Before Andy Roberts joined RP International as Project, Programme Delivery & Transformation Senior Consultant, he led programme delivery at several organisations – and knows what it takes to deliver a successful transformation. Here, he explains why businesses need to go back to basics to address their digital baggage and accelerate transformation – starting with their next project.
Over the last 10 years, businesses have been racing towards digital transformation. Every new innovation, digital asset and technology has been explored and adopted at break-neck speed in order to fulfil escalating customer demand for everything, now.
In many ways, it’s paid off. Those businesses that adapted to digital demands with speed and agility have fared better than those that stuck their heads in the sand and heels into the ground, staying put while the world changed around them. But that’s not to say that digital front-runners have been entirely unscathed by the process. This frantic rush to adopt new technologies hasn’t always pushed businesses in the direction that they really wanted to go or delivered the commercial results that they expected at the beginning. To get back on track, they add more systems, more processes, more technology, more skills, new siloes, always looking to the next solution before taking stock of the last.
The result is increasing digital baggage, and it’s weighing businesses down with overcomplications and structural inefficiencies. In order to maintain their agility, businesses need to streamline their approach to projects moving forwards, resetting their digital transformation to make sure it's aligned with their long-term goals and is as structurally sound and profitable as it can be.
In short, it’s time to go back to basics. So how can you do it? The first step is to start simplifying on a project-by-project basis. Rather than reviewing your existing digital strategy in full – an enormous and disruptive task – start by looking at the next project on your agenda, taking the following steps to keep it on track and delivering against your commercial expectations.
Ask yourself why you need this innovation
Whatever project you are working on, whatever system you are implementing, whatever tech role you are recruiting for, get together with key stakeholders and take time to question your motives for doing it. What’s the business case? Is this the best option? Is this taking your transformation in the direction it needs to go in the long term? Identify the need and the outcomes you’re going to measure at the start.
Plan your process – and your people.
Strip away complications and create a plan that clearly outlines accountability and responsibility for delivery and approval. Technology-led projects can too easily collect multiple decision makers and stakeholders that make the project harder to deliver and harder to measure. The simpler the better.
Manage risk continually, for the long term.
Digital risks are evolving all the time – from cyber security to software obsolescence. Ensuring that your project has a continuous risk management strategy both during the delivery phase and once it’s up and running is crucial to make sure that whatever you implement isn’t going to come back to bite you further down the line. Old, unpatched security vulnerabilities in old data software, for instance, are one of the most common causes of data breaches. You need to make sure you have a long-term plan to manage your project risks: don’t just create a risk register that disappears into a drawer.
Communicate, communicate, communicate.
Communicate with the rest of the team, communicate with the rest of the business, communicate the challenges and objectives and goals of the project. Importantly, communicate with your customers – they will be the ultimate litmus test if your transformation has been successful. No transformation project can work in a silo: when it does become siloed from the rest of the business, all it does is create complications and erode cohesion across the board.
Become your worst critic.
Review and reflect at key points along the process. When you are absorbed in project delivery, it can be difficult to see the wood for the trees, but taking a step back and being honest about progress, results and challenges will get better results in the long term. If you feel too attached to do this yourself, find someone with the perspective or skills to do it for you.
Address your skills shortage.
If you don’t have the right skills to drive a project, find them. Don’t shoe-horn the skills you already have in-house into roles that don’t work for them. Skills gaps can overcomplicate projects, as certain tasks get passed from pillar to post and timelines drift off-course. These skills could be purely on the delivery side, or it could be that you need someone with experience to lead implementation, steer the project in the right direction and tell you what skills are needed to make delivery a success.
If you’re in the process of trying to untangle your transformation, RP International can help you build the high functioning team you need to streamline your next project. For advice on projects, programme delivery and transformation, contact Andy Roberts on LinkedIn or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.