Ensuring ROI from Your Company’s Digital Transformation

Whether your company leadership is sold on the idea of digitizing some or most of your business processes and has begun the process or even if the topic of transformation hasn’t come up for discussion yet, one thing is clear; nearly every firm of any size that wants to thrive and compete in the current marketplace must have a robust plan for rolling out a Digital Transformation process.

Beside the uncertainties posed by pandemic and climate disaster lies the certainty of an increasingly global economy. This means that cooperation between nations and business sectors in areas including medical technology, food production and oceanographic/space exploration are bringing more of the planet online and in touch with one another. The industrial sector is already on this path.

Digital transformation, also called digital evolution or migration, is a broadly used term that can have different meanings in varying organizations, but for our general purposes, here we will define it a “The intentional migration from traditional mechanical and social business communications and analytics tools to a digitized structure.”

If you are a leader at a smaller to mid-sized firm (for the sake of argument, we will define this as approximately $10M to $50M and 50 – 500 employees) it’s helpful to begin by selecting a few peers as potential partners in the strategical and tactical aspects of the transformation process. Note that the first task for the starter team is to develop a thorough and demonstrable rationale for How making digital infrastructure a dominant tool in every aspect of corporate communications is achievable and Why it’s beneficial to all aspects of the organization. Who do think are the potential staff members to help lead and implement this evolution? When do you anticipate beginning and ending the transformation process?  This messaging will be presented to C Level executives to gather concerns, questions, reservations, and their views on potential pitfalls of the project so these can all be addressed to their satisfaction and your team secures their understanding of and, most importantly, their alignment with the proposal.

Executives say the top benefits of digital transformation are:

40

Improved operational efficiency

36

Time to market

35

Customer experience

The first step in being assured of C-level alignment is mapping out the case for transformation (the Why) in clear and explainable steps. The acronym C.A.S.E.  refers to the four pillars of communicating the story of organizational change:

  1. CLARITY – a crystal clear story of WHY the company is going to digitize operations who will benefit (including all stakeholders inside and outside the firm), told at various levels of technical expertise as necessary – Justify the effort vis a vis the financial benefit to the company as well as its significance as a leader in the market.
  2. ALIGNMENT – Support for the effort from key players at all levels of the company is of utmost importance. This may be elusive and require much patience and repeated explanation.
  3. SHARING – a widespread communications effort to inform all company stakeholders internally and also shared with vendors who will want to know what this evolution will mean for them and their business with you.
  4. EXECUTION – a thought-through plan for implementation.

Begin the Dialog

Identify key team members with whom to start the dialog. Ideally, this should be an agile team of a reasonable size depending on the size of the company, and one that is representative of as many constituencies as possible. This may include employees, department management, senior leadership and perhaps legal. This team’s mission will be to make the C.A.S.E. for the corporate digital evolution and to map out the execution plan.

CLARITY: WHAT ARE THE GOALS, BOTH INSTITUTIONAL AND FINANCIAL?

Build the Transformation Execution Team

Questions:

  • Do you have the talent in-house to execute the technical aspects of digital evolution?
  • Or is there someone in your organization who can lead the management project internally using outside resources or put together an effective inside/outside hybrid team?

Consider your options given either of these sets of circumstances:

You’re ready to roll if you estimate that you have the internal talent in place with enough available time to devote to this, reach into all corporate departments and management levels and the bandwidth to establish and adhere to a feasible, scheduled timeline. 

The team will plan, organize and execute on the following:

  1. Software/hardware and services purchasing and training – assess current office digital infrastructure tools versus any additional or replacement tools necessary to complete the migration to comparing available options
  2. Establish a feasible timeline for execution, training, and rollout
  3. Diagram approach to rollout and interfaces between departments
  4. Define the desired benefits of the digital evolution for all
  5. COMMUNICATION of all the above to garner buy-in and cooperation

NOTE: If there are not sufficient internal resources available and/or the team lacks the technological expertise or bandwidth, consider one of the following approaches:

  • Hire an experienced Digital Transformation leader or CTO with a proven track record of success. This should be at a senior management level, as the task ahead will define the specific goals of the migration effort and require the authority to implement and execute changes that may meet resistance from some quarters of the company. The individual may also require support staff to achieve company goals in a timely manner.

or

  • Should you wish to avoid increased overhead concomitant with full-time hires, consider hiring an experienced consultant or team of consultants with proven experience implementing successful digital evolution.  Some product development companies may be available and able to manage the entire effort for you with guidance from your internal staff, or they may be able to evaluate your in-house skill sets and then provide help from their team to fill any gaps needed to get the job done.

