Building Successful Digital Projects – The 5 key points that Successful Digital Projects have in common
Many moons ago digital transformation projects were reserved for big companies with big budgets and the ability to purchase various systems and bring consultants in house.
In the meantime, smaller companies started to develop solutions by themselves, but soon realised that with limited resource and expertise it was difficult to maintain innovation at speed.
Technology has now become a commodity (Infrastructure, open source tools, SaaS, etc.) and innovation is at an all-time high, which means that digital projects that once seems a luxury have now become mission critical to your business.
This leads to the age-old question of “where to start?”. Too many times companies start their digital projects in the most chaotic way and have most likely gone through the following pain-points:
- Trying to convince senior management that technology will help the company. This could take several months and even years.
- Squeezing the budget from all over the company so a project can get underway
- Finding the resource and expertise to deliver the project (as your company may only have some a small IT maintenance team)
- Receiving quotes that vary hugely in price and deliverables. This can be because the project objectives were not clearly articulated during the briefing phase, or rather than understand the problem, your provider has simply offered a solution without considering the needs and particular environment of your company.
- Getting stuck in the decision process because you don’t have the expertise to identify which proposal may be better from an IT strategic point of view. This is where the experience of CTO and CIO is invaluable.
Maybe you’re fortunate and your company already has some IT capacity to implement projects. In this scenario it is extremely appealing to take on digital projects yourself. But as I discussed in an earlier post (Surviving The Siege – How Midsize Businesses Can Overcome Disruption In Ultra-Competitive Markets) one of the problems here is that your team needs to operate the business and maintain it, so sometimes there is no room for innovation.
In brief, it’s all too easy to get lost in the process without the right guidance. So, after many years of working with companies all sizes and within various industries, we have identified something that we call the connective thread in all successful digital projects. As Steve Jobs once said, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward”. Well, we’ve done our homework and here you have the 5 key pillars for a successful IT project.
1) Think like an IT company
Once you start your digital journey, you have to think as an IT company and realise that IT is not just a support function within the organisation, but a strategic arm to develop the solutions you need. Likewise, the role of strategic IT is not just bringing solutions because they are digital. They have to be sure that any solution they bring or create, have to impact and transform the organisation.
This is a profound change and it certainly drives the digital transformation mindset. If you embrace change and understand that by adding technology to your company you will have to adapt and evolve your business to harness the benefits of technology, then you will automatically see the IT area of your company as a strategic partner.
Do this and bringing innovation through IT to your company will be a breeze.
2) IT Projects are continuous and thus need a dedicated budget.
The era of having a onetime investment in your software is gone! If you’re really thinking of evolving your organisation through technology you have to assign a specific and steady budget for your project.
This is recommended for several reasons.
- If you have very limited budget, the moment you ran out of gas, the project will die.
- You don’t need a big budget (although it won’t do any harm if you manage to get one), the important thing is to have a steady supply to keep the project running, changes will come for certain and you have to be prepared for that.
- Your environment will inevitably change, so you will have to evolve with it, no matter how well planned you have your project.
So, set apart a certain amount of money to keep things running. Once you start seeing results (as little as they may be) then your stakeholders will be willing to invest a little bit more.
3) Quick Wins & Fail Fast
This is crucial if you want to make a good impression and get all the endorsement your project needs. If you get some quick wins, your stakeholders will be sure that they supported a good idea. This will release a lot of the pressure when going for future innovation.
To achieve your quick win, choose the path of least resistance and demonstrate success. It doesn’t matter if it’s a little success, as long as the organisations feel you’re moving forward you’ll do fine.
On the other hand, we have the Fail Fast strategy. This means that as soon as you identify errors or misconceptions, learn and action them. There is a high probability that you will have some of these while starting. But the important thing is to realise and act fast.
Both of these strategies will work whenever you define short and measurable milestones. Clearly define what do you expect from every effort, and measure it in short iterations (couple of weeks or one month at the most). The sooner you identify any deviation, you will be able to make better decisions to correct the course.
So, try to win quickly!
4) Agility and Ability to adapt
This is easier said that done. Although there are various trending strategies to deliver solutions in an agile way, the reality is that few people embrace their benefits. For this aspect, there is also a lot of mindset changes to be made. Change will come and there is nothing you can do to prevent that. So, the best thing is to train and be prepared to respond to changes.
For this to be successful, you must also manage a good communication plan with your sponsors and stakeholders to manage expectations.
5) Look for partners with experience working with Startups
When you are looking for partners it is important to validate whether they have experience with your particular industry and of course with your type of organisation. There are many providers and partners that know how to implement successful digital projects, but believe me, if they have experience working with Startups this will make the difference.
A provider like this will definitely know the feeling of having limited resources and have to meet heavy deadlines because an entire company’s subsistence depends on it.
They will bring the speed of a Startup to any digital project you decide to implement. Their decisions will be based on giving quick and strategic results that respond to your own changing needs or the environment changes. They will be able to redirect efforts to what is the most important for the company because agility is part of their DNA. Perhaps the most important aspect is that they will become transformation agents to positively impact your organization.
With Technology moving so fast is very appealing to start generating solutions, but before doing so take a moment and identify how many of these key points you are taking into account to have better chances to start on the right track. Also remember that once you go digital you will be driving in the fast lane; you will experience a lot of changes (for the better). And if you have the right collaborators, partners and advisors, this will be easier, quicker and often more cost effective.