Digital transformation in five simple steps

Research conducted by work management platform, Workfront, revealed that only eight per cent of CEOs believe their business model will survive the current climate of digital disruption, making a move towards greater digitisation imperative. The road to transformation, however, is littered with failures and near-misses. “In 2018 companies will spend over one trillion dollars on digital transformation and 70 per cent of those projects will not achieve their intended results”, says Workfront CEO, Alex Shootman.

For a digital strategy to succeed it is vital to understand what can go wrong and to have a solid process in place when approaching the project. Mr Shootman has worked with hundreds of companies undergoing digital transformation and identified five steps to take before beginning.

01 Go slow to go fast.

For a digital strategy to be successful, there will be a number of roles from many different departments collaborating. According to Mr Shootman, in the average organisation 84 per cent of workers do not know what it is their colleagues do. For digital transformation projects to succeed - this has to change. Take the time to make sure that all involved understand what everyone else is occupied with.

02 Make sure the technology is user-friendly.

Technology sits at the heart of any digital strategy, be it new project management software to use internally or specific digital products created to appeal to new customers. Either way, the reality is clear: if it is difficult to use, people will not use it. This is particularly important from a talent management standpoint. When an increasingly large percentage of the workforce are digital natives, in-house technology must be intuitive, or this talent will simply go elsewhere.

03 Clearly articulate the “why” of your digital transformation.

This is one of the most important elements of a digital strategy: transparency. Everyone involved needs to understand the reasons behind such a huge project. “You’re asking people to change,” explains Mr Shootman, “if they haven’t bought into the why, it’s not going to happen.” Those at the top have to take the time to make sure the company is bought in - from board members to interns - or risk jeopardising company culture, and the long-term success of the project.

04 Shrink the change, shape the path. 

This expression, coined by Chip and Dan Heath in their book Switch, illustrates the most effective way to approach a large-scale project such as digital transformation. Just as charities ‘shrink’ what they are asking of you (“just £1 a day could make all the difference”), so is it easier to broach a big project by cutting it down into smaller steps. Once you have shrunk it into steps, shape the path by identifying where each step should go in the process.

05 Focus on best next actions.

“Imagine we are trying to cross a lake in a boat,” Mr Shootman says, “most people want to treat digital transformation like it’s a power boat, but it’s a sailboat, our progress will be serpentine.”  Don’t go after quick wins and expect immediate success. Be prepared for your digital transformation project to take deviations from your predefined path and instead just focus on the next best action in the process.

Most importantly, those leading transformation projects must work to create a culture where people are encouraged to experiment and supported when initiatives fail. Only then will organisations achieve true digital transformation.