If you’ve been following my series, Making the Case for a Digital Transformation, it’s apparent that such a venture can stretch out over many months – if not longer. Not every business has that kind of time to spare, and you may be asking yourself: “What can I do if I have to get a new platform up and running in the next quarter or two?”
With tacit approval from senior management to pick a solution and spend what it takes (within reason), here’s my advice for fast-tracking your digital transformation.
1. Find out what similar businesses are doing.
Appoint a tag-team of cross functional members to investigate what others like you are doing. If there is a propensity toward certain platforms, then entertain those possibilities first. I recall when companies didn’t want their competitors knowing what systems and gear they were using for fear of compromising their strategic advantage. I learned that this mindset is a fallacy, and the difference lies not in what you use, but how you use it. Today, it’s easier to learn about all the available options, whether traditional, open-source, cloud-hosted, or SaaS, as well as who’s clustered around them. Let that be a guide.
To get the upgrade underway sooner, you can bypass the more comprehensive RFI/RFP vendor selection process and pick 2-3 of the presumed best fitting providers based on some quick research. Center your selection process around a few key parameters such as speed of delivery, features offered, alignment to your business needs, and cost.
2. Peek under the hood for any rogue processes.
Despite having a system of record, many companies tolerate or aren’t aware of undocumented, offline processes – especially those that are woven into the fabric of the organization. I was once at a company undergoing a transformation, and while we thought we had thoroughly mapped out the handoff from the old to new system, the implementation turned into a disaster. We had not accounted for individuals who, at their own workstations, had created unofficial spreadsheet routines for key steps and manually transferred the output from the spreadsheet to the official system. Avoid this dreadful experience and devise a systems readiness review process to detect and document any rogue behavior.
3. Limit or don’t customize.
A quick gap analysis will be necessary to identify the differences between old and new systems. Decide what you can give up and what you can’t live without if the new platform selected doesn’t exactly match your needs. We all think our business is unique and exceptional and therefore want our digital transformation to fit that distinction rather than have our processes fit to the transformation. However, many providers’ standard platforms are well thought out by teams of industry experts who offer deep experience in the sector. The better platforms have feature sets that can be toggled on and off and are therefore adaptable, flexible, and agile. Specialization is left to third parties and plug-in apps through connectors at extra cost. Customizations may also cause unintended version blocking and limit the ability to upgrade to successive releases without further modification.
4. Train the entire organization and connect to the user eco-system for extra help.
Training, in my view, offers the greatest area of impact – and it is absolutely essential. If a SaaS solution is selected, your provider will likely rely on self-help methods, such as online videos and tutorials, and only offer classroom training as an optional extra. Whatever the case, don’t skimp on this crucial step and opt for as much affordable, hands-on classroom training as possible or engage an integrator. By empowering a few individuals to become super-users, you invest in a small, but highly skilled team who can effectively train the rest of the organization. The value of this resource cannot be overstated.
Attend and participate in user group meetings and conferences and appoint someone in the company to get actively involved with the user community. These venues are ideal for recruiting power users and specialists to your organization. Most attendees at these conferences aren’t looking for a job, which in my view, makes them more valuable.
5. Implement with a tough love approach.
Make it an organizational imperative for all users to let go of the old and start applying the new, so business processes transform to fit the latest system. Everyone has a tendency to stick with what they know, but change is compulsory during a transformation. In addition to setting a dictum and ensuring it is followed, also make it clear to users that mistakes are expected and accepted as part of the necessary and inevitable learning and adoption process.
The need to fast track is often the result of deadline pressures because of competitors, launching big new initiatives, or unavoidable operational faux pas. Nevertheless, the transformative effects of simplification and standardization provide a quick way to get ahead of these challenges and open the aperture of opportunity.