How to carry out a digital transformation: 10 key steps

Photo of author

By Jasper Thomas

Digital transformation may be critical to gaining a competitive advantage, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to lead.

Reimagining the way the business can operate and implementing digital technology to gain insights, conquer new markets or work more efficiently is no easy task. Business and IT leaders – and the cross-functional project team – need to understand what steps they need to take to be successful.

Here are 10 steps every digital transformation leader should know.

1. Set your sights on true transformation

Make sure you define and preserve the transformation opportunity. A major cause of digital transformation failure is “unsneaking” – the tendency to deviate from transformation goals in order to minimize effort and risk.

Goals that are too small reduce the potential benefits more than the risks. If it is not possible to take advantage of the opportunities presented by the transformation, the actual justification of the project is at risk. Even if the project is successful, the overall benefits of the project may not meet the company’s ROI goals.

2. Contact management

Digital transformation leaders can begin the project by discussing with senior line management what transformation opportunities exist in line operations and business departments. Together, these leaders can work together to determine the type and scope of the optimal project. You can also find out what would make the company more productive. Other topics for discussion could include how the company can better respond to threats and opportunities and what specific business processes might be impacted by the changes.

If line management or IT management believes that the optimal productivity improvements would be too costly or disruptive to achieve in a single project, they can reduce them.

3. Define actionable goals

Specificity is the key to success. The desired productivity improvements should define the actionable goals, the priorities to be assigned, and the key departments to work with. The technical activities of the project target each of these areas, and the completion of all of these activities determines the success of the project. The department heads decide whether the technical activities meet the goals. Therefore, leaders should work with these people throughout the project.

4. Define IT goals

Make sure you establish a technology model that validates the business case. Digital transformation is a comprehensive series of changes that redefines many of an organization’s business processes and the relationship between those business processes and IT.

Line managers need to define the target processes so IT can understand what technology changes will sustain those processes. Because digital transformation literally changes business processes, it is important to define IT goals by relating them to the business processes you are targeting. Managers and IT planners can work together to identify target processes and how they will be improved through technology changes. These changes then establish the technology model for the project.

The technology model is a set of requirements for the IT part of the project and the goals that IT must meet to support digital transformation. In this phase, the areas of IT in which changes in business process management are required for line operations are also defined.

5. Plan inclusive stakeholder check-ins

Digital transformation leaders should design the project plan to include line personnel in every phase, especially specifications and testing. The project specifications should be as detailed as possible, with defined actions and clear boundaries. This step allows departments to see clear progress and provides the opportunity to make regular progress meetings relevant and inclusive for everyone involved.

Each step in the project plan should identify the transformation benefits based on the already defined technology requirements and specifications. Only by pursuing alignment with the needs of the project can one ensure that the transformation supports their business case. When you have reached a critical step in performance validation at any point in the plan, arrange a meeting with all IT and business stakeholders to gain full buy-in.

6. Create simplified documentation

Each step in the project plan must start with a requirements reference and then move on to specifying the implementation. This process starts with a clear description of the activity, followed by the dependencies, such as: B. the technology required for implementation and the results of the previous steps.

If a modeling language such as UML defines the application logic or integration into human processes, ensure that a description is still provided in plain language for use by business departments. Do not explain complicated topics such as software architecture and modeling or programming languages ​​to non-IT personnel.

When the project plan specifications are complete, arrange a meeting with everyone involved and review the plan and specifications in detail. This is particularly important for the relationship between IT and line processes, and the technical project manager should ensure that he receives sign-off of the target processes from the earlier step from the line managers whose processes are being transformed. For this portion of the project, assign a technical lead to each step and include a designated line department representative for steps involving line procedures.

At this point, it is important to gain buy-in to avoid future problems and delays. Resistance to digital transformation can be harder to overcome when there are surprises.

7. Document the test steps

Testing requires special attention, especially any form of integration or load testing. During testing, technical documentation must be developed, starting with the specifications created in early project activity.

For example, there might be a point in the process where there is user input/output associated with the test. In this case, it is important to involve the relevant line representatives after the basic workflow logic has been validated. Try to limit project meetings to these designated representatives. End users may need additional assistance in visualizing technology steps using descriptions. Live interaction during testing can help identify areas where end-user expectations are not being met.

Project managers can then take steps to either redefine expectations or change inputs/outputs. Avoid making changes that affect how the current step affects future steps. It can lead to too many changes being made downstream Change fatigue and increase the risk of errors. Be sure to revise and review the specifications to reflect the changes made here. When testing software components, establish and validate both program logic and operational practices and tools such as configuration, orchestration and GITops or DevOps.

8. Fix problems early

As problematic as pushing changes down is, pushing them up is even worse. Not only does this increase cascading change risk, but the need to return to a task that has already been completed creates change fatigue and demoralizes both the IT department and line staff. Approve changes that require recreating the results of previous steps only when necessary or when dependencies on the affected components or processes are minimal.

9. Validate goals

If a point is identified in the project plan where the accumulated functionality has largely delivered business value, ensure that the designated line representative validates the goal and reports this success to the line and IT team.

It is also important to consider IT and staff investments. Suppose the transformation involves purchasing equipment and requiring work hours from employees. In this case, documenting these resources helps determine and validate ROI. The importance of cost and benefit validation will increase in later testing phases, so you can expect to spend more time on it then.

10. Schedule employee testing

As soon as the tests have run through entire subassemblies or the entire IT logic, the responsible line representatives can begin Involvement of actual employees in the testing phase. This step is crucial for a more comprehensive validation of the entire process flow and allows end users to gain experience.

These final tests can be phased into live operations, allowing employees to build confidence before production. These final tests also form the basis for the final buy-in review, which should focus on process improvements to make future digital transformation projects even more successful.

Tom Nolle is founder and principal analyst at Andover Intel, a consulting and analytics firm that first looks at evolving technologies and applications from the perspective of the buyer and the buyer’s needs. A programmer, software architect and manager of software and network products by nature, Nolle has been providing consulting services and technology analysis for decades.

Leave a Comment