The case for on-going digital transformation
Faced with a fast-moving technological landscape and growing audience expectations, digital transformation has become a strategic priority for organisations of all shapes and sizes. However, no matter what stage of the journey you’re at, it’s important to remember that digital transformation is not a one-time event. Rather, though a successful digital transformation will likely require that you make fundamental changes to the way you operate it also demands that you continue making changes in order to keep pace with the ever-evolving digital world.
Look at Apple, for example - they massively disrupted the communications industry with their first iPhone release back in 2007, but following this they weren’t content to simply sit still. Instead, they continue to release new versions of their devices on a regular basis, making incremental changes that often aren’t dramatically different to what went before, but feature enough new features and functionality to keep people engaged. In doing so, they’ve helped drive queues around the block for each new update.
This is how you need to think about your digital transformation, too. While there may be an initial ‘big bang’ launch at the outset, that doesn’t mean you can rest on your laurels for the next ten years. Indeed, with customer experience looking set to become the number-one buying criteria (ahead of price or product) you simply can’t afford to not continually and incrementally improve your offering…
…however, even with a powerful business case such as this, we know it can be difficult to secure the budget and resources needed to make your long-term transformation strategy a reality. In this article, then, I’ll look at some of the specific reasons behind this reluctance, along with some potential solutions to help you shift opinion and realise the results you’re after.
A major stumbling block to achieving regular, incremental improvement is getting your budget holders to understand that even though they may have invested significantly in the initial digital transformation initiative, that doesn’t mean the investment was a one-time thing. Understandably, too, they may be reluctant to sign-off further budget in an area that hasn’t yet delivered business results, so it’s important to assuage any unease early on.
One way in which this can be achieved is to build the first year’s incremental investment into the preliminary business case, making sure to highlight the relevant and quantifiable return on investment you intend to deliver. This could be the results that impact the bottom-line - for example if you can increase revenues through your ecommerce platform, or improve margins through supply-chain efficiencies - but it can also encompass softer metrics such as higher engagement levels, greater brand awareness, or improved customer satisfaction.
An alternative means of securing the on-going investment you need is to try to get the cost of your smaller incremental changes accepted as part of your Business as Usual (BAU) budget. Again, if you can demonstrate the value of this approach in the first year, it will become much easier to justify its inclusion going forward, especially if you’re able to reassure budget holders that they’ll be able to keep control of spend.
It may be, for example, that you work with your original supplier to define a retainer contract that will cover any likely improvements, then ringfence the necessary budget accordingly. This could be anything from 1 to 100 days, but by agreeing the time at the outset of your programme it will likely be easier to secure than if you ask for a much larger (and more nebulous) amount every five years. It’s also vital to help ensure you don’t fall behind your competitors in the digital race - it’s a marathon not the 100m after all!
Of course, once you have the budget you need to make changes, it’s important to ensure that you can make those changes in a way that’s not overly onerous, and so avoid incurring any further costs. This, then, requires that your original digital transformation initiative be architected and commercially structured in such a way as to allow for future adaptation and expansion.
This is especially true if you rely on externally-provided platforms and tools, which can offer less control than proprietary systems - a consideration that’s more relevant than ever in light of the proliferation of cloud-based solutions on the market today. Often in these cases you’ll find yourself tied to the commercial framework you agreed to initially, so take care when designing this. Remember that what you are building today will likely soon need to change, so ensure that it can facilitate this in the easiest and most cost-effective manner possible.
And if you do come up against roadblocks, you’ll need to find ways to remove these quickly and directly, before they become major problems. This is where the well-known advice of ensuring you have a high-level business sponsor in place (going right up to C-Suite if appropriate) really comes into play, as if you can get these key individuals on board at the outset you’ll benefit from invaluable support - they may even have the power to resolve and strategic roadblocks and budget constraints you encounter single-handedly, if they’re truly bought into the outcomes you seek to deliver.
Take the time, therefore, to spread awareness of what you’re trying to achieve throughout your organisation, and put processes in place to address any issues and concerns swiftly and effectively. In order to do this, you’ll also require a clear understanding of your motivations, approach and goals within your own team, so make sure you’ve completed the necessary discovery activities before you communicate your vision further.
Having the structures in place to support regular and incremental change is vital to ensure your digital transformation journey continues in a considered, strategic direction. However, whatever these structures are, the best way to smooth the path ahead is to clearly demonstrate the returns your on-going activities will deliver back to the business; consequently, these should be at the forefront of your decision-making processes.
Of course, everyone wants to see hard, tangible returns from their efforts - such as increased revenues, a bigger market share, higher Gartner/Forrester ratings, or greater efficiencies - and if your transformation’s a success it should be possible to demonstrate this eventually. However, as mentioned earlier, if your transformation aims aren’t so easily measurable there are a raft of other, softer variables available, including audience engagement, click-throughs and conversions, uptake, awards won, and more.
Don’t underestimate the impact the approval of your C-Suite can have here - this can often directly contribute to the support your plans receive so ensure you have that senior sponsor in place, and that you impress them with what you deliver!
Want added confidence that your budgets will deliver the transformation outcomes you're after, so you can better make the case to senior stakeholders? Watch our webinar "More than a number: making software estimates count", where we look at ways to increase the relevance, value and effectiveness of your software estimates, and so safeguard successful project delivery.