Last week I wrote a post discussing how Digital Transformation will be the next great struggle for most organizations. And it’s absolutely true – there’s a very real probably that your greatest intentions and efforts toward defining and developing a digital business will fall short and could result in failure.

But the story doesn’t end there.

As an entrepreneur and business owner I've seen it time and time again – where there’s failure, there’s progress. But let’s face it, we don’t actually want to fail, am I right? (If you do, you can stop reading this post now).

Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently. – Henry Ford

This post is meant to provide not only direction, but hope. In our work, we have helped hundreds of organizations experience success – sometimes for the first time. Many of these organizations were badly struggling or failing and we helped turn them around. Throughout this journey, we have discovered a few nuggets of wisdom that can absolutely change the outcome of any project involving technology and people. Know any projects like that?

Tip #1 – Define done

How many of you got in your car this morning and just started driving? No one does this, but it still amazes me that organizations will start a project with a statement such as, “We need an Intranet.” What does that mean? What is an Intranet to your company? News, document management, social communities, all of the above? I’ll be honest, I didn’t think we’d still be talking about this one causing failure, but it’s at the top of the list. In short, you need to answer this question with clarity: How will we know when we have reached our destination (i.e. what does done look like)?

Tip #2 – Eat an elephant

We all know how to eat an elephant, right? We also see success by taking a similar approach to digital business projects. Depending on the size of your initiative, it may seem very overwhelming when you look at everything that “needs to be done.” Relax – Rome wasn’t built in a day and I can promise you that your digital transformation won’t happen in a day either. Start small, taking one bite at a time. In other words, once you have your roadmap defined (see Nugget #1), start slowly chipping away at it, one component at a time. Small wins add up to big wins, so start with some small wins to build the momentum. Lastly, by doing this iteratively and in small chunks, you will fail faster – and yes, that’s a good thing. Would you rather a short, 6-week project fail or a longer, 6-month project fail? BONUS: Your users will thank you and adoption metrics will improve.

Tip #3 – Put down the hammer

Let me ask you a question. When was the last time you grabbed a hammer from your toolbox and walked around your house looking for something to hit? Who does that?! The truth is, we always start with a problem (leaky faucet, broken appliance, etc.) and then grab the tool(s) that we need to solve that problem. This is one of the top 3 causes of failure that we have seen. So, put down the hammer, and keep reading for more tips.

Tip #4 – Look back to move forward

This may be one of the few times that you hear anyone tell you to dwell in the past. But it works. What I mean here is that in order to move forward with confidence, it often helps to look backward – at projects that have been both failures and successes – to understand what caused these to fail, or what led to their success. Practically speaking, every project in your organization should include a lessons learned meeting. At C5 Insight, we often do this after every sprint, but always at the end of every project. In fact, we think this is so important, that we have every lesson we’ve ever captured, readily available in a searchable database (on SharePoint of course), categorized by industry, type of project, etc. So for example, when we start a new Intranet project for a manufacturing company, we can search all lessons learned to understand special issues we should consider or areas to adjust, before we get started.

Tip #5 – Know thy neighbor

How well do you know all the people in the Legal department? Engineering? Marketing? Most would answer that they really don’t know how everyone works – who can? So before you start your digital workplace initiative, create personas for every user in your organization. The truth is, how in the world can we design something that is supposed to increase productivity and streamline work if we don’t know things such as: how productive are they today, what makes them unproductive, what works best for them, what past experiences have they had past that could impact their future work or adoption (think about their résumé), etc. Know your users and create formal personas for every user. You can then use these to ensure that you are developing processes that will actually help users and not hurt them. HINT: You’re going to find out very quickly that your people consume information and work in very different ways (even when in the same role).

Tip #6 – Vocalize the vision

I often say that users won’t care how, if they don’t know why. In other words, it doesn’t matter that it’s pretty, slick, new, or shiny, if users don’t know why the heck they are now doing something different. Who likes change? In an informal customer survey that I conducted recently, I found that users were less irritated by having to do something new, and more irritated by not knowing why they were doing something new. Know your users (see Nugget #5) and help them understand how this will help them do their jobs better. BONUS: By connecting your users with the vision for why this is being done, you will set expectations and this will help with adoption and engagement.

Tip #7 – If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it

image This one is interesting, because many times when people think of digital transformation, they think of new technology. However, we have seen organizations miss opportunities because they threw-out existing technologies for something new and shiny. Now, on its own, this isn’t bad, but how do you know your old technologies didn’t work? Maybe it was the vision and plan for how these tools were to be used? Maybe they were ahead of their time and now you’re ready to use them? In addition, by evaluating your existing technology (and finding out that it will work just fine), adoption is increased because it is one less new tool that a user has to learn (this assumes people don’t hate the current tools). Sometimes, you do need new tools to achieve your goals, but before you throw it all out, spend some time evaluating how your existing tools fit into your goals and strategy.

Tip #8 – Stop wasting time with training

This may come as a surprise to you, but we now have a shorter attention span than a goldfish. Distractions abound, and it is actually changing how we focus and do our work. What does this mean to you? It means that extended training times are no longer effective. In addition, training is no longer a singular event that takes place at the end of the “deployment.” At C5 Insight, we have dramatically shifted how we do training, and now do what we call trickle-training. We start early and repeat often, with short, digestible chunks. Sometimes the training is 30-45 minutes; sometimes we create videos that are 3 minutes in length and very targeted. Lastly, it’s just as important to put in place a process that allows you to do on-going training (e.g. webinars, lunch-and-learns, etc.)

Tip #9 – Be lazy for a day

If you’ve made it this far, stick with me for 2 more minutes. This is actually very important for the long-term success and adoption of your digital business. What I mean here is spend a day (or a half-day if that’s all you have), and think about all the things you’d automate if you were lazy. What do you hate doing? How much of your work is administrative in nature? If it helps, imagine that someone will charge you $100 every time you do one of these administrative tasks. Which ones do you quickly want to get rid of? My guess is that you’ll quickly come up with some pretty good ideas for automating your workflow, which gets you back to doing things you actually enjoy.

Tip #10 – Find a trusted partner

Now as a consulting firm, I know this sounds very self-serving, but hear me out. As I mentioned earlier, we have helped hundred of organizations that have struggled with these type of projects. Many of them did not seek or did not find a trusted partner. Some had no partner helping and some had bad partners, so I know it sounds like it’s a crapshoot. But do your homework and find that trusted advisor who is both a competent and cultural match. But here’s the catch – and maybe why I put this as #10 – A partner who is a match in every way will only take you so far. I wish I could say that C5 Insight could guarantee your success, but we can’t. We can certainly help, but ultimately it comes down to your organization’s commitment and willingness to “put in the time” to do something great.

I hope you find these tips to be helpful within your organization, and if you’d like to know more about any specific items such as developing personas, automating processes, or developing an impactful training plan, feel free to shoot us an email. We’d love to hear from you.