As new technologies supporting the evolution of the digital enterprise continue to develop, organizations continue to dedicate significant resources toward implementing and enhancing their enterprise systems. Regardless of industry, these “digital transformation” projects aim to leverage leading technologies across each area of the business to accelerate innovation, optimize processes, drive customer engagement, and deliver faster and more meaningful insights to guide strategic decision-making.
When deployed properly, technologies such as Robotic Process Automation, cloud-based ERP/CRM/HCM, data visualization platforms, etc., can generate tremendous value by driving competitive advantages in both the front and back office. However, mismanaged implementations can have the opposite effect, eroding value rather than enhancing it.
The Standish Group reports that a mere 29% of technology projects are deemed successful. Whether the project is large or small, pre-packaged or custom-developed, common pitfalls are often to blame when a tech initiative fails to deliver. Leveraging the following sound project management practices can proactively address these concerns and set up your digital transformation for success.
1. Choose the Right Technology
Start with a well-defined selection process, including a comprehensive approach to identifying the technology that best fits your organization’s needs and objectives. Identify detailed business requirements so you can evaluate different technology vendors against common business activities. Be sure to include a range of representation from various business units so all considerations are addressed upfront, more accurately planning for technology and budget requirements throughout the project.
Using a third-party advisor also can help structure and drive the selection process, and can contribute outside perspective on leading requirements and vendor-negotiation tactics.
2. Engage Your Stakeholders
It’s critical to the success of your project to conduct a thorough stakeholder analysis before the project begins to understand who is interested in the project, who the project will impact and who will influence its outcomes. Coordinate with your executive sponsor to create the appropriate governance structure for the project, including leadership from applicable areas of the business, to drive executive alignment and secure communication pathways throughout the organization. Then, leverage your leadership team to involve trusted subject matter experts throughout the course of the initiative, from requirements gathering through testing and deployment, which will ultimately support a comprehensive solution. Creating an engaged stakeholder group will aid in not only supporting the new initiative but also in boosting morale throughout the organization.
3. Keep It Simple
Scope creep, “gold plating” and over customization are a few examples of separate but related issues that result in added complexity of the solution. High levels of complexity increase the time and cost to deliver and open up the organization to an increased risk of failure resulting from defects or missed requirements. Over customization of off-the-shelf products can be particularly problematic, as any customizations will impact your ability to upgrade your solution in the future when the vendor releases new enhancements.
This is an area where experienced project managers, robust requirements management and change control processes are critical. Clearly document the project scope, objectives and specific requirements at the beginning of the project, then use imbedded control points throughout the project to ensure alignment to the business needs. Instead of changes occurring on the fly, you can proactively identify and process them to assess the need and impact before executing.
4. Conduct Sufficient Testing
Any technology you or a third-party vendor deploys will ultimately need to be thoroughly tested and validated by your own end-users prior to go-live. It is critical to have a test management plan that uses requirements traceability to identify and define test scenarios covering all key business needs. Incorporate multiple testing events with a defined process to capture and manage defects through resolution. This will minimize the risk of defects making it to production and maximize the value and credibility of your solution at go-live. Also ensure your software vendor leaves enough time in the work plan to execute this testing effectively to validate the solution meets requirements and is free from defects.
5. Focus on Change Management
One of the most critical and often overlooked aspect of a digital transformation project is change management. Successful transformations focus on managing change from start to finish. Start by understanding your stakeholders and conducting a thorough change impact assessment to set the stage for the necessary communications, training and project involvement that will best suit the needs of the various groups. It is vitally important to involve key influencers throughout the project to capture input, validate the direction and leverage their influence to channel positive communications throughout your organization.
Especially for more complex transformations, change management will propel your project beyond technical success and into a true transformative initiative. Embedding proper change management activities throughout the course of the project will help keep your key team in sync with the broader user base and its business needs. This will help your team communicate and train more effectively, ultimately maximizing the likelihood of adoption and realization of value.
If you are considering a digital transformation project for your organization, hold your technology vendors accountable. Make sure they are applying a proven methodology that incorporates the right controls from the start. Simultaneously, ensure your team is prepared to instill these leading practices into your digital project, or otherwise engage with a third-party vendor who can help you do so. Following these five best practices will help enhance the quality and credibility of your solution and project team, which in turn will generate increased value for your organization.
Please contact a member of your service team for further discussion.
Cohen & Company is not rendering legal, accounting or other professional advice. Any action taken based on information in this blog should be taken only after a detailed review of the specific facts and circumstances.