There was a time, many years ago, when the IT department was simply a supplier to the rest of the organisation.
You want a laptop? Here it is, with all your applications pre-installed. Need a new website? IT can arrange the hosting.
While this transactional behaviour still happens, the role of the IT department has evolved far beyond this, and is now functioning chiefly in a consultative role.
Most CTOs, IT directors and IT managers are expected to guide their companies through a maze of choices that either help drive the business forward or ‘keep the lights on’ in a smart way.
When it comes to this consultation, especially around a topic as difficult as digital transformation, it’s essential to get to the heart of the matter quickly.
Whilst many organisations have business analysts who will do situational analysis for you, they’ll rarely recommend approaches and solutions, which puts the onus of due diligence firmly on you.
>See also: 4 intelligent elements of successful digital transformation
But what is the best way to approach this and make the most of time spent with the parts of the business which will actually be using the ‘transformed’ output?
Digital transformation projects tend to be large and complex and involve many different groups of stakeholders.
However, they also have a significant impact on the business and this makes having a full understanding of the organisation absolutely vital.
Basing a digital transformation strategy on an incomplete or faulty view of the business can lead to a project
which fails to achieve meaningful change, so in order to succeed, you have to ask direct questions throughout the project.
>See also: The right side of disruption: why digital transformation is the new kingmaker
So what are some best practices to consider when embarking on your transformation?
1. Start at the top
Talk to the project commissioner first and understand their vision.
Query how this project will underpin the overall commercial company strategy and – at the other end of the scale – empower staff on a day-to-day basis.
2. Buy-in before budget
Talk to staff ‘at the coal face’ who will be using the product, service or software once it is upgraded or implemented, as well as directors and people further up the chain.
Make sure everyone understands or has at least been briefed on the project before setting your budget in stone.
Understanding the culture of the business and its propensity to change is key; if the internal users are not invested in the transformation you are trying to instigate, the goal will be harder to achieve.
>See also: How to move beyond digital transformation
People often fear change if they do not fully understand how it affects them.
3. Understanding is key
Take time to understand how the digital transformation will affect the daily lives of staff using the current ‘analogue’ version.
Showing an understanding of what these staff do can also build empathy and set the foundation for further collaboration.
4. Quiz, excite and scare
Ask stakeholders for their views. Excite them with a vision for the future, then raise a few distant possibilities or potential hurdles that might arise. You’ll soon gain an understanding of what they are passionate about – but don’t neglect to be realistic.
If you don’t understand the boundaries of their comfort zone, you won’t give yourself as much room to manoeuvre as you may need.
5. Evaluate and revisit
Don’t be afraid to revisit key people in the organisation if you need to clarify or harmonise elements of the project – it’ll mean less strife in the long-run.
Finally, this approach also applies to evaluation. When you’re running satisfaction surveys after project completion, don’t use ‘shallow’ metrics with yes/no answers.
Give people a chance to respond and vent. You should do many temperature checks to measure their overall ‘conditions of satisfaction’.
This evaluation can also form the basis of the discovery phase when the project evolves and will support continuous improvement.
>See also: Digital transformation in 2016: how far have we come, and how far have we left to go?
Digital transformation is often a long journey – but it can have significant rewards.
It requires perseverance and effort from the IT department, particularly in the face of dealing with teams who have different requirements.
However, by questioning stakeholders within the organisation strongly and taking their views into account, then creating an initiative which reconciles the needs of the business with user preferences, within budget, you will win their respect – and drive the business into the future.
Sourced by Jamie Tyler, director of digital transformation and innovation, CenturyLink