I recently completed a digital transformation (DT) project for a Marketing and Sales (M&S) team. The team sought to develop a sales enablement solution that would better equip customers with product and sales information. The rationale — improving the customer’s buying experience by providing useful, applicable information along the customer journey would increase the likelihood of a revenue event.
Current digital properties provided limited useful information to assist prospective customers in their product selection and purchase. This increased customer frustrations, lengthened sales cycles, and adversely affected sales opportunities. And the M&S team sought to resolve this.
The project team leading this effort appeared to be doing all the right things on the surface. The team
- completed their due diligence and had a clear understanding of business requirements.
- selected a premiere sales enablement tool.
- gave the project a cute, recognizable name.
- garnered senior management support and global team involvement.
- conducted regular meetings communicating progress and project deliverable status.
Yet, there was extraordinarily little progress made and the project was extremely far behind schedule (6 months+). As a result, executive management considered the project a failure and looked to pull the plug quickly and write it off as a loss. [Enter scene]
“This is my number 1 priority,” exclaimed the project’s Executive Sponsor during my first week. “And I need you to get this project on track.” I quickly discovered that project resources were in disarray and that there was no clear plan in place. And to top it off, the project lead resigned. Yet, I did not freak out. Interestingly, chaos and disarray appeal to me. If I were an artist, unlike oils and watercolors, this would be my medium of choice. Ok, back to the story.
Step 1: Introduce Yourself
A few years ago, I moved to Chile to take on a role as head of Digital IT for an airline. The airline was looking to reengineer its digital solutions (web, mobile) to improve its efforts engaging customers, transacting services, and reducing costs. It was the airline’s rationale, like their US airline counterparts, that great digital customer experiences positively impacted customers leading to more revenue opportunities.
Of course, this opportunity would not be complete without its own element of chaos. Concurrent to my efforts, the airline was also undergoing a merger with another airline and migrating their development teams to Agile. And oh, this native English speaker (having only a high school Spanish background) had to be conversant in Spanish and Portuguese to be able to effectively communicate with the team of 275 South Americans primarily from Chile…great.
So, I solicited advice on how to get started. The first piece of advice I received from the consulting team I was working with was, “you have to introduce yourself. No one knows who you are and what you are all about.” And I did just that.
The introduction set me up well with my team. We got to know each other on a personal level. We clarified goals and expectations on the project in the process and addressed many of their concerns. I am not going to say everyone received it warmly. But the introduction set a positive first step for our working relationship. We got off to an exceptionally good start and made considerable gains and I learned a lot, too. (For example, I learned never to schedule a meeting late in the afternoon on the same day as a national soccer (futbol) match.)
In Step 1 of the EDTOM, the project lead should introduce themselves to the team. The goal of the introduction is to let the team get to know the project lead on a personal level. Project leads don’t have to develop a dating app profile, but it is important that the team get to know who their project lead is, their background, work style, expectations, and the keys to successfully work.
This simple step is significant to the long-term success of the project team. And yes, one can turn the camera on for a video call, but an in-person meeting is preferred and strongly encouraged
Step 2: Develop Your Team’s Operating Model
Going back to the Sales Enablement project mentioned earlier, when I inherited the team, the project was in disarray — work activities and deliverables were disorganized. There was minimal alignment on project goals and activities. Team members were always “busy” but making minimal progress against milestones. And in several cases, there was duplication of efforts. Lastly, other critical work items were not getting addressed. We were all over the place.
I sat back over the weekend and reflected as to what needed to be done. And I came to the realization that we needed an operating model detailing how our team would organize and complete our work.
The following week, the team and I established our operating model. We refined and aligned on the problem to be addressed, defined the required work activities, distributed the work, and established how we would work and operate. Yes, there was initial friction, but once we got past that, we executed and moved quickly and successfully.
In Step 2 of the EDTOM, develop the team’s operating model. The operating model consists of seven key actions:
1. Define the Problem
Define the problem to be addressed/resolved as specifically and as clearly as possible. When defining the problem, be sure to:
- detail why it is a problem.
- identify which group of stakeholders this problem affects the most (the group affected the most, will care the most about the problem’s resolution, and will likely become your biggest advocates).
- capture how much the problem costs (e.g., time, money, customer satisfaction).
- establish your success criteria. (This will become your guideposts to track and measure your progress).
- determine if the problem is worth solving (costs vs. benefits).
- Take the time (as long as it takes) to identify and align around the problem to be solved and to validate if the problem is worth solving. This will minimize confusion, improve alignment with key stakeholders, and save money and time down the road.
2. Specify the Goals and Measures of Success
Specify and agree with team members and stakeholders on the project goals and how success will be measured. Set clear expectations and agree on specific, measurable, and outcome-based goals. Goals should be aimed at solving the problems identified above with definitive measures of success.
3. Determine What Will Not Change
One fundamental thing most people overlook and fail to communicate is what is NOT going to change. Contrary to widespread belief, people do not fear change…they fear loss. To be most effective, reassure key stakeholders/partners of those things that must be preserved and communicate (and align on) those things that must change.
