This week I had the opportunity to present to an Executive Development Programme run by The Icehouse. The audience was a mix of business owners and senior leadership from a wide variety of New Zealand businesses. I was given the topic of Digital Transformation and asked to present for two hours.
To prepare for the talk, I looked back at my own experience both as a business owner and consultant working with a wide range of businesses throughout my career. I wanted to find things that would give the audience value by sharing some of the things that I’ve experienced.
During the presentation I gained some interesting insights about my audience. The biggest was that very few had any understanding of some of Agile and MVP (“Minimal Viable Product”). This helped emphasise something that is important for project delivery. These people are likely at some stage to be the sponsor of a technology project. If they understand the techniques and language of technology projects, then they will ask better questions and make better decisions. As technologists, we should educate the sponsor (and the team) on these concepts. Developing a backlog, sizing, prioritising and discussing what might not get delivered due to time or budget.
Another theme came out as questions and discussion occurred. How do we get people to use the system. There were comments like, some people just ignore the process, our contractors don’t want to use our system, some of our team have low literacy and can’t follow instructions, people don’t like the new system, etc. I am sure we have all heard these comments in our own organisations, it’s nothing new. What highlights the need to focus on people and the importance of a good change management plan. This is a specialist skill and something that we often think we can do ourselves as part of a project. The consensus, spend more time on change management.
Some of the challenges discussed included:
- Data quality
- Employee engagement with systems
- Implementation effort
- Not always getting exactly what you want (and that’s fine)
There are numerous examples of how process, employee and customer experience can be improved through Digital Transformation. It can help make the business more efficient, have greater agility and improve insights. It can enable innovation, remove distance and time barriers and help businesses integrate with their supply chain and clients. We can’t do it all at once which is why it is good idea to develop a roadmap that aligns with business’ strategy. Transformation takes time and commitment, it isn’t a short term activity. Think strategically but don’t forget about quick wins and small improvements.
As well as the technology side of the transformation, it is important to focus on the skills and capabilities. Do you have the right skills mix? What do you need to develop and how? What skills should your recruit or contract? Are there vendors or consultants who can support you? Are there cultural challenges that need to be addressed?
Digital Transformation is not just a lift and shift from old on-prem environments to the cloud. That doesn’t deliver the Transformation. We need to change the way we do things to reap the benefits. That is why culture, people and process are so important in any Digital Transformation.