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Digital Transformation: Where are all the Humans?

By Mike Schuman, Chief Information Officer, Western Australia Police


Mike Schuman, Chief Information Officer, Western Australia Police

So you want to go down the “Digital Transformation” road? What does that mean? Most IT leaders I speak with have very different ideas and some have no idea at all. The buzzword bingo often leaves IT leaders disillusioned. Consumerisation of IT, BYOD, Pace Layering, Bimodal IT, Two-Speed IT, SMAC, Nexus of Forces…now “Digital”. These terminologies attempt to express the pressure on IT organisations to do things innovatively, efficiently and faster. They are productized simplifications of a challenging discussion.

How is “Digital Transformation” different from any other transformative program? The truth is that, in many respects, it is no different. The same things that brought you unstuck during your last ERP rollout or Business Intelligence program will be the things that send your digital venture down the gurgler.

What’ the Same?

Business Capabilities

Dorothy on the Yellow Brick Road, didn’t have anything but hope and trepidation and perhaps you’ll tell me, “Yes, but she made it home”. Rudy Giuliani said at the 2008 Republican National Convention, “Hope is not a strategy” but Kevin Costner heard, “Build it and they will come”. I say trust Rudy and not the voices in the corn field. Trotting down the road to Digital Transformation, with no plan, desired outcomes or purpose is shortsighted.

How do you ensure you have a clear idea (moderately clear) where you’re headed? Let’s assume for the sake of argument that you have a strategy. OK, this may be a big assumption and perhaps next time we’ll talk strategy development. If you’ve established the desired outcomes (e.g. increase market share, bolster retention or create competitive advantage) then begin to articulate what capabilities are required to realize the goal. A bit of experimentation, fast fail mentality and collaborative iteration are great things. However, if you never tie the outcomes back to business capabilities, then it may be an unfulfilling journey.

The Perfect Communication and Training

We are rolling out “game changing technology”! What will it do (back to business capabilities perhaps)? What’s in it for me? Why should I care? Even the neatest of little gadgets or apps are nothing without the “Why”. Having spoken many times about why the rollout of technology fails to take hold, it’s usually a failure to convey the purpose.

Ensure your communications plan is comprehensive, clear and repetitive. Everyone who knows me has heard, “Repetition is the key to learning.” (~John Wooden). The organisation must be aligned and sing the same song for transformation to take hold.

"Continuously communicate, drawing your stakeholders closer than they have ever been before. So just remember this…a lot has changed but something’s remain constant"

Has anyone ever told you “Make sure it’s intuitive”? BUT…there needs to be context of how it fits into current work practices. More than likely those practices must change. If business processes need to be modified as part of your Digital Transformation, then training is required.

Look for multiple avenues to present information. Whether it is online, classroom, “in the field”, quick reference guides or all of the above, realize that stakeholders are diverse and will consume information differently.

Ensuring Stakeholder Engagement

Some may tell you that Stakeholder Engagement is simply a part of communications. Although they go hand in hand, evaluating your stakeholders and ensuring you have tailored your message is only part of the equation. Establishing your support base of influencers at all levels is a significant part of the process. There should always be a key group of people across the breadth of the organisation that is bought into the strategic direction, ready to spread the message.

What’s changed?

User Experience (UX)

In the old days of rolling out monolithic systems, with three letter acronyms, the interface was never friendly and usability was secondary to functionality. In the new paradigm, it must be all about UX, drawing users in with something that is easy to navigate and compelling. Porting clunky, slow applications, designed for desktop will not draw people into your digital vision.

Speed of Delivery (Yes, Agility)

How do you live up to the promise of getting to market faster? Stop procuring and building in the same old 18 month (optimistic) cycle. In a Digital Transformation, you have to continuously refine as part of the iterative build process, reviewing as you go. You must able to run up systems at will (or kill them off) without waiting 12 weeks for the infrastructure team get you a box. Your design must evolve and be compartmentalised enough to get incremental capability out the door (minimum viable product or MVP). Continuously communicate, drawing your stakeholders closer than they have ever been before. So just remember this…a lot has changed but somethings remain constant.

  • No tech for tech’s sake
  • Communicate Communicate Communicate(If you don’t have communications people, get some)
  • Intuitive doesn’t mean “No training required”
  • Bring everyone (as many as you can) along for the trip or they will throw the anchor overboard
  • Design for people and ask yourself, “Would I enjoy using this?”
  • Parallel activities. The same serial, waterfall methodologies won’t get things done and won’t make you competitive.
  • Enjoy the journey!

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