Successful digitalization thanks to Digital Excellence Sprint Involve all stakeholders in the IT project
Countless IT projects fall short of expectations, but in times of digitalization and business transformation, failure is no longer an option. This article reveals how the chances of success of digitalization can be improved.
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For IT projects, it is important to bring all stakeholders together and ensure that they speak the same language.
Every year, companies invest billions of euros in their digitalization. All too often, however, these investments – regardless of how large they are in detail – do not produce the desired results. The media is full of examples of failed projects, from the supermarket chains Lidl and Edeka to the Federal Employment Agency and the consumer goods group Procter & Gamble.
As spectacular and costly as these failures may be, they are just the tip of the iceberg. According to the current study “Flipping the Odds of Digital Transformation Success” by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), 70 percent of all digitalization initiatives fall short of their goals.
According to the study, even many of the successful or at least partially successful transformation projects do not bring about lasting changes.
Human dimension is crucial
Typically, the problems begin when trying to include everyone involved in the overall plan. This often leads to compromises in which the original goal is lost sight of. “Technology is important, but the human dimension (…) is usually the decisive factor,” the BCG authors state.
Andrew Thorburn hits the nail on the head: “The starting point must be a clear vision that focuses on the customers and is motivated by them.” According to the former Group CEO and Managing Director of National Australia Bank, in order to meet these demands, a concrete use case needs to be carried out by senior executives who are committed to working together.
The good news is that, according to BCG, following some good practices can increase the success rate of digitization projects to a remarkable 80 percent. In the first place of the success factors is therefore a strategy with clear goals and business results, which defines the “why, what and how”.
Frames of reference of business and IT departments too different
Determining the” why “and” what ” – i.e. use cases – is relatively easy for most companies. The impetus often comes from the specialist departments; currently, for example, from sales employees who, in times of social distance, are looking for a way to establish or maintain contact with customers via digital sales channels.
On the other hand, experience shows that great challenges are associated with the question of how an application must be designed in order to offer users maximum added value. In particular, cross-departmental communication regularly proves to be a hurdle.
For example, if a decision maker from a business department approaches IT and explains what a new solution should achieve, there is inevitably a lot of room for interpretation. Transmitters and receivers can’t help but look at the requirements from their own perspective and interpret them accordingly. If the desired properties of a solution are merely communicated verbally, the failure of the projects is practically inevitable.
But even if everything is fixed in writing, the ideas of the final result are not necessarily congruent. Because often the (working)worlds of business and IT departments are so different even in the same company that their representatives hardly seem to speak the same language. For example, business units often lack the necessary awareness of the (technical) challenges IT faces.
In the latter department, on the other hand, there is always a lack of sufficient knowledge regarding the needs of customers or employees for whom the applications are implemented. However, if the focus is on the potential uses of the technology rather than on the added value for the users, complicated programs quickly emerge-monsters with a miserable user experience (UX). With customers these lead to dissatisfaction, with employees to workarounds.
Communication trenches to overcome
In order to maximize the chances of success of a digitization project, it is therefore necessary to overcome the communication gap between business and IT and ensure that everyone works together towards the same goal. For this purpose, the implementation of a proof of feasibility right at the start of the project, which addresses a specific problem and is implemented promptly in a Digital Excellence Sprint.
Such a Proof of concept (POC) fulfils several tasks. First, by inserting the functional prototype into the system landscape, the principle feasibility of a project is proven, taking into account existing interfaces and data models. Above all, however, business and IT no longer have to theoretically discuss their ideas through the use of a first prototype.
Desired changes or proposals, including the associated technical consequences, can instead be demonstrated in practice. The solutions to existing problems can then be evaluated using clear criteria, from different customer journeys to possible service options and integrated data sources.
A POC says more than a thousand pictures
Practice shows that when it comes to swearing business departments and IT towards a common goal, the old adage “a picture is worth a thousand words”applies. However, it should be added: “And a POC more than countless pictures”. Because the higher the complexity of a solution, the more important it is to give project participants the opportunity not only to look at it, but to be able to practically try it out and feel it virtually on the basis of proof of feasibility.
But a Digital Excellence Sprint not only helps to significantly reduce the degree of abstraction and to reconcile different ideas. The involvement of all relevant stakeholders also increases the general acceptance of the project, as they feel they can get involved and make a difference.
Even failures are not necessarily exclusively negative, quite the opposite. If you want to drive digitalization in your company, you should take failure into account. But it depends on the time. Developing, testing, failing, modifying, testing again is the formula for success.
Especially in the early orientation phase, any negative feedback can serve as an important learning experience that benefits the later success of the project. Compared to later times in the project, when every failure is accompanied by a lot of burnt money, the price to be paid for this is vanishingly low. It’s not for nothing that Silicon Valley keeps saying: “Fail fast, fail cheap.“
* Roland Guelle is VP Technology at Avenga and controls the technological orientation of the IT service provider globally. Previously, he was responsible for research and development as CTO at Sevenval Technologies.