Measuring performance in digital transformation

Thursday, June 10, 2021 - Jack Gill

When businesses look to execute an initiative or part of their digital strategy, questions are quick to follow. How much will it cost? What increase in revenue can you expect to see over the next year? An equally important question is how you will measure the performance of your strategy.

According to one recent survey, 70% of Senior Executives across Europe are in agreement that the pandemic will accelerate the pace of their digital transformation. While this initial commitment plays a significant role in a company’s digital journey, it is important that this investment is measured, so that this technology can be held accountable to business goals and performance.

And, with research from Boston Consulting group identifying that only 30% of digital transformations have been successful, finding a scalable way to measure your digital transformation projects has never been more important.

To help you find the real business value of your projects, this article will explore some of the ways in which you can measure the performance of your digital transformation and discuss the principles for setting goals in the future.

The challenges of communicating IT’s value

At its core, digital transformation is about improving inefficient processes. But conveying the importance of this technology to your business can be difficult. In fact, research by Gartner shows that 63% of CIOs struggle to communicate the value of IT.

The goal is to contextualise IT as a services-oriented addition to your organisation – something that will add long-term business value. To achieve this, a clear map of services, costs and the value generated by these instalments is needed.

With a survey stating that employees believe that CEOs are the main factor holding back digital initiatives, it is vital that businesses define how digital will complement their strategy to ensure a commitment to the role of technology within the organisation.

Whether you want to manage internal workflows or create new revenue streams, defining the role of digital within your company from the onset of your digital transformation will put you in a better position to identify your goals and begin measuring success.

For ADM agriculture – an agriculture and food processors company - their priority was finding a scalable platform that would allow their business to grow. Faced with a legacy trading system, employees had to implement workarounds, which cost the company valuable time and resources.

To complement their business strategy and help scale operations, ADM identified a need to upgrade their existing platform to a modern system. After successfully integrating a new platform alongside their existing core systems, ADM were able to save significant time and money. What’s more, this new system was fully scalable and therefore allowed for any future company growth.

Setting your goals for success

To evaluate performance and assess business value, goals should be small, manageable and talk to senior management in a way that helps decision-making. By setting KPIs before any projects begin, you will also be able to keep track of any poorly performing areas and resolve issues immediately.

It is also useful to be aware of the different types of business value that can be measured. In the past success has often been measured through ‘hard’ metrics – quantifiable data points. Soft metrics, on the other hand, are subjectively measured through interactions and more specifically tailored to your company.

Examples of hard metrics to measure might include:

  • Revenue streams
  • Costs
  • User ratings.

Alternatively, qualitative measures that soft metrics might measure include:

  • User experience
  • User satisfaction
  • Company culture.

Since soft metrics only evaluate perception, they are usually more difficult to quantify, and it is therefore suggested that you reach a consensus throughout the organisation as to what are the most appropriate indicators to monitor. From here, you will also be able to baseline your starting point and measure the performance of your strategy in the future.

Finding a balance between hard and soft metrics is a strong indicator of success, as shown in a recent study by Harvey Nash where top-performing, digital leading companies were 74% effective in getting hard financial value and 78% effective in getting soft value from their IT.

Agile maintains performance

An agile mindset is a framework for measuring performance that is iterative and can be very effective to measure performance. It encourages teams to work together and respond to regular feedback.

Under an agile approach, proof-of-concepts, prototypes, and MVPs are highly valuable for gaining initial user feedback and eliminating risk in the long run. Applied to a business strategy, agile allows you to get a better understanding of what will provide the most value and calculate how to improve your projects moving forward.

Having technology tested and reviewed throughout will also enhance employee buy-in and assure these users that their feedback is valued. In the past, the nature of software practices has meant that success was only measured at the beginning and end of digital projects, but this method does not always allow for the same flexibility that comes with an agile methodology.

By gathering feedback throughout an organisation, you will be in a good position for evaluating business requirements and needs. So whether it’s from executives or end-users, feedback should be frequently reviewed when measuring performance.

As always, it’s advised that business needs and goals are thoroughly considered before committing to any given approach. But if you seek an iterative approach which draws on collaboration to measure project performance, then agile may be your best option.  

The world of digital transformation is still an ever-changing one, so it’s a good idea not to get too caught up in metrics. What is more important is that you create KPIs that are agile and able to adapt as consumer demands change and market pressure grows. 

If you have defined the role of technology in your business strategy, set simple KPIs before beginning your projects and recognised the importance of soft metrics, you'll be in a good place to make improvements that will help your digital projects succeed.

Want to find out more ways to measure the success of your digital transformation projects? Talk to us on 0113 543 1300 or at [email protected] 

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