Digital change and transformation - the do's and don't's

Technology change is one of the reason's that the disciplines of project management and change management exist in the first place. And what we mean by that is that technology failures are the reason why both disciplines are in place. Both the project discipline and the change discipline have been changing and adjusting to the growing realisation that bridges need to be built between technology delivery areas and business areas. Agile ways of working were a blend of discipline at speed. Yet there continue to be tech failures delivered and remediated. Why? Well if you have worked on or experienced poorly designed and delivered technology solutions, (as I have) then themes begin to appear.

Following are some key themes for you to reflect upon for your digital change and whether these are being approached in the right way. Here are some 'Must DO's': 

1) Be sure to explore the problem enough, before deciding technology is the solution. Many, many times, there is a shiny piece of technology that a leader likes or is enticed by, and is decided upon, before enough exploration of existing issues takes place to ensure the solution chosen is the right one. The technology can be seen as the 'magic bullet' to solve process issues or to provide more efficiencies, only for it to fail in the design as there was too big a leap to new ways of doing things, and solutions do not address the most basic of problems. Exploring the existing problems well, may mean that solutions can be put into 'buckets' of process, system, people or policy.

2) If it is a digital transformation, be sure the change 'story' is clear, digestible and broken down into phases. Technology programs are often a long journey, anywhere from 12 months to 2 years. So you need to pace the messaging and the engagement. Consistent communication is one thing however it is very important that engagement activities line up with the communication frequency and increases at the appropriate times.

3) Have useability be a success measure: What you measure is what is focused on. Without considering how intuitive or user-friendly your techology is, success will be ill-defined and have major repercussions post implementation when the technology is determined to be too 'clunky' or confusing to use, and requiring further investment. Having 'blind' user testing will provide an assessment as to whether the technology is in fact intuitive to use. This can also assist in validating the level of training needed on the system or on system prompts required.

4) Use Human centred design principles when designing the solution. Don't just design out of the box or allow the technology teams to be decision makers. Using human centred design principles and techniques will mean that you will know what processes that the technology supports and areas of frustration. This means that you will keep the user frustrations top of mind and seek to resolve those frustrations with the technology rather than compound them through ignorance. There will always be improved outcomes if a human centred approach is taken.

5)  The biggest and most important 'Do' is to ensure you are thinking about the 'complete' scope for a digital transformation. The scope needs to be more than just tech delivery. It needs to also encompass reviewing business processes, policies where needed, and potentially structure changes when the new system is implemented. Under scoping is a BIG risk, so make sure you cover all areas.



And here are the 'Do NOT's':

1) Cut corners on critical resource support. Large scale digital transformations are often under cost pressure and delivery pressure. They are often the largest investments that organisations will make and that can make leadership nervous and if external economic pressures also play out then they will be scrutinised every step of the way. Be sure to be clear on non-negotiables on core skill sets - project and program management, change program and change management, business analysis, testing leads and technical expertise.

Be clear on skill levels required and free up business resource to be included and upskilled in various program areas so any post go live delivery can then begin to be led by the business (remember there is always a day 2, day 3 and day 4.) In addition to making sure you aren't cutting corners, also be sure to NOT set up individuals for failure by placing in them key roles where they don't have the background or expertise but it is seen as a 'development' opportunity. This is unfair on those who are expected to perform in such a high pressure environment.

2) Over promise and under deliver. All of the way through digital transformations you will be required to manage expectations well. In the design phase you can generate a 'wish list', and then prioritise 'must have's'. Do not oversell features, or you will come to regret it when variations are asked for and you cannot deliver them due to cost or system functionality restrictions. When deciding on priorities, create a matrix and note down why certain things can't be delivered. Then, if and when someone new enters the program, there is a reference point for them as to when decisions were made and why. You then don't lose time re-interrogating decisions.

3) Ignore risks and issues arising: While program reporting should be highlighting these throughout the program delivery cycle, there are often cultural challenges when looking to achieve accurate narrative when it comes to program progress. Be sure to interrogate risks and issue logs in a regular basis if you are a sponsor or stakeholder. That way you can resolve issues fast and manage risks effectively. If you hear a concern or have someone raise an issue, track down the source, understand the concern and ensure a resolution pathway is evident. Ignore them at your own peril!!!

4) Rely entirely on technology expertise for decisions. The business needs to be invested and understand what they are getting. Often times technology leads do not consult the business on functionality options which results in the business areas left with a poor understanding of what they are getting and inevitable disappointment when they aren't empowered to make the choices they need. It is a fine balance but one that contributes to ownership of the end product if the business areas are engaged and consulted on key decisions.

Of course there are additional considerations but at the very least you can reflect upon whether your program supporting digital and technology transformations have these basics covered.


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