Going Digital: 6 questions to ask for success
As companies modernize and are increasingly going fully digital, they are also encountering challenges in their transformation. Every consulting company would make recommendations of a “Finance Transformation” or “Digitalization” with examples of how they delivered for their client. Your company may be undergoing one yourself. But the question that always seems to come up is this: “Why is it so hard?” or “Why didn’t the consultants tell me how difficult it would be?”
These six questions will map your Operating Principles and keep you on the road to success:
1. Does my company understand their data?
How the data is collected, why is it collected, when is it collected, and where is it collected? More importantly, what the collected data is used for? You’ll hear things such as collate your data or master your data, but if the most basic business process understanding is lacking, then your technical tools and technologies will fail to enable the business to succeed. Do we have the business process flows mapped out with what data is curated, and how is it maintained?
2. Does my company understand how they want to use the data in the future?
Will it be utilized to finetune forecasting? Minimize supply chain disruptions? Understanding my customers better? How does the data my company collects today help me get to that understanding? Ultimately, the goal of going digital is to be able to leverage all that data – to be able to deliver what our customers want when they want it with a minimum of fuss to our internal stakeholders. Since it’s a journey – there may be many milestones that measure your progress along the way – removing manual intervention, creating consistency of data, and simplifying the business process along the way. I always try to avoid measuring my progress against my past successes or failures because each journey is unique and different.
3. Does my company culture allow for experimentation, constant change, and a willingness to be wrong?
Going digital is a journey where the destination can transform your company, not just how you do business but interact with customers and stakeholders. There will be a lot of learnings along the way that challenge your existing business process. It may even show that what we’ve been doing in the past is wrong. A company and executive leadership culture that promotes learning, experimentation, innovation, and willingness to be in a state of constant change will be critical for success. Just as important is truly creating a safe space to speak up – feedback on processes and data is important to identify any blind spots in the strategy.
4. Do you have your financial budget finalized, or is it flexible enough to allow for adjustments along the way?
Is the focus on delivering at a fixed cost or learning to use the accumulated data effectively? I’ve failed when companies have a fixed dollar amount in mind to accomplish a vague high-level scope that a consultant sold them. I’ve also failed when the consultants have all the details, but the budget was too limiting, with the focus on a date and not a usable product.
5. Do I have enough allies to deliver this?
Data Champions across the company are needed for success – each process and workflow is important, and stewards of that understanding are critical to learning, maintaining, and delivering on your digital promise. Data Champions and Stewards will allocate their efforts to streamlining your data – focused not just on the collection of it but ensuring it is used in the manner you defined in your operating principles.
6. Is my company trying to do too much all at once?
Too often, technical debt accumulation creates a web of interdependencies. Often times, I find myself working to consolidate applications to be able to standardize the master data while training teams about data stewardship. At other times, we’re using the move to digital as the answer for our transformation to Agile and to be able to manage our costs more. Companies that haven’t spent on technology consistently and don’t have a mature road map will often find that they have to spend much more before the move to digital can begin.
At the end of the day, change is hard. Transformations are even harder. It’s why there are thousands of unused treadmills and exercise bikes sitting in a corner gathering dust. It’s why we hire personal trainers – to help challenge us when we are tired, feel defeated, and can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.
It requires not just a single champion or leader but an entire culture of individuals with the will to make the change grow into a transformation. It starts with the tenured leader challenging their team to find a better way to do things. It continues with the team members building the demand for change into a new way of working.
A company’s digital transformation is hard but not impossible. These questions will help you start on the right foot during your transformation journey.