One of the biggest barriers to successful digital transformation is complexity, with only 20-30% of business transformations fully succeeding in their ambition to deliver their target benefits and ROI. Organisations can increase their business agility by removing complexity, and it is the responsibility of business leaders across all divisions, including Technology, HR, Finance, Risk & Legal to help facilitate a smooth transformation.
This was the topic discussed by our hosts and business leaders who joined from their homes & offices across the UK, as they shared their journeys, challenges & successes at this event, one of a series of virtual & in-person roundtables held by Orbbis throughout 2022.
To kick-off the discussion, host Enrique Fernandez-Pino, Orbbis Partner & Interim CIO, outlined his ‘Top 10 Guiding Principles for Successful Digital Change’.
Enrique says, “There are 10 guiding principles for simpler change – the more you follow, the more chance you have of implementing successful transformational heaven!”
1.ESTABLISH THE NEED FOR CHANGE
Fully understand whether transformation is truly required and what will constitute a measurable success. Have a crystal-clear vision. If you can’t define the strategic vision in fifteen to twenty words, start thinking again.
2. DEFINE THE JOURNEY BEFORE TURNING ON THE ENGINE
When you have a clear vision, create a narrative for the journey. Work it backwards: destination to origin. Scope the route IN. And, more importantly, scope the route OUT.
3. BE A RUTHLESSLY DETERMINED SPONSOR
Half houses, lack of time, insecurities will not cut the mustard. Be wholeheartedly in or be out. Commit fully (and personally) to the change.
4. DON’T JUST APPOINT GOOD LEADERS. ALWAYS GO FOR THE ‘A TEAM’
Always appoint your A-Team to the job, not your reserves. Set tangible goals for the team – the better people understand what, why and when the more they will engage and work with the transformation. Empower, enable, and equip people to work in new ways.
5. BRING ONBOARD YOUR SUPPORTERS
Once everything is clear, get a few supporters on board. Actively analyse which influencers amongst the organisation will be pro-change to help smooth the way.
6. GET INTO BED WITH FINANCE (WELL, NOT LITERALLY)
Be realistic that transformation initiatives will tamper with yearly budgets & cash flow. So, getting Finance involved from the very beginning of any transformation project should help significantly. Try introducing change with no Finance involvement at your own peril!
7. CHUNK THE ELEPHANT (WELL, LITERALLY)
The most difficult part of digital change is not the technology. That’s often the easy part. The truly difficult one is behaviours. People. Focus from day one on the behavioural changes that are needed to achieve the desired outcomes, and always consider three key factors, ‘The Change Trinity’: people, process, and technology.
8. KEEP A VERY TIGHT CONTROL ON CHANGING THE CHANGE
Allow changes from the original scope only when absolutely necessary, and always through formal governance. There will be temptation to increase the scope – do not grow the elephant into a mammoth and, eventually, into a dinosaur, but do chunk the elephant into digestible pieces. Frequent and small delivery instead of months of wait for a final ta-da! This will also give you some oxygen when things don’t go according to plan (which they won’t!)
9. MANAGE RISKS, CONSCIOUSLY
“Prepare for the worst but hope for the best”. Benjamin Disraeli. Every change has risk. Often a lot of it. Assign specific risks to people to come up with ways of minimising the risk, and always consider the trade between risk and investment in preventing the risk. Two particular areas that need big respect are cyber security, and data protection. Ignore these, and you may not have a business.
10. DON’T STOP THE DAY THE PROJECT IS DELIVERED
Change starts the day you finish the project. Always keep the accelerator down post-implementation, and don’t move the team until the change is embedded into the organisation.
Our roundtable discussion group agreed that achieving digital maturity can be a challenging journey, even for digital-first companies. The COVID-19 pandemic has taken digital transformation further up the priorities list, and companies must keep up with the speed of emerging technologies in a process of continuous learning and pivoting, to adapt to an evolving competitive landscape.
Implementing digital transformation in a regulated industry where there is likely to be culture of risk aversion, pushing the appetite for risk is a constant challenge. A risk specialist will add value in the planning and managing phase of the project, to help ambition for change convert into reality with a successful outcome.
Whilst speed is critical to keep competitive advantage, digital transformation takes significant financial investment and time, and therefore risk. Participants emphasised the need to continually plan for the upgrading of technology, organisational capabilities, and talent.
Throughout the roundtable discussion a common question was posed “Why are you seeking digital transformation?” Digital transformation must be driven for the right reason, unanimously “Does it add value to your customers & organisation?” Very often leaders will communicate how digital transformation will improve the company’s performance, but aligning and communicating digital transformation strategy around a customer-centric narrative is key. How will your digital evolution help you become a sustainable enterprise, both profitable and a force for good in the broader society?
Companies around the world are seeking to harness the potential of digital technologies and data to ensure their survival. When we asked business leaders around the roundtable what it takes to prepare for this, they shifted quickly from talking about digital tools and processes to people, talent and culture.
When seeking change, often the senior leadership team are focused on driving implementation of the digital platform. However, outside of the ‘technology’ delivery relies heavily on ‘people’ and a shift in culture and behaviours. Great investment goes into creating a specialist technical team, but how many digital transformation projects budget for a strategic people & culture practitioner?
A project team with clear lines of responsibility and support from the leadership team is fundamental, consisting of operators who ‘deliver’, and sponsors who ‘lead’. Cross-functional or cross-level teams will observe customers using their products and services, and ‘design thinking labs’ made up from customers will help to foster new offerings. A ‘Tech Academy’ – outside of the core project delivery team, an academy of a much wider group from across the business, can help support delivery, testing, implementation and onboarding of the new system.
Customer-centric organizations will seek to develop solutions which address customers’ evolving needs and desires, rather than simply selling their existing products and solutions.
During and post-implementation the quality of data to report on the progress and success of the project is key – is improvement happening or deteriorating? Digital natives like Netflix & Google Maps will ensure at the heart of this question is the customer. Is the customer user-experience improving? The data may offer an answer that the business does not wish to accept (especially after a costly process) but this is the only way to uncover issues, blockers and those who are resistant to change, enabling a push for better levels of success. A successful project should always include a data specialist.
With many digital transformations ending up in frustration, cost and a weaker strategic position for the business, if you are planning a digital transformation strategy, consider the ‘Top 10 Guiding Principles’ outlined in this article to help resuce complexity,and build data, risk and people & culture specialists into your delivery team to help manage all aspects of the process, ensuring a stronger position for success.
Orbbis is a division of Broster Buchanan, delivering management consultancy through industry experts, supporting companies to develop digital strategies, converting them into pragmatic, implementable solutions that turn ambition into award winning realities. To find out more get in touch.
Orbbis are running a series of virtual and in-person roundtable events across 2022. If you would like to find out more, please get in touch with Jon Sasserath.