Digital transformation in education.

Schoolwide, Inc, a partner in education, designs and maintains curriculum for Reading, Writing, and Grammar Fundamentals for K-8 school districts across the U.S. When they sought to digitize their curriculum, Schoolwide came to IPS to develop Fundamentals Unlimited, a portal that provides educators and their students easy access to the now digital units of study.

With the rise of interactive online learning, Schoolwide found itself in need of pivoting its core business which centered on a core K-8 curriculum that had matured over 11 years and was completely paper-based. After putting together an aggressive plan to release a brand-new, all-digital platform in less than 8 months, they came to IPS to implement the solution.

BEST PRACTICES FOR COMMUNICATING USING C.A.S.E.

Assign one or two of each the 4 pillars of Clarity, Alignment, Sharing and Execution to a small subset of team members assigned to outline the approach to defining responsibilities and goals.  Each of these sub-teams should be led by an experienced, lead communicator as point person to deliver the team’s message into all the constituencies of the firm.

The CLARITY team’s job is to break the entire intended effort down into component parts that are easy to articulate and understand. WHO will this transformation impact? (All stakeholders in the company? The community? Our clients? Vendors?)  WHAT can be expected during transition? WHEN do we estimate beginning and ending the process? WHERE will the effects of this change be most felt? WHY do this now?

The ALIGNMENT team’s job encompasses the selling of the firm’s digitization plan to all corporate departments and groups, explaining the anticipated advantages and new competitive edge the evolution is intended to bring, and inviting and answering any and all questions, doubts and concerns.  The digital evolution process will surely disrupt teams and processes and at worst, will feel threatening to some whom, if excluded from the process, could spread negativity and undermine other employees’ faith in the worthiness of the endeavor.

The SHARING team activities overlap with alignment tasks to a certain extent, though the focus concentrates on the structure of organizational communication. Who tells whom what and when and in which order?  These activities also encompass

The EXECUTION teams hold the preceding teams and themselves to the time frame and standards that have been agreed upon. Are one or more of the plan tactics not producing expected or satisfactory results? When pivots or delays are unavoidable, this group seeks to mitigate the effects by initiating workarounds to minimize delays.

It’s also important for teams to consider your company’s commitment to the entire ecosystem of stakeholders. These should include:

  1. Employees – “Will I still have a job?” “Will my job change?’
  2. Customers/Clients – “What will this transformation mean for me? For our shared workflow? Will it affect your pricing structure? Customer service workflow? Will there a learning curve for our employees? Who will be responsible for training them on any new systems or processes?’
  3. Vendors and Suppliers – “How will our business with you change? Will you still need our products or services? Will the transformation entail a learning curve for our employees as well, and if so, how will that training be implemented?”
  4. The Local and Greater Community – “Will this transformation have an environmental impact on the community? For the better? Will it create jobs and opportunities for the community?”

Current Business Adoption of Digital Transformation

89

of all companies have already adopted a digital-first business strategy or plan to do so. (IDG)

70

of companies either have a digital transformation strategy in place or are working on one. (Tech Pro Research)

DEFINING AND MEASURING SUCCESS (KPI’s and assessing financial success)

And finally, are we succeeding financially? How will we know? Assuming the core planning team set both financial and timeline goals, have we attained most of them? Where have we fallen short and how will we mitigate that? Host regularly scheduled meetings with C.A.S.E team leads to evaluate success, analyze potential improvements and to troubleshoot.

There are a number of good resources to assist firms in establishing realistic KPI’s, navigating trouble spots and finally, defining and achieving success. Among those are a 2017 PWC Canada white paper, “What’s Your Digital ROI? Realizing the value of digital investments.” By Nadir Hirji and Gale Geddes of PWC, Canada, and the 2019 “Orchestrating Transformation: How to Deliver Winning Performance with a Connected Approach to Change” by Michael Wade, James Macaulay, Andy Noronha, and Joel Barbier.  A Google search will yield many more.

***

Many companies have successfully completed digital transformation efforts and remain engaged in continuous improvements to remain competitive.  When preparing for this, communications and a practice of organized, regular follow-through are key.

A final note to keep in mind — if there is a chance that an individual or organization might be a stakeholder, it’s often likely that they are. Each of their concerns deserve attention and considered responses.

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