8 things leaders should keep in mind when managing digital transformation

Friday, November 22, 2019 - Adam Stirk

Technology is now a central strategic function with the ability to transform a business, taking it from market follower to market leader, and giving it a competitive edge in a world that is becoming increasingly digital.

Digital transformation can enhance organisational performance, boost efficiency and improve customer relationships by re-engineering workflows, capturing vital data and automating processes.

Now IT has board-level influence, it’s critically important to carefully manage digital transformation. Integrating technology into the business can fundamentally change the way a business operates, and requires a focus on cultural change as well as a mindset that is agile and experimental.

Here are eight key things that all technology leaders should consider when managing digital transformation to ensure success:

1. Embrace Incremental Changes

Technology plays a vital role in a business’ ability to evolve and continually add more value for its customers.

However, often updating technology does not require a high-risk, large-scale initiative. Instead, by focusing on incremental changes, and prioritising a series of digital upgrades, a business can start on a smaller scale and continue on an incremental measured pursuit of technological change.

A solid plan is to invest in small, yet highly beneficial, projects and lay a strong foundation with technology that can be built upon, then move onto larger scale projects.

2. Pick a Specific Problem to Address

Transforming digital should be led by the wider business strategy and robust goals, rather than a focus on investing in technology for technology’s sake.

By picking a specific business problem to address with a software solution, IT leaders can work to identify procedural roadblocks and understand organisational challenges before deciding on the digital tools that will solve those issues and improve operations.

For example, an organisation might say, ‘We need more AI’ rather than identifying an issue first, e.g. ‘We need to capture data more accurately in real-time and across disparate sites and automate our data gathering and reporting. What technology can solve this?’

3. Measure Success

In advance of a new technology project, key performance indicators (KPIs) should be considered and set.

This will ensure that the new technology is meeting the objective(s), and that you’re clear on what areas of the business the new tool will improve.

These measures should also link back to previous processes, so that you can compare specific data points before the new technology and after to accurately measure ROI.

You can find more information on digital KPIs in this article: ‘The stats CEOs need to measure digital transformation success’.

4. Plan for Continuous Improvement

Having the mindset that ‘digital is never done’ will stand technology leaders in good stead.

Investing in one technology project and then never considering an IT upgrade again by maintaining legacy systems is not advisable. You should plan for continually modifying and improving technology.

Technology, the market, customer demands all evolve. And so should the digital capabilities within a business. A need for an agile and experimental mindset is critical to keep a business moving forward, rather than stagnating.

5. Prepare for Culture and Adoption Challenges

It’s critical to get everyone in the business on board with new technology from the outset.

Prepare for any cultural and adoption challenges by communicating the right messages to the right people at the right time. Often, communicating to staff six months ahead of the new technology coming online gives plenty of time for any concerns to be raised, and training to be given.

It’s also recommended to involve those employees who will be impacted by the new technology from the start. This will give them a sense of ownership and improve adoption rates as they will ‘sell’ the new technology to colleagues.

6. Ensure Ownership of Projects

When transforming digital, the business should take ownership of the project – and not leave it to the software development partner.

Allocating dedicated talent and internal resource to manage the project from kick-off, throughout the development process, to completion, with the right focus and assigned time will support a successful launch.

Often a technology project fails when the business doesn’t appreciate the amount of time they need to dedicate to it and the level of talent that’s required to project manage, liaise with your software development company and with stakeholders internally as well as make informed decisions and give quick approvals.

7. Get Company-Wide Buy-In

Technology leaders should actively get the executive team on board from the start so that they can assist in driving the change forward across the company.

Tailoring communications to board-level stakeholders, and linking back to wider business goals (see point 2), will help to convey the rationale as to why this technology will grow the business.

By tying the new technology to the vision and future of the business and by highlighting the long-term gains, rather than short-term thinking will endear senior leaders to the change, encourage innovation and prompt a rethinking of outdated business models.

We share 10 strategies to get company-wide buy-in in this blog post.

8. Identify and Manage Risks

Risk management is a critical part of managing digital transformation.

Technology leaders should assess risk in areas such as infrastructure, features and resources, creating a clear and robust process for identifying, tracking, mitigating and solving risks prior, throughout and post-release of digital projects.

This should include planning for all of the variables in a complex project in advance to mitigate risk; as well as suggest a suitable approach to delivery in order to factor in the potential uncovering of unidentified risks that you may not be aware of at initial stages. For example, managing the risk of multiple third party integrations with poorly documented API's or API's that are being developed in parallel.

Managing Digital Transformation for Success

Digital transformation improves your business, enhancing the experience of employees, customers, stakeholders, partners and suppliers.

Technology can no longer be ignored, and is being embraced by businesses looking to stand out from the crowd, and survive in a fast-changing, increasingly digital marketplace.

Taking the leap to invest in new technology can feel overwhelming. However, with the right preparation and planning, mindset and executive sponsorship, transforming the digital capability of your business will be a success.

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