Marietjie Groenewald

Practical Tips to Drive Successful Digital Transformation

The vast majority of digital transformation projects fail. The International Data Corporation predicts companies will spend $2 trillion on digital transformation projects by 2022. These projects only have a 30% chance of success.

What can you do to ensure the success of your digital transformation project? Here’s a clue - it has nothing to do with IT. You can have a world-class system that operates smoothly on your platforms with the best user interface, great data and analytical reports. That in itself does not guarantee a successful digitisation project. That’s merely the foundation, your entry ticket into the game.

Success in digital transformation is about how you enable your people to work with these wonderful, costly IT systems and tools; and how well you incorporate it into how you do business. You can’t super-impose digital transformation on top of your business, you need to change your business’ DNA from the inside out.

So what is being digital really about? It’s about data – what data you gather, where you store it, who you give access to it and what you do with it. You need to ensure that your data is being actively (read: proactively) managed at every single point along its journey – from where it is collected to where it is transformed into business intelligence that can drive your digital transformation strategy.

How do you get started? Start at the beginning - get people to come along on the ride with you. Often we talk digital transformation and throw around terms like streamlining, digitising, the internet of things, without all of us in the room understanding it in the same way, if at all.

#1 – Create a compelling vision: Tell a story that every person in your business can buy into and believe in. A straight-forward story that is easy to understand, remember and repeat.

Keep in mind: Outline where you are going and why – and how this will impact your business, your customers, your employees. What are you hoping to gain from this project? What aspect of your business are you hoping to protect? Tell this story in different ways, at different times, until it becomes their story. Once all your employees are telling the same story, move on to #2.

#2 – Define clear roles: Now that your story has come alive, it’s time to start defining what roles are critical to the success of your digital transformation journey. Basically, who is going to look after your data at what point along its journey throughout your business? In business-school speak, these will be your Information Management roles.

The purpose of clear Information Management roles is to give data the priority it needs, so it is treated as a critical business asset. Don’t mess around with this, get an expert on board – get an Information Management (IM) professional in to help you map your Data through Data Inventory Mapping and Data Flows. If you can’t afford to employ a full time IM expert, then at least get an IM consultant on board.

#3 - Equip role holders and give them the right tools: Don’t assume that your star employee will figure out what is required of them for this role. Do it right from the beginning – give them training to understand Information Management, data in context of your business and their role in looking after that data. Make the training outcomes-based and deliver it just in time for them to take up their roles. Once they have the know-how, give them access to the right tools to help them manage your data. For this, get expert opinion and advice, so you invest in the right tool.

#4 - Hold them accountable: Ensure that they prioritise their IM roles by adding it into their performance contracts and giving the tasks the necessary weighting. Employees can’t effectively manage these roles off the side of their desks. It you want employees to take your digital transformation journey seriously, you need to show them that you take these roles seriously.

Ensuring this is incorporated into their performance contracts, also gives you the opportunity to reward them for their contribution.

Practical Tips to Drive Successful Digital Transformation Infographic

#5 - Create a community: Aside from equipping individuals in their own roles, also create an opportunity for them to interact with other role holders. Enable them to talk to each other to solve similar problems and to keep sharing skills through working groups. Ask them to report on their activities and to share their challenges with the committees or steering groups driving your digital transformation.

This is about connecting people who deal with the same kinds of data such as Risk data, Finance Data or Customer Data. Don’t forget about the value of insights across data sets. For this, an Information Management Forum or Committee that oversees all of the IM role holders, activities and initiatives, is critical.

Remember, this is the community that will drive your data quality. More about this in #6.

#6 - Work the data: When you run a business, you look at financial and customer information and insights on a regular basis, sometimes even daily. Your data should be treated in the same way - look at it regularly. The key focus here is to ensure you have quality data at every single point along its journey. The quality of your insights to drive your digital strategy, is directly linked to the quality of your data.

Sweat this asset every day – review data quality reports, identify gaps, engage your IM role holders to address those gaps, then review the reports again. Quality data, and by inference quality insights, does not happen by accident.

#7 - Get your whole business involved: You started this process by sharing a story with all your employees. Don’t forget to continue to involve them in the process of managing your data. Even if they don’t hold official IM roles, they still touch your data. Use your IM role holders as your ambassadors – let them tell their stories and share their insights, let them host sessions to talk about their progress and challenges. Link their roles and activities back to your overall digital transformation story.

Consider rolling out some form of responsibility for data and your digital transformation to everyone in your business. Involve your IM role holders in developing this for your business. Don’t forget to include those IT folks who are implementing all your wonderful, world-class systems.

#8 - A few parting thoughts: Be compassionate as you implement this change - give your employees and especially IM role holders, enough time to process this new way of working. Give leaders enough time to unpack what it means to them. Give employees enough time to come to grips with their new roles and how it fits into what they already do. Leave lots of time and room for discussions to help everyone get to the same point of shared understanding.

Whilst projects can certainly run on an agile platform and change can align to that, give this the time it deserves. Let the timelines be driven by employees, not by IT. Set them up to succeed, so your digital transformation can succeed.

* These insights were gleaned driving change for one of the four big banks in South Africa, whilst implementing risk-based reporting regulations. These regulations introduced Information Management roles to caretake the data used in the required regulatory reports.