David Walker | 15 December 2016
We all live in the 'Digital Age'. I've been writing computer programmes for thirty years. My first computer was an Acorn Electron! Whilst it was prehistoric by today's standards, it was still 'digital'. In fact, all of us have been working with 'digital' platforms for decades.
So the latest technology buzz term, 'Digital Transformation', may initially seem obsolete. After all, no modern business is still using typewriters and slide rules! But if we cut through the jargon, it actually represents a seismic shift in the way technology is viewed in business.
Digital Transformation involves a fundamental rethinking and repositioning of the IT function in an organisation. It moves technology from a back-office support role to the trailblazer and differentiator in how a business competes and thrives.
Whenever I visit organisations to discuss Digital Transformation I ask to see their digital strategy. They are nearly always unsure of what they need to do. I have seen business plans that talk about digital, IT roadmaps that talk about cloud – but very rarely do these strategies sit together or work coherently. That is when I ask: "How do you see technology?" The response is varied, but my message is clear:
"Technology is not a cost, it is a differentiator"
An organisation cannot undertake Digital Transformation until they understand this message and begin to re-evaluate how they work and who is involved in decision making. All the different goals within a business have to be aligned, and Digital Leadership is key.
The first and most important step towards Digital Transformation is having a leader with a holistic view of the project. A leader who ensures the right people are involved in decision making at the right time. A leader who offers their expertise early to avoid mistakes and poorly-informed decisions.
This is where Project Managers play a vital role. They need to be the 'glue' that aligns the business goals and binds them to the consideration of Value, Innovation and Risk.
Value starts with customer needs and user-centred design. Every business must prioritise the delivery of the most-needed requirements. User research is not a luxury, it is a necessity. Project Managers need data to be able to prioritise accordingly. Good user research combined with good analytics brings agility to decision making.
Innovation can simply be utilising SMAC (Social, Mobile, Analytics and Cloud) technologies. The Cloud grants access to all sorts of information we've never had before. Agile teams using tools such as JIRA and Slack are able to work anywhere and immediately report progress. This ensures that any drift or changes to the project plan can be quickly identified. Data and analytics let you know quickly when things are going wrong – and things will go wrong! Also, being literate in changing technology methodologies such as Scrum, Lean IT and DevOps will enable you to plan and advise much more effectively.
Risk is never static. The landscape for a project is continually moving, be that through competitive pressures, emerging standards or changing requirements. Risk can paralyse organisations when they try to transform, but in order to succeed the IT team must have 'permission to fail'. Continually assessing and managing Risk is perhaps the most important part of the Project Manager's role.
The key to successful Digital Transformation is making measured, metric-driven 'planned iterations of change' the norm. As the trusted conduit to business stakeholders, Project Managers play a vital role in helping them navigate and move towards an iterative, data-driven approach to decision making. Providing they are a conduit for change and not an analogue barrier to be bypassed or overcome, skilled Project Managers are needed now more than ever!
For more information browse our Digital Transformation training courses.