Rather, it is more of an initiation and opening of a communication channel, one via which you can engender support. Subsequently, this becomes a forum through which you will be able to keep your stakeholders updated and engaged in the process as it unfolds, in real time, in real terms. These stakeholders represent your future evangelists for the process, as it will be imperative that they are able to convince their wider teams of the value of the proposed changes, all the way through the process, and into the transformed organisation.
Impact of Change to the Business - Process, Culture, Team
When considering the potential impact of change, there are three key elements to be addressed:
Change in Process
How will the current day to day working process of the business evolve?
It is necessary to ensure that change in one area does not cause negative impacts in another area. The overall workflow needs to be reviewed holistically, with a view to consolidating and streamlining, wherever and whenever possible.
Change at scale is, dramatic and painful to go through, leading some organisations to take the decision to try and resolve other known, as well as related workflow issues at the same time. On face value, this may seem an attractive option, but it is not without risk. It is easy to let this process spiral out of control, making an assessment of workflow, current and future, absolutely critical.
Change in Corporate Culture
By changing workflow, responsibilities and, at least potentially, constituents of your team, there is a risk of adversely affecting culture, both within single teams and the company as a whole.
Involving team leaders and HR in the process is of paramount importance, allowing for minimum impact, and ensuring that company values are respected and adhered to when taking such decisions. Ultimately you, your team and your customers want to be able to recognise the organisation when you come out the other side.
Change in Team
With workflow changes, there is often a resultant or related team impact, as responsibilities scale up and down across different areas. Whether this be a downsizing in your skilled workforce, an increase in responsibilities of leadership, or a shift in geographical distribution, there is a necessary consideration of people that is rarely small, and often impactful.
Ensuring that the wider workforce is brought into, and included within the strategy and decisions being made is all about clear communication and transparent expectation setting.
Using your internal stakeholders is, as mentioned before, the key to getting buy in across the organisation.
When it comes to tactical elements, the most effective approach is through solid preparation. As you transform aspects of the business, to take advantage of the potential that comes from a modern digital approach, it’s easy to get sucked into the promises of adroit marketing or a convincing sales pitch.
Understanding that the execution is only as good as the strategy is the first step to ensuring your program is set up for success.
Defining the Program Plan
On many occasions, I run into a situation where clients with an immediate need to drive digital transformation, rush headlong into a technology solution that may not be the best for their business. Platform evaluation and vendor selection are two critical elements of any digital change, but there’s also a particular focus needed on user experience.
By understanding how you want to change engagement with the brand, both internally and externally, and what that should look like, in both physical and digital touch points, you can design an experience that will deliver your objectives, which could be any number of things...
Reproducing the number of inbound calls to your service team through smarter AI driven support solutions, or through better targeted use of digital content platforms.
Offering a better integration of your legacy systems to a single dashboard, allowing one tool to guide and inform your sales team...or perhaps it’s a mobile solution, designed to connect your customers to your brand, and doing so seamlessly, as they move from desk, to commute, to home.
Understanding the consumption of information, alongside the interaction the user requires or prefers, affords the opportunity to design a solution that specifically addresses any existing inefficiencies, while simultaneously identifying new ways to build and nurture a deeper and richer relationship.
Platform selection has its place, and finding the right partner to deliver on technology can be a daunting task. When it comes to transformational change within a business, I believe that the task is more easily approached by using a skilled 3rd party (or parties) to deliver on the explicit components. Whether the Experience definition discussed above, or the platform selection process, or even the implementation, delivery is everything, and partnerships can make or break that.
With so many potential suppliers, however, the selection process can be difficult. Many CXOs take the seemingly safe decision of hiring a large consultancy, trusting in the security of scale when, in reality, there are many smaller, smarter solutions available.
My own experience is that often a larger team, particularly offshore, is just not as effective as a smart, dedicated, focused team where the client ranks with a higher importance in the food chain. Its important to remember as well that scale of supplier doesn’t always guarantee delivery. It does usually guarantee a large bill at the end however!
Each element of this digital reinvention should therefore start with a clear definition of objectives, a mapping of the desired experience, a selection of technology solution and ultimately ending in an implementation phase. Your stakeholders need to be involved all the way through the process and I recommend the use of a dedicated Product owner for each component, governed by an overall Program Lead to oversee the full delivery.
Strong governance is critical to successful delivery.
There are a number of key people that should be in place on an overall governance team:
Overall Program Lead
Implementation Leads for each stream
Ideally a representative of each the business areas who can present the user needs
Someone responsible for ongoing operational support
This group needs to meet regularly; to review progress, to address obstacles when encountered, and to keep each other honest to the original objectives. Any such team needs to enjoy a fundamental trust in each other, and in each individuals’ ability to play their various role or roles.
I joined Appnovation because I believe in open technology solutions. We don’t align to a single technology stack, or software solution, because to do so limits the lifespan of your offering. Instead we focus on what we class as “best in class” full technology solutions made up by combining carefully selected partners, with tailored lean solutions designed for the way our clients want to work.
We are a company that is building certain core skills around experience and technical architecture, data-based solutions, and pragmatic approaches to framework building. This allows us to pick the solutions offer the most value to our clients, solutions that are best suited to delivering on their objectives. It also allows us to avoid committing to technology that’s evolved poorly in a shifting digital landscape.