Digital Transformation is one of the top concerns for executives in 2019, and yet companies dive into a Digital Transformation program without fully understanding what’s required – or even what it’s supposed to accomplish.
To their credit, many organizations attempt to put together a thorough business case before committing to anything. However, all it does is expose how much trouble the program will be in once it launches.
Your business case will show how mature your organization is and whether or not you’re ready to invest in a Digital Transformation program. The signs are there to read, for those who can recognize them:
The Business Case Has No Clear Vision
This is a symptom of Digital Transformation programs that are launched “just because.” Management doesn’t understand Digital Transformation or what it’s supposed to accomplish. They only know that they have to do so in order to stay competitive. The program focuses on the technology for its own sake, and not the actual value it can provide to the organization and its users.
When you’re assessing a Digital Transformation business case, check how much detail there is on end-user use cases and the benefits they receive, and whether or not technology truly will make a positive difference in those situations. Business cases that read too much like a list of popular technology trends won’t have a central vision tying them together.
The Business Case Doesn’t Properly Represent Complex or Large-Scale Digital Transformations
If you have a system or process that’s years old, then undergoing a Digital Transformation is going to be very complicated and challenging. There will be lots of stakeholders and connected systems that will increase the program’s complexity as it scales.
The business case for such a program will end up either too simple, and leave out critical workflows, or too complex, and go into laborious detail about every single interaction. Neither of these versions will be clear on the program’s ultimate benefits and therefore can’t make strong enough arguments to justify going through with the digital transformation.
If the business goes through with such a plan, then the program is going to launch with insufficient or misleading information. Which brings me to my next point:
It Doesn’t Account for Unknowns
Digital Transformation programs are not the same thing as IT project development plans. Digital transformation is much more strategic in nature. The actual program is composed of multiple projects, each of which must go through their own respective discovery and planning phases.
As such, beware of any digital transformation business case that focuses on a single tactical approach or option before having evidence to prove its feasibility. You risk closing yourself off to options that might turn out to be better in the long run. Or, you might commit yourself to an approach that’s doomed to failure.
Another common problem is that you can’t predict how well different technology applications will work with each other. For instance, a CRM platform might indeed interact with an ERP application, but not in the highly specific way that the business case prescribes. And so the digital transformation team will either have to spend money developing a custom solution, or pivot from the original plan.
It Imposes Unrealistic Timelines and Budget Expectations
This mistake is in a similar vein to the previous point but driven by a different problem.
Digital transformation programs with a limited budget will try to control how the money will be spent and over what time frame. But given everything mentioned above, the program is guaranteed to be overbudget and late. There are simply too many unknowns to set budget and timeline milestones with any degree of accuracy.
Even worse, the final deliverable might not even be what the original business case was supposed to achieve. Depending on research, requirements gathering and user testing, you may end up going in a completely different direction from your original path. And so the budget constraints wouldn’t have been appropriate to begin with.
The Business Case Is Treated as Gospel
There’s following a plan, and there’s being a slave to a plan.
Digital transformation programs that stick to the original plan end up with a final product that is, in many ways, stunted. Perhaps a business process wasn’t taken to its logical conclusion, or the team forgot to account for an important user story. Because they weren’t in the original business case, they were excluded from the program and are now a weak link in the company’s operations. Your digital transformation is incomplete, and all the more problematic because of it.
Your business case should be treated as a living document. You should be open to updating the plan and taking things in a different direction as you gather information and conditions change.
Your digital transformation business case doesn’t have to be perfect, but it does have to fulfill the goals of the document. You should have three primary goals in mind:
– First, to show your organization’s executive team how a digital transformation program would benefit your customers and stakeholders.
– Second, to explain what changes and technologies need to be adopted in order to provide that benefit.
– And last, to provide an objective, realistic and, above all, dynamic assessment of what will be required to achieve a successful transformation.
If your business case can achieve those three objectives, then you can confidently move on to the next stage: actually plotting out the projects that will move the business case forward. And since your business case will have been created properly with the right mindset and central theme, your digital transformation program will be much more likely to succeed.