From strategic decision to digital implementation: 5 key steps towards success

Authors: Philip Van Puyvelde & Marnik Willems

Starting a large transformation within your organisation is never easy. They are often the result of a strategic decision and touch upon business-critical processes or operations. While the goal or desired end-result might be clear from the outset, the road towards it is most probably not that clear because of the level of complexity. Our experience in leading digital transformations learned that five key steps are often overlooked but enlighten the road towards a successful implementation. Curious to find out what they are?

1. Map the ideal processes

Everything starts by mapping the ideal process with the end users or the product owners. Although the importance of process maps has already been proven by the wide adoption of the method, they are often merely used as documentation. Process maps, however, are the starting point of many valuable discussions on technical functionalities, change management, roles and responsibilities. Process maps do not need to be overly complex. Anyone should be able to quickly grasp it to engage in a discussion with a common point of departure.

Every transformation should be considered as an opportunity and the same goes for a digital implementation. Sticking to mapping the as-is processes is not enough. Processes should always be mapped and designed with the end user in mind. It might not be possible to implement every process step, interface, or business rule but you will have a clear picture of what is desired from a user perspective. Pick your battles from there. A balancing act between business value and technical complexity can lead to valuable discussions and pragmatic solutions.

2. Validate processes

Your process map will allow you to do a feasibility test with all the involved people, departments, and business units. Everyone will have input to share from their personal point of view. For obvious reasons, this can make the process a lot more complex. However, these open discussions can lead to improvements and pragmatic solutions you would otherwise not have thought about. Eventually you will need to validate the process, so why not engaging with all parties and stakeholders from the start?

A digital transformation can bring a lot more value if the business processes are looked at from start to finish and cross-departmental. The limits of the scope of the project, your mandate or buy-in from all stakeholders might not always allow you to do so. In this case, focus on validating the interactions. Is it possible to change the way the information flows? How can the way of working be improved and carried by the – newly defined – process?

3. Translate into clear requirements

After validation, the process needs to be translated into requirements. This does not mean the process map will never change again: unexpected, new information and events are a part of every project. Be open to iterations and communicate clearly: what has changed, what is the impact and, most importantly, why is the change needed?

When requirements are drafted and discussed, they can be written in user stories. The user stories should be clear and unambiguous because technical profiles will use them as a base for the configuration of the system or tool. Involvement of IT and business together will lead to a clear user story. Often, several technical ways will lead to Rome but business might prefer one over the other.

4. Choose your MVP

The Minimum Viable Product is defined as a version of a product with just enough features to be usable by early customers or users. They can then provide feedback for future product development. Defining an MVP early on is very useful from a project perspective. Once you have real users using the tool, you can prioritize development efforts on which functionalities will bring the most value to the end-user or customer.

Not all requirements will be worth implementing, certainly not from the start. This should be a very conscious decision and might even slightly change over time. Use User Acceptance Testing (UAT), end-user demo’s, trainings and any other conversation as an opportunity to redefine the ideal solution.

As the scope triangle dictates, with endless time and resources we can define a perfect, all-encompassing scope. However, when you need to deliver in a certain timeframe, this becomes impossible. Focussing on the MVP from a business perspective means choosing your battles and win the ones that will bring the most impact while still delivering your release on time.

5. Initial release & continuous improvement

Once the pilot or initial release has been launched, it is time to listen to your users once again. Let them be your guiding hand for every subsequent release or update. It is time to move from your MVP to your MLP (Minimum Lovable Product) and beyond. A culture of continuous improvement can foster ideas and increase adaption from end-users, whether the tool or system is set up for internal use or for customers. Log all incoming ideas into a catalogue, which can be discussed in recurrent meetings with the project team. Rank the ideas based on impact and effort, engage with the idea owner and make it into workable user stories for the development team. A constant development cycle will help in improving the system and maximizing end-user engagement.

Any transformation is a cycle of searching for solutions, analysing the options, and picking your battles wisely. Implementation efforts are not an exact science – there is not one proven way that guarantees success. Awareness of all moving blocks is needed to find solutions that will work and add value. This is both interesting and frustrating. A digital transformation can feel like running in circles and coming back on decisions and choices that were validated or signed-off before. Embrace change and see iterations as given opportunities to improve. Every iteration will be a step closer to reaching your end goal.

Interested in defining your your digital strategy or accelerating implementation? Do not hesitate to reach out!

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