4. Establish the Project Team Code
Establish the team’s code — the set of principles that every team member follows. The team’s code ensures alignment by establishing shared guidelines and expectations in addressing the identified problem (think “The Force” in Star Wars).
Furthermore, the team code code acts as the invisible supervisor in the room (when no one is around), appropriately guiding the team as they complete their work.
5. Document Critical Processes and High-level Activities
Capture and document critical processes and high-level activities that will directly impacting the project team in each phase. And detail the associated tasks as much as required and beneficial.
6. Define Roles and Responsibilities
Define each team member’s roles and responsibilities by implementing a RACI (responsible, accountable, contributor, informed) model. The RACI model clarifies responsibilities and ensures clear accountability of critical processes and activities.
7. Prepare a Communication Plan
Lastly, define the communication plan detailing a) who needs to be communicated with; b) the manner (e.g., email, in-person); and c) the frequency (e.g., daily, weekly, monthly). Also, define the circumstances (e.g., change request, issue) in which stakeholders on the communication plan should be informed. Finally, ensure the communication plan covers what messages are to be transmitted and how they might be tailored for each set of stakeholders.
A little piece of advice — be sure to stick with the communication plan throughout your project. A simple communication can and will save hours/days of extra effort and non-value-added work. Trust me.
Step 3: Define Your Work Plan — Processes and Critical Activities
In step 3 of the EDTOM, plan how the project team will complete their work. To do so, list the project team’s key work items (processes/activities), workflow, decision-making, and prepare a work plan.
Document the work items (processes and high-level activities) to be completed during each phase. The key here is to write down what needs to get done. Please do not get too detailed about key tasks and who is responsible for them.
Detail the workflow required to complete each work item. Within the workflow, look to capture the following details:
- Owner/Responsible: The individual who owns or is responsible for completing the specific work item. Try only to include one name to improve accountability and minimize confusion.
- Dependencies: The required critical items and preconditions to complete your work item successfully.
- Input(s): The critical inputs (e.g., data, resources) to start on your work item.
- Output(s): The expected outcomes for successfully completing your workflow.
- Cost: Assess a given work item’s worth (time, money, value) to complete.
- Priority: Determine the criticality of each work item (Critical = Must Have to Low = Nice-to-Have). This criticality will help you to organize your work efforts.
- Tracking: The statuses for tracking the phases of your work (e.g., To Do, In-Progress, Completed)
It is not critical to capture every detail for each work item. But just enough detail to ensure that project team members understand and complete the work.
Document how the team will make decisions. When done properly, this will resolve 80% of the common time pitfalls. In detailing decision-making requirements, document the following:
- Decision Maker: Who makes what decisions.
- Decision Point: Disagreement is to be expected. But you cannot allow your disagreements to impede your progress. Instead, identify when you are stuck, how to resolve and move forward.
- Document: For those critical decisions, establish a place where you can capture these decisions for future reference. Capture the decision made, what it was about, why, who made the decision, and other options that were rejected. I strongly encourage you to capture your decisions in your project repository.
Develop a work plan ordering and sequencing work items in a clear and cohesive plan of action.
One critical reminder is not to spend excessive time perfecting the plan but use it as a guide to monitor and track your activity and progress… “An hour of planning can save you 10 hours of doing.”
After Dinner Mints
As is our custom, enclosed are a few after-dinner mint selections to complement your article (dining) experience:
Traction: Traction provides a practical system for evaluating and running your business. I continue to find myself going back and rereading this book. It is resourceful and provides extremely useful, downloadable templates.
Atomic Habits: Atomic Habits offers a useful, practical framework to make good habits inevitable and bad habits impossible. As you apply the EDTOM, look to establish and repeat desired behaviors to improve your long-term effectiveness.
Lean Startup: As you think of your Digital Transformation initiative, it is also helpful to think of your efforts as you are launching a startup (in a sense) and creating something new under conditions of extreme uncertainty.
Increasingly, Digital Transformation (DT) is an imperative for today’s organizations seeking to gain a competitive advantage and/or improve business efficiencies by employing digital solutions. Yet, a great deal of the success of DT efforts does not reside with technology but starts and ends with clearly defined project objectives roles, and responsibilities, success metrics, and aligned team members.
The Eastan Digital Transformation Operating Model (EDTOM) provides a 6-step framework to streamline your digital transformation efforts — maximizing your success and minimizing your missteps. In Part I, we discussed Steps 1–3:
1. Complete Introductions: Ensure the project lead introduces themselves to the team making them aware of who they are, their imperatives, project goals, and how to work with them.
2. Develop The Team’s Operating Model: Define your team’s operating model including the problem(s) to be addressed; the goals and measure of success for your efforts; team principles; critical processes and high-level activities’ roles and responsibilities; and communication plan.
3. Define The Work Plan: Detail how your project teams will complete their work — key processes/activities, workflow, decision-making, and workplan.
Again, this is not a recipe, or a 1-size fits all model. Modify the steps in the model as appropriate and apply judiciously. The key is to have a plan and be programmatic in its implementation and execution.
We will discuss Steps 4–6 in our next article — 6 Steps to Accelerate Your Digital Transformation — Part II.