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Delivering the Impossible

Al Catel
Al Cattell
Director of Platforms

In a world of rapid change, it is hard to ignore the challenges all businesses have in their drive to become digital-first.

 

These are BIG challenges, and it may not be surprising to read that 73 percent of enterprises failed to provide any business value whatsoever from their digital transformation efforts, according to an Everest Group study last year. 

Furthermore, 78 percent failed to meet their business objectives. Put another way, only 22 percent achieved their desired business results from the development of their digital products. 

Reports across the board highlight the risk of digital projects failing to deliver results (or failing to launch at all); the lack of understanding or control of costs in digital projects; or difficulty and time required to roll out innovation in large, complex operating environments.

So what’s the solution...

 
Outcomes, Process, People.

Looking at digital initiatives which beat the odds and deliver real value to the business, there are three levers available to business leaders and digital programme owners which are often neglected or mismanaged, but have a huge possibility to deliver positive results:

  • The incredible impact of outcomes

Successful project owners know that sharing a common goal is critical to removing potential failure points.

  • The transformative power of process

Running a project astutely can be more influential on success than obsession with features.

  • The unmatchable importance of people

A clear, consistent focus on human needs rather than technology features will deliver the highest value for all stakeholders.

 

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A focus on outcomes

From the outset, a shared understanding of goals will greatly help your project succeed. Communicating clearly why you are doing this as opposed to what you are doing, is critical in gaining consensus and maintaining momentum in challenging times.

 

Align internal stakeholders

In large organisations, you will typically need to work across disciplines and engage parts of the organisation that can be quite silo’d. Frustratingly for many digital innovators, those you need to engage are often not as motivated to change. They may see potential threats to their established models, or be overly risk averse. A clear and shared goal which everyone will buy into will shift the focus away from problems of how things are done and focus them on why you are doing them.

 

Promote your ambition

Goals should be known and acknowledged at every level of the business. To that end many product sponsors have found success producing short project videos to communicate the project goals and ambition across the business. A small investment in a relatively polished video (often the way the story is told is as important as what the substance is) can help focus minds on why you are investing in the journey, and what outcomes you hope to achieve.

 

Transparency

Transparency in goals is key; allow people to challenge and debate your plans, to provide value and have a share of voice in the outcome. If possible have an easily accessible repository which holds key project information including the vision and outcomes of the project as well as the product roadmap. This should serve to minimise ‘I told you so’ moments when inevitable road bumps occur down the line. It is often helpful at this stage to be firm on the outcomes you want and why, but flexible on how you achieve it.

 

A beacon for decision making

The clear, transparent and communicated outcomes will serve as your guide for decisions as you proceed. They will help cut through disagreement at all levels, and support how you prioritise features as you grow.

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A focus on process

The process you follow is also fundamental to increasing the likelihood of success.

 

Strategy

There should be a process strategy, an overarching meaning behind adopting a particular approach. Often this will be Agile or some close cousin, a process which can cause problems with many procurement and purchasing professionals. Misalignment about investment can derail projects, so it is vital everyone is committed to the process the project will adopt.

 

Implementation

Having a strategic view on the process you will follow is not enough however, and you need to have a robust and clear way that process will be implemented. Who will perform tasks, in what time, with what outputs. Normalise this process with all key stakeholders so people know what to expect.

 

Balance

The ideal process is a balance. For most large organisations it lies somewhere between complete blue sky design thinking and the realities of corporate life. Acknowledge the specifics of the environment you work in and adapt where needed.

 

Flexibility and momentum

The key to digital is being able to adapt and evolve your thinking as you understand more. It is unlikely you know all or many of the answers at the outset of the project, and you will need to amend plans based on new information. Where challenges arise use the process to preserve momentum and avoid the project grinding to a halt.

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A focus on people

Ultimately, digital is the integration of humans and technology. Facebook is not an app, it is a service to connect people. If you want to build something which people want to use, you need to hold their voice at the heart of the project. It’s no coincidence that the first of Amazon’s leadership principles is customer obsession. Know who you are building for.

 
Understanding as a priority

Frame all your decisions around customers, employees, users –whoever the project is intended for. What are their goals, aims and pains. What is the status quo, what are the alternatives to your offering. Successful projects don't just focus on solutions, they prioritise reaching a deep level of understanding about the problem situation.

 

Test and learn constantly

From the outset of your project to the time when it is live to the world, you should be constantly validating your thinking with customers. Those customers may not know all the answers, but it is relatively inexpensive to test mockups, prototypes, journeys and flows before committing anything to code. Challenge you and your colleagues assumptions with real world people; indeed if they are passionate doubters of what you offer embrace them more to understand their point of view.

 

Aim to delight

The customer experience with your product is ultimately what will make or break the project. At early stages you may focus on ensuring a minimum level of functionality to solve a problem, but over the longer term you should look to create an experience which creates an emotional connection with users, and ultimately drives them to become your biggest promoters and most powerful growth engine.

A recent research piece by McKinsey found that the three-year revenue growth for the fleetest of foot digitally was nearly twice that of companies playing it safe with average reactions to digital competition. 

So along with your focus on Outcomes, Process and People be BOLD be FAST and you will win. 

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