An important calculation organisations need to make before implementing a digital transformation strategy in an enterprise environment is whether the rigour and flexibility of that strategy is sufficient to overcome all challenges along the transformation journey.
While the strategy document will typically contain a number of objectives to be delivered, those objectives can shift over the programme’s lifetime, sometimes requiring changes to be made mid-strategy.
That ability to pivot on a transformation strategy can be challenging in an enterprise environment, especially if the organisation is not fundamentally a technology business.
Challenges to strategy
In our consulting work with Hong Kong organisations, we have found that challenges to the completion of a programme are likely to be in one or more of three key areas – people, process and technology.
Budget is also a leading consideration. As the old joke goes – nobody ever got fired for appointing Accenture. But while it can be convenient to blame problems on big consultancies, there is also a danger their fees can end up blowing the budget.
It’s also worth considering third-party involvement where ownership of the deliverables for programme functions lies. Businesses risk giving up a significant amount of control over timescale, budget and ultimate success or failure of a programme if they don’t own the deliverables.
Bringing in the right people is a huge consideration, and having a mix of new and existing people on a transformation programme is key.
If everybody on the programme is new, it can create significant resistance internally. Internal people will understand the existing challenges to the programme, will have existing stakeholder relationships, and will know where quick wins are achievable.
However, many organisations currently face an IT skills gap, and bringing in new people on a transformation project is a quick way to upskill the team’s tech capabilities. Be warned though - the battle for tech talent is fierce in Hong Kong.
Process and change management
While some might consider change management strategy as a ‘soft issue’, the value that change management professionals can bring to organisations is often overlooked.
Programme or project managers are usually focused on delivering projects on time and within budget. The lack of a dedicated change function may leave the programme at a loss, therefore, as its success is highly dependent on the business’s culture and ability to adopt new tools and processes.
In a big organisation, implementing cultural change can be challenging. Changing direction rests on the ability to carefully manage all stakeholders - which is where a dedicated change professional can make all the difference.
A major area of focus for a digital transformation strategy is obviously the technology being adopted. From the choice of platform to the plan for deploying large applications onto it, to the creation of a single ‘super-app’ to replace disparate consumer apps - when it comes to technology, an agile strategy is key.
Technology itself is constantly evolving, so the key elements of an organisation’s digital transformation strategy might look very different in three years’ time compared to today. You only have to look at the explosion of ChatGPT to see how quickly a new tool can change the technological landscape.
Managing the strategy
How an organisation’s digital transformation strategy is managed will depend on its size and internal governance structure.
Responsibility for forward change on the programme typically falls to the COO, but increasingly, you may see new roles such as Chief Digital Officer or Chief Transformation Officer being created, whereas others may fold it into the brief of their Chief Information Officer or Chief Technology Officer.
Whoever is in charge will need to devolve some functions to ‘change champions’ across the various business verticals – people already within the organisation who may be required to ‘double hat’ across their day job and their change function.
An effective change strategy should therefore include a robust retention programme to keep those key people in play while being sufficiently resilient to cope with changes in personnel and maintaining a tight focus on ensuring programme outcomes deliver improved customer relations.