Associating Technology Transformation with Business Outcomes
In today's rapidly changing business landscape, technology transformation has become a critical factor for success. But throwing money at technology alone, will not guarantee success. In fact, the success rate of digital transformation initiatives has historically been painfully low. But why?
To be truly transformative requires a huge amount of investment in time and resources, and the challenges that come with it are equally significant. If you are to make the impact you are looking to make, you’ve got to look well beyond the IT and technology function in your business. You need to look business-wide and this means gathering support from across the business. In effect, your digital transformation initiative is about to go on a long, exhausting political campaign. It needs to win votes early and it must keep building momentum in order to stand against the test of time and be successful.
At this scale, the only way you can gather this level, or gather the number of votes you need, is by creating cross-functional partnerships. This is fraught with political landmines and requires translating what you are looking to achieve into lots of different languages so that everyone feels personally connected to your vision and the purpose of the transformation. In effect, you have to talk in terms of the business outcomes that are valuable and understood by the stakeholders in front of you.
Just as simple examples, finance are focused on increasing profitability, marketing are focused on protecting the company’s reputation, and executive leadership have growth targets they need to meet. They are all achieved in completely different ways. Understanding these motivations and personalising a narrative that aligns to them is an art, a very delicate art.
As a good starting point, in order to cover all of your bases, the outcomes you are trying to achieve with your digital transformation need to come in three key languages: fiscal outcomes, agility outcomes and performance outcomes.
Fiscal outcomes focus on the financial performance of the transformation and measure the success of the project in terms of its impact on the organisation's financial results. Agility outcomes centre around the business's ability to adapt to changing market conditions, and will measure how malleable your transformation is to an ever-changing environment. Performance outcomes measure the success of the transformation in terms of its impact on the organisation's operations and overall performance.
If you can cover all of these areas, you are focusing on outcomes that are valuable and understood by all stakeholders across the organisation. This will enable them to connect to what you are trying to achieve and will unify their efforts through the creation of a common goal. Now your initiatives will no longer be under the resourcing microscope and will instead be liberated to be given whatever is required to be successful because everyone is invested in its success.
So how can you take all of this and start applying this in your organisation today?
Stop just throwing money at the problem. Transformation relies on other finite resources like time, people and cross-functional partnerships. Get a measure of what your resource availability looks like. What can you deploy today? Then, align your technology initiatives to key business outcomes, only those that link all the way through to the business strategy and the vision it has for the future get a chance of winning resources. Arrange your portfolio in priority order where priority is based on alignment to the business’s objectives. This gives you your focus.
Improve cross-functional relationships. Learn a new language. What matters to each of your key operational teams? How do they work best? How do they manage their departmental projects? Only then will you be able to start working on helping different teams understand each other and their way of working.
Create a common goal. How does every department's individual objectives clearly tie back to the company’s objectives? Make the company’s objectives the holy grail. Make sure everyone is aware of them and understands how their work influences the wider goal.