Whether clients bring our company in to lead a dream project or to rescue a nightmare, we’ve routinely found that project preparedness is one of the most critical factors for success. The same could be said for any “old-school” IT project as well. So what makes digital transformation any different?
First of all, the success rate is much lower: Only % of digital transformation initiatives succeed versus % of all IT projects. A proper readiness assessment is key for ensuring success in digital transformation.
At the outset of any digital transformation project, a readiness assessment must evaluate the processes, tools and technologies that will help manage change: Do you have mechanisms in place to communicate across functional teams and geographies? Do you have alignment around goals and objectives and the digital tools to support your project? If the answer to any of these is no, it represents a critical first step you must take before embarking on your journey. Otherwise, your entire project can derail before you even start.
Your internal teams must have the ability to easily and efficiently share information and must have the right lines of communication open to keep projects on track. Project management, workflows and communication are the critical areas that must be addressed with the right tools and processes before you begin.
Before digital, the available technology defined your IT projects. A project might be implementing an ERP, integrating a CRM or upgrading a server in the data center. Your expensive investment in software and hardware limited what you could do. As a result, the technology stack was often similar from one organization to another, and functionality and integration capability limited process changes and improvements.
Chris Hood states that Digital transformation erases boundaries through innovations such as cloud computing power, applications and software extensions. The processes enabled, rather than the technology used, define digital transformation projects. The biggest challenge in digital transformation today might be that there’s no standard definition of “digital” itself. Both across industries and from organization to organization, the variety of possible digital transformation projects is staggering. Without a clear understanding of what digital means for your organization specifically, you risk chasing new technology instead of enabling your goals.
Before looking at technology, examine what digital transformation means for your organization and its processes. You can look to outside experts or frameworks from other successful digital transformations to help guide your understanding, but your definition should reflect your organization’s distinct needs.
IT projects have always had project goals. However, they often lacked specificity or baselines; instead, the “on time, on target” default goal was frequently the only thing measurable.
Today, digital transformation projects begin in a data-rich world, offering new insights into competitors and possible outcomes. Also, because many of these projects are a shift from older technology to digital technology, much more baseline data is available. More data means you can identify more specific and more accurate targets, both for the end of the project and during incremental, iterative releases. Organizational alignment around goals and objectives has become increasingly essential in the time of Covid-.
Just as possible technical solutions have grown, the stakeholder audience has expanded as well. Where IT projects often were within just a few internal departments, digital transformation projects often reach across and outside your organization. Enabling cloud-based and remote solutions requires new levels of security and compliance. Change management and communication planning for these efforts require addressing a broader audience.
Once you secure initial buy-in, make sure you’re also offering continuous opportunities for stakeholders to engage. I’ve seen technology leaders make the mistake of leaving out the organization’s business side as the transformation moves ahead. Keep the lines of communication open and ensure all stakeholders have as much flexibility as possible to make the implementation more effective and efficient.
Successful IT projects have always needed the business to support efforts such as user requirements, data migration, training and testing. Digital transformation, with its greater possibilities and broader audience, requires user involvement more than ever. Digital transformation business leaders must imagine what’s possible and advocate for the project across and outside the organization. They need the ability to translate from business and process terms into technical concepts and from technical into business.
Before beginning a digital transformation project, identify the champions within your organization capable of understanding both the business and technical side — or look to experts outside the company to help align your teams and guide your efforts forward. Remember that these projects typically require more champions with increasingly sophisticated skill sets.
A digital transformation readiness assessment can’t guarantee the success of an initiative, but it can go a long way toward improving your odds. If you find that your project hasn’t considered these factors in enough depth, a digital transformation readiness assessment can go a long way toward making sure you become more prepared for success.
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