Start Your Digital Transformation Engines … Again

In our business, we are looking to help companies transform, and we often start at ground zero – with paper.  We look for things like boxes of paper, manual processes, collaboration without version control, non-existent records management programs and siloed information because these are the areas that need our attention first.  It is a current state to be reckoned with for organizations looking to start their digital transformation journey.

But I recently read an article in McKinsey & Company that asked the question, “has your digital transformation stalled?” It made me wonder how many organizations started their transformations, but then found it had stalled for any number of reasons:

  • Budget constraints never loosened up for Phase II
  • Had a lackluster pilot
  • User adoption waned and now everyone is back to what they did before
  • Not what users expected so they are left wanting more

Because you could face a stalled program, it is critical to have end-expectations clearly outlined and defined.  This should include a roadmap of the entire program – with phases charted out – so you can execute the transformation with a transparent plan including the value you believe this plan will bring to your organization.

“A digital transformation doesn’t stop at software updates or the introduction of new devices; it marks a fundamental change in how people work and how an organization delivers value.” — “Rebooting your stalled digital transformation in oil and gas,” McKinsey & Co., April 2019

There may be other reasons you have stalled as well, and those can be addressed with your roadmap.  Did you adequately provide for training? And once your team went through the training – were they ready for the learning curve before they became proficient?  If they were not engaged, it could lead to little interest in changing the way in which they work and embrace the new technology.  In fact, your success hinges on your ability to change your users’ mindset.  They have to be willing to adjust to a new way of operating, which can be a challenge when there is a learning curve.  Also, depending on your pilot, you could have inadequately pre-planned with your users to communicate the value they will get from your new solution.

Communication is the key.  Dropping a new idea on a business team that does not know what to expect can be daunting.  I have listened to users before a project, through a project – especially a Super User – and then at the end.

  • At the start – “Our supervisor has told us how this will make our life easier because we will no longer be frustrated with our manual processes. But, while that sounded good, we really did not know what that would mean in the end.”
  • Then, midway – “I really can see where we are going, but I did not realize there would be a significant learning curve.”
  • And finally – “It took a while, but I really can see the difference. It’s awesome.”

“The difference between “before” and “after” should be clear for all to see.  But if your digital transformation has been underway for some time, yet things look pretty much the same as ever, chances are your digital journey needs a reboot.” — “Rebooting your stalled digital transformation in oil and gas,” McKinsey & Co., April 2019

We have worked with deployments in many parts of our company and love to hear users have their “aha” moment.

  • Saving time previously spent looking for documents, because they can find them with their new search function versus manually digging out the information from paper file boxes.
  • Automating a request via an e-form and eliminating an unmanageable queue that formed daily in email boxes.
  • Easily finding documents in a department e-library accessed by an entire team to complete their projects more quickly and efficiently.
  • Watching boxes of paper disappear.

If you are reaching your users, you will see the joy in getting them a solution that has made their day better.  This is the value you should be seeing. If you are not, the McKinsey article advises five steps to get back on track.  The good thing about these steps is they are not all technical fundamentals or communication fundamentals – but they marry the two.

  1. Deliver bite-size benefits to drive adoption. Letting your users see and feel the value through their own execution of tasks and your measurement of the benefits, then communicating that value and those benefits to everyone enables the transformational impact to be sustainable.
  2. Double-check you have all the capabilities you need for scaling up. This is where the Super User comes into play. To have one person with the right talent and skills to lead the way for everyone helps your team’s adoption. Your users will be less intimidated to confer and ask questions when they can talk to a peer.
  3. Make technology your enabler, not your bottleneck. Communicate with the technical side of the house so that you can grow, integrate, build and work into a modern environment as you deploy your solution.
  4. Democratize your data. Use your data strategically.
  5. Reengineer your operation model and shift your culture. Knowing that the way work is done will change, you have to change the mindset of your users, too. Communicate a clear case for change, build in accountability and provide for new ways of working.

“When companies get this right, magic happens.” — “Rebooting your stalled digital transformation in oil and gas, McKinsey & Co.,” April 2019

You invest a lot of time and energy to get senior management support and IT’s buy-in to bring in a new solution to help the company transform its operations.  There are high hopes in each department that it has the potential to improve the way they work.  To see a project derail because of a lack of understanding, a technical road block or insufficient training and enthusiasm for the change is a huge disappointment for the program advocates and planners.

Make the change happen and help it stick.  Don’t let your work fall apart. If it has stalled, get it going again.