According to research cited by Forbes, 70% of digital investments are bound to fail across $1.3 trillion in digital transformation initiatives. The key challenge is: digital transformation is not an initiative or an event with a clear ending. The task will never be complete. To look at it as a behemoth you have to tackle and “get done,” is not a productive mindset.
Here are four strategies to turn the “disruption” of digital transformation into an ongoing, pragmatic business process that creates breakthrough performance:
- Keep business moving
- Drive outcomes over outputs
- Focus on people, not just on technology
- Make change management part of your organizational DNA
1. Keep business moving
While organizations understand, intellectually, they need to make change happen if they want to compete in the long-term, there are always short-term goals that take precedence, such as reaching revenue and budget targets. It’s those short-term goals that ensure survival. In contrast, large-scale changes often require significant investment on the promise of a return years in the future.
You need both: create short and long-term goals with realistic objectives that can be achieved in a few months and still deliver meaningful impact. Here’s what we recommend:
Create flexible roadmaps with a long-term vision
Throw away your five-year strategic plans and create flexible long-term goals in six-month increments instead. Shorter duration plans give you the ability to anticipate, adjust, and adapt. You can still have a long-term vision but you must create medium-term goals to get you there.
Identify your organizational dependencies and redundancies
Culturally, organizations tend to work in silos since a siloed structure provides a higher degree of control during execution. But identifying needs across these silos is key to keeping business moving. Hold a facilitated alignment session where each department or organizational unit shares their top three priorities for the next six months. Chances are good it will reveal duplicate efforts or initiatives that are out of alignment with the organization’s most critical efforts. Plan to revisit this redundancy and dependency discussion at least quarterly as part of your strategic planning approach.
2. Drive outcomes over outputs
Many organizations focus on delivering faster outputs with new technology tools, but the focus should really be on the outcomes of those outputs. Offering products or services (outputs) to customers quickly does not necessarily translate to a great customer experience (outcomes). Moreover, your project teams may be extremely busy delivering new releases or products, but their outputs may not be aligned to the broader outcomes and customer needs required to be successful.
Here are a couple of ways you can shift from output-focused to outcome-focused:
Gain unity of execution
Unity of execution is the ability to execute on outcomes through a clear, coordinated plan that captures all necessary perspectives. It is especially important to consider your organization’s or team’s readiness for change. Ask yourself if your efforts are:
What is the most critical element to accomplish to achieve value and deliver on outcome? Do all parties agree on the priorities (executive to executor)?
Are all the individuals who will be involved or impacted by the effort aware or involved? What expert perspectives (internally or externally) would enrich the plan and solution?
Given your understanding of the current environment, is the solution achievable? How can we show incremental value and progress towards your outcome?
Set up feedback loops
Feedback loops help you know which actions or behaviors are driving or inhibiting outcomes. These methods can be both quantitative (metrics, analytics) and qualitative (surveys, interviews). Consider these three things when you create feedback loops:
What information is currently being gathered? What metrics or data would prove the team has reached its goals?
Is the data or information needed available to the right people to impact decisions? How could you ensure the information is getting to the right teams when they need it?
Is the data or information accurate? How can you provide accurate information or data?
3. Focus on people and not just technology
Technology is an integral part of how an organization operates, but your success hinges on the focus you place on people. Since fears of failure and the unknown are high during any enterprise change, it is important to create an environment where people can experiment and learn, demonstrate early wins to keep up the momentum, and be rewarded for collaboration. Here are a couple of ways to make that happen:
Create an experimental learning environment
Adopting an Agile mindset that delivers discrete, functioning products over time helps create an environment where teams can conduct learning experiments with new platforms and ways of working. The purpose of learning experiments is to understand what works and must be improved in a shorter duration of time, outside of the normal bureaucracy and processes many organizations usually follow. In Agile teams, this is known as minimum viable product (MVP). Leadership encouragement and support is crucial during the initial stages of learning experiments—it inspires people to take calculated risks and change course if something isn’t working.
Demonstrate early wins
Picking learning experiments that demonstrate early wins helps to keep up the momentum. All early wins need not be success stories—they can also be early failures that teams can learn from and then change tactics. These wins and stories help people gain comfort with shifts and changes.
4. Make change management part of your organizational DNA
No matter the scope or the nature of the change, people don’t respond to change unless they are convinced by the reason for the change. Every change initiative must begin with a clear and compelling understanding for its need and expected value for the organization to act, behave, and execute in the new way.
Your organization’s commitment to change must be monitored and measured frequently. People may need more time, training, or attention to be ready to adopt new systems, technologies, or processes.
Normalize change within your organization
Transformation should be an ongoing process—a journey more than a destination. And that is a good thing, because when it becomes a normal function of doing business, that means you can do it incrementally, plan for it consistently, and remove the anxiety around it.
Celerity has helped organizations large and small set themselves up for success, move forward in their journeys, and gain momentum that had previously eluded them. If you need an expert perspective on your transformation plans to ensure your journey will be successful, give us a call.