Over the last few years I have had the opportunity to work with several businesses on their digital journey to S4/HANA, and adoption of cloud solutions. Some of these engagements arose as a result of general concerns that the business needed to do "something" to modernise or adopt a new way of conducting business, whilst others were the result of outside influences that acted as a catalyst for change. Regardless of the reason for the interest in a digital transformation, in each case there were many common themes which resulted in successful outcomes for the businesses. Ensuring that these feature as part of your digital transformation programme will enable you to deliver both the business benefits and value from the investment in IT:
Business strategy first
All businesses thrive by accurately predicting and serving the needs of their customers; regardless of whether this is in a B2B or B2C context. To succeed the business strategy and, more importantly, how the business will deliver what the customer wants must be the foundation upon which any IT transformation programme is built. No program of transformation can deliver success if approached as an IT led project alone. Ideally, this should be a 3 to 5 year business plan against which the IT roadmap can be built to underpin the business strategy, but given the speed at which the market can change this can be a daunting prospect for any business to undertake. Nevertheless, working out the business steps needed to achieve that goal is always the right way to inform and shape the IT transformation approach and roadmap.
The strongly held belief that things can only be done in a certain way exist in every company. The means by which these are addressed in the early stages of a programme is one of the biggest factors in project success or failure. Encouraging creative thinking in the business to challenge the old ways and identify better and new ways to do things is in the gift of every business, and your own staff can often provide the insight into how to improve a process. Demonstrating that there can be another way to transact business or run a process is key to the "transformation" in any digital programme.
Impact on employees
Don't underestimate the impact on staff of change. A digital transformation may mean that some staff who had undertaken all their daily transactions using good old pen and paper (it does exist in the 21st Century!), could find themselves catapulted overnight into a new world where they have a handheld device and a system that makes the decisions for them. Expect some resistance and objection, and ensure that you bring these "time shift" digital users on-board early. What is understood as business progress to the board and senior management may be seen as an unnecessary control and interference by those on the ground in their daily work.
Connecting with customers
It is important to ensure that you understand your customers and what they expect and want. In the past a single mode of interaction may have worked well for many years without any issue, but it is important to consider both how your customers want to interact with you as well as the practicalities for the mode of operation proposed. Multi-generational and geographic conventions can place several challenges on the road to digital transformation. In some cases, the digital transformation can't be 100% and may have to run in parallel with older established methods.
The glue to bind these elements together is an effective change management and communications strategy that starts well before any IT transformation programme is initiated. Engagement, communication and involvement are key as it is vital that the employees both enthusiastically adopt and become ambassadors for the change programme.
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