November 08, 2022

Article
7 min

4 Ways to Keep Your Digital Transformation Project on Track

Alhagie Puye, Director, Solutions at CDW Canada, explains four ways organizations can ensure the long-term success of any digital transformation projects.

Alhagie Puye

What's Inside
  • Focus on people and culture first

    A successful digital transformation project involves fundamentally changing how an organization operates, so making sure you have the right people in place is critically important.

  • Get buy-in from leaders

    For a project to be successful, every leader within an organization needs to stand behind the project and make sure the team implementing the project knows they have full leadership support.

  • Plan and communicate your project effectively

    The most innovative digital solution isn’t going to achieve the outcome you’re hoping for if planned and communicated poorly. When developing a digital transformation project, you need to ensure you have a robust implementation strategy in place.

  • Have the right digital tools – and the right skills to implement them

    If your new technology isn’t supported by the right skills, its success can be limited. That’s where third-party service providers like CDW can step in. Whether you’re at the planning, assessment, design or implementation stage, we can help.

People in a meeting with sticky notes on the wall brain storming ideas.

Companies undertake digital transformation projects for many reasons, whether it’s to boost productivity, improve efficiency or increase profit. They also take many forms, whether it’s automating mundane tasks, replacing legacy technology with emerging technology, such as AI or machine learning, or simply leveraging cloud services. So it should come as no surprise that there are many reasons they can fail as well.

Keeping a digital transformation project on track requires organizations to pay attention to several moving parts, including leadership, communication, planning and, of course, the digital tools being adopted. The most important, however, is people. You can have the newest, shiniest technology in place, but if you don’t have the right people in place to support that technology, it’s not going to succeed.

Here’s why focusing on people, leadership and planning – in addition to technology – can help organizations ensure their digital transformation project remains on track.

1. Focus on people and culture first

When digital transformation projects fail, the biggest culprit is generally people and culture, whether it’s resistance to change, aversion to failure or simply hiring the wrong people. A successful digital transformation project involves fundamentally changing how an organization operates, so making sure you have the right people in place is critically important.

When I say, “the right people,” what do I mean? I’m not just referring to one quality, and you can’t find all qualities in one person in any case. You need people with intellectual curiosity. People passionate about problem solving. People who are authentic and genuine. Ideally, they have a company-first mentality.

You’re trying to move your business forward, which requires people with curiosity to identify opportunities for change, at which point you need people passionate about problem solving to develop innovative solutions. And to execute those solutions you need people who are creative, which requires the freedom to show up as the best, most authentic version of themselves, to bring your new strategies to life.

Nearly as important as hiring the right people is creating the right culture: A culture of continuous experimentation, innovation – and failure. Failing fast and learning from it can be as important as success to projects of all kinds, not only digital transformation. Mistakes happen, and when ideas don’t work, they should be accepted as failures the team can move on from. The sooner a team acknowledges what went wrong, the sooner it can develop a solution to ensure it doesn’t fail the same way again.

2. Get buy-in from leaders

Digital transformation projects live or die by their leaders’ commitment, which is not as guaranteed as you’d think. Lack of alignment is unfortunately common – projects developed by one leader may not be supported by another, or worse, implemented without consulting colleagues. The result can be a fractured adoption process both helped by supporters and hindered by opponents, with employees split along similar lines.

For a project to be successful, every leader within an organization needs to stand behind the project and make sure the team implementing the project knows they have full leadership support. The road to digital transformation can be bumpy, and when your team runs into roadblocks this commitment needs to remain consistent and clearly communicated so that the project can remain on course.

Great leaders are also essential to building the right teams – ones that are engaged, collaborative and understand your organization’s goals. How do you create engaged teams? It starts with trust – creating a psychologically safe environment where people can be their authentic selves. It includes commitment to diversity and inclusion – ensuring teams capture a diverse range of thoughts, backgrounds and experiences. Building diverse and inclusive teams is not only the right thing to do, it’s great for business. Diverse teams are more creative, develop better solutions to problems and feel more comfortable articulating their ideas.

And that’s more useful than many organizations realize, because once your digital transformation team or teams have their strategies in place, the next step is communicating them effectively.

3. Plan and communicate your project effectively

Another overlooked step that frequently leads digital transformation projects off track is a lack of planning and communication of those plans. Even the most innovative digital solution isn’t going to achieve the outcome its organizers are hoping for if planned and communicated poorly. When developing a digital transformation project, organizations need to ensure they have a robust implementation strategy in place.

That should include a risk assessment of the project’s expected impact, including long term benefits, costs and changes to existing operations. That type of legwork is easier to conduct before a project is implemented than after – and results in less disappointment from stakeholders too.

It also requires a series of honest conversations between executives, who can often overestimate the potential benefits of a project while underestimating both its human and monetary costs, stakeholder representatives and the teams implementing a project about its long-term impacts on an organization. People are generally risk averse, inclined to default to the status quo, and it’s something organizations need to keep in mind. Too often, publicly stated goals are misaligned with the solutions being incorporated and their likely effects on an organization’s business model.

Only once a digital transformation project is clearly mapped out can it be effectively communicated, and only by a team operating with the full support of leadership, stakeholders and any product experts involved. This ensures clear, consistent and effective messaging and a workforce excited about any changes coming down the pipeline.

4. Have the right digital tools – and the right skills to implement them

Of course, a successful digital transformation project requires the right technology. But there’s a reason the industry is going through a talent crunch – if your new technology isn’t supported by the right people with the right skills, its success can be severely limited.

Fortunately, that’s where third-party service providers like CDW can step in. Whether your organization is at the planning, assessment, design or implementation stage, we can help in multiple ways.

Perhaps your organization wants to lead its digital transformation project in-house. Our training services can help ensure your team has the skills they need. Or perhaps the team you’d like running your digital transformation project already has its hands full running your digital infrastructure. We can manage their day-to-day tasks for you, giving your IT staff the time they need to actually focus on their new project.

Perhaps your organization needs guidance – it knows there are gaps in its operations that technology can help bridge but isn’t sure where they are or how to fix them. Our Risk Advisory Services (RAS) team can help them find out. If you’re ready to begin your digital transformation project but aren’t sure how to run it, we can take care of that too.

At the end of the day, a successful digital transformation project is all about having the right team in place, creating the right culture where that team can be their best, ensuring your project is thoroughly planned with its goals clearly communicated ahead of time and ensuring that you have the expertise to execute it.

Because you can set out to incorporate the best technology into your operations, but if it’s not supported by the best people, culture, planning, communication and implementation processes, it’s going to fail.

About the author:

Alhagie Puye is a solutions-oriented technology and business leader with demonstrated success in building and leading high-performance teams, designing large-scale, highly-available enterprise networks and data centres. He leads the pre-sales technical team at CDW Canada responsible for helping our clients find solutions to any business challenges they have.