Want to succeed? Five ways to make digital transformation a success for your business
June 2019: According to Gartner research, 82 percent of CEOs have a digital transformation programme or initiative in place, up from 62 per cent last year. Failure rates are estimated between 60 and 80 percent, and there is no sign of that improving. So how can you ensure a successful digital transformation for your business? We detail five ways to do just that. In short, you must put in place a clear set of objectives, investigate new technologies, break down big projects into smaller steps, apply rigorous monitoring and negotiate more flexible contracts.
#1 Set Clear Objectives
This may sound obvious, but before embarking on any digital transformation programme, organisations really need to understand what the problem is and what a likely solution would be. Essentially, they must look at what the business really needs and its purpose. Only then can they establish a clear set of outcomes for the programme with defined KPI’s to measure its success.
Too often, digital transformation programmes are destined to fail from the start because they lack clear purpose.
#2 Stay Ahead of New Technologies
Big digital transformation projects can span years, if not decades, during which time new technologies and innovations can leap forward. Just think of what your very first smartphone, 10 or 12 years ago, could do vs. what the one in your pocket today. Or, how recent the technology that allowed Uber to take over the roads of most cities in the world is.
When starting a digital transformation project, it is crucial to consider all emerging solutions (not just focus on the current ones). Set aside time to investigate developing technologies and don’t hesitate to seek insight from the wider industry. Time and money spent at the beginning will prevent costly and embarrassing mistakes later.
#3 Smaller is Better
When embarking on large projects – often long, ambitious and designed to be future-proof – break them down into smaller, incremental actions. It is absurd that large-scale projects that span decades (think HS2, Airbus, Heathrow’s third runway, Crossrail, etc.) often have their entire development strategy planned from day one.
This makes no sense in the current environment where digital technology and innovation evolve at an unprecedented pace. Breaking down a big project into smaller pieces will allow you to stay abreast of the inevitably changing needs of your business and the environment in which you and your consumers operate, and the evolution of the technology you use to service those needs.
#4 Take Back Control
Set clear KPIs and milestones in advance and apply the same rigorous checks and analysis to internal progress and costs that you would to external ones. Poor control mechanisms are often the reason so many digital transformation projects continue even when it is clear they are failing, wasting everybody’s time and money.
What you can’t see or don’t know about, you can’t fix. You need to take back control and be ready not just to change the direction of the programme, but also its scope and objectives. It is pointless to continue to try to deliver things that are no longer needed or are not realistically achievable in the fast-changing business and technology environment.
#5 Be More Flexible
Build in as much flexibility as you can to your supplier contracts so you can respond in partnership to change – both to client requirements and technologies. Often, government departments and many large organisations will have contracts in place that are tied to pre-agreed deliverables.
It makes sense that if a project lasts several years, what is agreed when you sign the contract on day one is very likely to change down the line. You need to build the necessary flexibility in the way you work to accommodate this.
In short, organisations and project managers need to show more courage in dealing with problems when they arise. They must either recalibrate or suspend their digital transformation programmes while they resolve those problems.
Jim Berrisford, COO & Co-Founder of Step5 adds: “That is why businesses need to break the pattern of large-scale, long-term projects where failure can easily be pushed to one side in the hope that all will be resolved in the final stretch.
When it comes to digital transformation, smaller is better and more likely to lead to bigger results.”