In business you’re only as good as your last delivery; this ethos is the driving force behind my professional approach and something that can act as a differentiator when businesses consider how to approach digital transformation.
Previously we’ve explored five key guardrails that are important to consider when embarking on your digital transformation journey (Digital transformation: five tips for success), and some of the fundamental principles that can act as a solid framework when defining and driving a digital transformations strategy (Digital transformation: what’s in a strategy).
This thinking has been extended in this article to summarise how businesses can implement checks and balances to drive successful execution of their digital transformation throughout each phase.
Be clear about what you are hoping to achieve in the timeframe you’re setting yourself (or have been set!). Just enough is often good enough and thinking about a digital transformation as a direction of travel as opposed to and end state is a good way to envision this. This strategy should evolve as technology and industry trends do, so if you spend time trying to perfect an approach for a fixed end state before you embark on delivery, you’re likely to fail. Keeping agility in mind and approaching your digital transformation program as iterative deliveries of value is a great way to approach this.
Stakeholder clarity around Why you are embarking on a digital transformation, What this means in practical terms, and How you will approach delivery and how you expect the digital transformation to impact your business are essential components of successful execution.
Often digital transformation is driven by a cross functional group that has a day job outside of the transformation process, so it’s important to ensure that the team understands what will be asked of them, why you are asking for this, what it means for them both now and in the future, and how you’ll work together to assess progress.
A great way of building engagement with a cross functional team is to sell the overarching vision around the transformation project in terms of what it means for them. Digital transformation is often thought about in terms of what it means to the end consumer, but there are two distinct customer segments throughout a digital transformation process: internal and external.
By being able to answer questions such as…
“How will this make our business a better place to work?”,
“How will this make team’s life easier”, and
“How will this address some of our operational pain points”
…you begin to be able to articulate an internally focused value proposition for the transformation program, which when aligned to the outward facing value proposition, is a really powerful statement of intent.
Overcommunicate. By implementing a regular cross functional steerco or delivery forum, you are implementing a heartbeat for the transformation program. Regular status reporting is great and adds a lot of value, but this should be supported by an opportunity for the delivery team to meet regularly to review progress and issues.
In today’s hybrid–remote working world there’s a danger of meeting overload so it’s important to get the balance right. Having a regular (bi-weekly, 30 mins works great for me once in steady state), succinct stakeholder review in place that then informs your regular status report helps to foster alignment and provides an opportunity for issues to be raised and addressed outside of formal reporting channels.
The key to success is to ensure there’s an owner for the forum that guarantees everyone is clear about the headlines and key actions from the session, but most importantly that the team feel they have a safe space to be open and transparent about progress and blockers. Depending on your business culture it may take time to develop confidence in your team that they can raise issues without ramification, but a successful team needs to feel that they can be open and transparent.
Transparency is key; transparency breeds trust both internally and externally and is a critical factor in delivering successful outcomes.
We’ve already covered the need to keep agility in mind and approach your digital transformation program as iterative deliveries of value, so with this in mind there is no “After” really, just more incremental improvements.
However, there are some great practices that will help you to evolve your delivery approach as you start to evolve your digital transformation journey.
One of these is to have a retrospective process in place to focus on what worked, what didn’t work, key outstanding issues and go forward actions for the cross functional team to help to foster a culture of continuous improvement off the back of hands-on delivery experience.
The other essential practice is to measure the impact of your digital transformation and to ensure that the output of this is considered in your retrospective approach and as input to future digital transformation initiatives. If you don’t measure your outcomes against your expected results and you don’t understand where you were when you started, you will never know whether your digital transformation has delivered on its objectives and changed your business for the better.