How to uncover where the real value of digital exists for your business

Friday, February 21, 2020 - Philip Rashleigh

According to a recent study, 73% of enterprises failed to provide any business value from their digital transformation efforts. And only 22% achieved their desired business results by meeting specific objectives. 

Although most businesses survive digital projects that under-deliver, it’s estimated that 17% of large-scale IT projects go so wrong that they threaten the existence of the company.

However, digital is transforming every industry and shows no signs of abating. Only 8% of businesses surveyed recently said their current business model would remain economically viable if their industry keeps digitising at its current course and speed. 

So, for many businesses, investing in new technology is now no longer a choice, but a necessity.

But how do you ensure your digital transformation project delivers value for your business when the odds are stacked against success? And with all the digital trends out there, how do you pinpoint what will add the most value to your business?

In this article, we detail how to uncover where the real value of digital exists for your business. 

Set Clear Goals

Unclear objectives and a lack of business focus accounts for the majority of digital project failures. 

To uncover real value, you need to take a broad, holistic view as to what digital means to your business as a whole, and how it’s mapped into long-term strategy. 

By getting clear on exactly how new technology will improve day-to-day operations and deliver strategic value against business objectives, you’ll be able to hone in on exactly what you’re trying to improve. 

Maintaining this focus on how the business needs to change to deliver a better service to customers and/or employees will enable you to define a clear purpose for the technology upgrade, set KPIs and monitor them during development and upon delivery to ensure you’re achieving value. 

Actively gathering user insights from customers and/or employees will help you to understand what can be improved, and then align the new technology to solve these issues, rather than starting with the technology first. 

With your staff, encourage honest opinions and nurture bottom-up feedback so you can understand pain points and inefficient roadblocks. Then run diagnostics tests to gather information on issues flagged to make informed decisions. 

Analyse Current Processes 

To understand how digital can add value to your business, analyse processes and map workflows. 

Don’t let current systems or existing processes block your vision. Look at the manual, low-value administrative tasks that could be overhauled and made more efficient – or eliminated entirely – through automation. Map the sequences of repeatable processes to identify issues and roadblocks. For example, if multiple tasks happen in parallel could they be combined, or if tasks must follow a set order could one or two steps be removed, merged or sped up. 

Pinpoint what the biggest hindrances are to your workflows that could be improved by technology, for example:

  • processes that staff have invented workarounds for to speed up or simplify
  • paper-based or manual processes that could be digitised for accuracy, speed and real-time data reporting
  • lack of accessibility to valuable information stored in siloed systems 
  • inefficient and slow legacy systems

Evaluate Options and Plan for the Future

Once a clear need for digital investment is identified and aligned back to strategy, evaluate options, including factors such as budget and timeframes versus coverage of requirements, and develop a robust plan as to how to get there. 

Successful digital projects take a long-term view that considers what the future of the business looks like – and not just the future of technology. It’s not simply a solution to fix the now, but a future-proof solution to support growth. 

Often, the most successful projects are the smaller endeavours that lay solid foundations rather than large, all-encompassing legacy upgrades that stall due to scale, complexity and employees’ fatigue from continuous change.

It’s critical at this stage to get the right people involved. Stakeholders include those employees who will be using the new technology on a daily basis, as well as securing board level buy-in. Ensuring company-wide buy-in means adoption of new technology should be smoother and faster as stakeholders are fully invested from the beginning, and at all stages. 

There might be many options to consider. Make use of proof of concepts and prototyping to gain a deeper understanding of what is needed from the new technology. This will help to uncover challenges early on and get valuable feedback. Following testing, the route that you thought was high-risk could turn out to be the solution that adds the most value to the business. 

Measure Success 

To know if a digital transformation project has added value to your business, you need to measure it and set specific targets to understand what success looks like. 

These KPIs should be identified before the project begins, aligned with the business goals and tracked consistently. For example, if a manual process takes one hour to complete, then the digitised process should take less time – set a desired result e.g. the new system must cut time on that task by at least half to 30 minutes or less.

It’s also important to measure success throughout the project, and not just at the beginning and end. With an agile approach to software development, you can measure, adapt and change functionality or design to improve and benchmark. Test prototypes with the people who’ll be using the system and check against your KPIs. 

Add Value to Your Business with Digital

Transforming your digital capabilities can add huge value to your business, but it’s important to invest in the right technology that will solve specific business issues. Innovating for innovation’s sake or embarking on a huge project can be counterproductive. 

As Information Age puts it: “Disconnected vanity projects will not deliver digital transformation, no matter how sexy they may seem.”

However, by setting clear business goals, analysing, evaluating, planning and establishing key performance indicators, your digital transformation should fall within the 27% of projects that succeed.

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