using hands as framework, sun shining through
PHOTO: Garrett Anderson

Anyone who's recently survived a board meeting discussion on digital transformation can appreciate the difficulties faced by our international peacekeepers, trying to reach accord when each party sees different issues, prioritizes divergent outcomes and often seem to be speaking another language.

Despite theoretical acceptance about cultural and change management requirements, most responsibility for digital transformation projects still lies with the CIO, who is charged with balancing the business as usual impact with the creation and testing of ground-breaking, integrated systems and processes. Often, the most challenging part of the CIO's job can be managing expectations from a variety of stakeholders who are pushing for untested and potentially unstable apps, firewall exceptions and fast deployment of new technologies. 

It’s enough to give anyone nightmares.

The High Stakes of Digital Transformation

Digital transformation can be fraught with difficulty and runs a real risk of failure. Priorities may at times be set based on owner seniority (and assertiveness) rather than objective benefit. Without genuine stakeholder consensus, the project could stall at the first hurdle. According to CIO, 20 percent of senior executives polled by Wipro Digital in 2017 believed their company’s digital transformation was a waste of time. A Forbes article suggests the failure rate of digital transformation projects is seven out of eight.

What’s needed is an objective scope assessment framework to prioritize the areas that deserve the greatest focus, identifying quick wins, leveraging existing technology where possible and providing clear, irrefutable evidence for the selection and development of solutions and innovations. Without this evidence, it can be difficult to justify priorities and manage the expectations of department heads under pressure to deliver improvements.

Related Article: Change Management: The Key to Successful Digital Transformation

The 6 I's of Digital Transformation

I developed a new framework called the 6 I’s of digital transformation for this purpose. The process can be used to scope in the biggest wins within a larger project, or to secure budget by solving smaller problems and showcasing initial success.

1. Identify

Create a list of opportunities for digital transformation throughout your organization by holding focus groups, reviewing customer complaints, interviewing new staff for a fresh perspective and simply watching people work. It is this process that engages people in the digital transformation initiative and provides the opportunity to leverage their knowledge and communicate benefits.

2. Impact

Measure the impact of each opportunity. How much are these issues costing your organization? What value is being lost while teams waste time on manual processes? Capture everything to quantify benefits and calculate ROI.  Some will have clear financial costs or benefits, others will impact culture, future strategy or staff loyalty and retention.

3. Ideate

Generate ideas to solve these problems and decide whether tackling each one is feasible. The full 6 I’s framework includes a DX scorecard to calculate opportunity cost for each proposed solution including impact on end users, process owners, the cost of creation and ongoing licensing and maintenance costs.

Present and discuss the calculated opportunity cost, along with the related non-financial impacts associated with each proposed solution, in a stakeholder meeting for transparent prioritization.

4. Innovate

Now it’s time to decide which solutions to pursue and develop the winning ideas with deeper understanding and accuracy. This isn’t about creating the next amazing AI platform — sometimes just a small change can make all the difference. Getting carried away with requirements and then seeing costs ballooning can prevent the project from being approved at all. Once you’ve trimmed your solution and checked that it’s efficient, create wireframes to get feedback and approval before creating a detailed solution design document.

5. Implement

Once the solutions have been designed, it’s time to get down to business and fully create them. If you have a good technical team with a clear solution design, implementation should be straightforward. In some cases, however, project teams can encounter stumbling blocks due to competing projects, upgrades, freezes and organizational change, so it’s best to progress this phase as swiftly as possible.

6. Iterate

After a reasonable period for user adoption and teething issues — six months should be sufficient — measure the impact of the implemented solutions and look to enhance them. Perhaps one stakeholder’s proposed solution was not delivered and circumstances now support its implementation. If the opportunities for improvement are substantial, you can run the 6 I’s process on them to see whether they’re worthwhile.

Related Article: Goodbye Digital Transformation, Hello Cathedral Thinking

A Framework for Harmony

There will always be some tension between departments simply because of their different positions in the spectrum of a company’s overall structural needs. While your project meeting may not end in a big group hug, the 6 I’s framework introduces a level of rigor and objectivity that acknowledges and addresses the needs of each party to deliver a more successful and harmonious digital transformation project.