How to get out of the gate to make your digital vision reality across the organization
"Vision without Execution is Hallucination." I love this quote, made famous by Thomas Edison, because it underscores the struggle many companies face with their digital transformation journey.
One of the things that everyone has been talking about for several years now is “digital transformation,” and yet it seems there is so much still to do. Digital transformation is required to join the 21st century by underpinning business processes with technology to gain efficiencies and optimize resources. If we combine that with the goal of “moving to the Cloud” so that you can access your organization’s information and tools wherever you are and realize the benefits of having someone else managing the infrastructure, then you quickly begin to establish a vision that is quite a step-change in terms of how your organization conducts business.
And then… what begins as excitement for your new vision quickly turns into doubt as the thought of all of the things, technical and non-technical, that need to happen to turn your vision into reality makes you feel like you are trying to “boil the ocean.”
Getting rid of paper-based systems or implementing processes and tools, where none existed before, are objectives that are well-centered in the wheelhouse of many IT shops. The technical approaches and recipes are usually clear, and if you have access to a good team of resources a one-off effort to “digitally transform” a specific aspect of your work might not be overwhelming. However, your vision is going to need more than a “one-off” solution mindset. Your vision needs to manifest across your organization, and a roadmap isn’t always available.
In my experience, these are four keys that help us successfully launch our execution of deploying a solutions platform across an enterprise:
1. Identify “Champions” in the Organization
Finding others who can appreciate what you are proposing can help you develop the business case and help articulate the value it will bring. Be sure to speak with individuals at all levels, since the “benefits” of your vision are most likely a matter of perspective. The CEO might easily see cost savings or potential growth, whereas the engineer may appreciate the ability to gain insights on how things are running in real-time while off-site. The champions will be able to provide the necessary business context and advocate for the endeavor.
2. Establish Guidelines for Decision-making
An organization’s overall strategies and objectives typically lead to the development of necessary principles to guide how organizations invest in information technology efforts. These could be principles such as traditional “Buy vs. Build” or “Leading edge, not bleeding” for technology decisions. It’s always worth a bit of time on the front-end to help lay some ground rules.
3. Get Ready to Take a Road Trip
Simply put, describe your vision at the right level for your audience. Be able to describe some key drivers and benefits to build support for your vision, but also begin to formulate a bit of the roadmap based on the input and feedback you receive, which helps identify the obstacles, detours and destinations of your journey. More importantly, it helps motivate others to join you.
4. Identify a “Showcase” Solution
Lastly, find a “quick win” to help build momentum and be able to highlight and demonstrate the effectiveness of your vision – digital transformation – to solving real pain points in your organization. Avoid advocating a solution that is looking for a problem, though. As you're discussing issues and challenges with others, you’re bound to uncover potential opportunities to dive into. Find the one that others would be excited about, and one with a little “sizzle” that can pave the way for follow-up efforts. After getting a few efforts moving, “digital transformation” becomes less of a buzzword, and just a way of getting things done efficiently within an informed and empowered organization using reliable solutions. That’s where Microsoft 365 can come in.
For those organizations that have subscribed to Microsoft 365, they have already made an investment into a suite of products that can be used to push the digital transformation agenda forward, whether they know it or not. The capabilities for deploying flexible, yet structured, solutions to underpin existing work processes and information access is covered by products, such as Teams, SharePoint, and the Power Platform. These components can work independently or together to provide the typical “Lego bricks” of most apps and information solutions – presentation, data containers, and workflow. Most products are “no code” and “self-service” in design and a great way to mock things up. For example, if we consider the process for requesting a new hire within the company. This is often initiated by completing a Microsoft Word or Excel template. While this is a step in the right direction, in lieu of using a paper form, it still falls short of what I would consider "digitally transforming." However, if we ported that form to a PowerApp to capture the request information to SharePoint List, we could automate routing and approvals with PowerAutomate and give us the capability for reporting and analytics using PowerBI.
While the Power Platform aims to be “self-service,” this can still be a bit daunting unless you’ve enough experience with the tools. If you don’t have the skills or experience yourself, consider tag-teaming with someone who knows those tools well and is a maestro at orchestrating them into something appealing, and no doubt you can have something great to show in a short amount of time. I often recommend this because one of the other challenges is providing your “champions,” stakeholders, financial controllers with an idea of what your “vision” looks like.
Digital Transformation is not just about technology. It's important to have others supporting you and engaged throughout the journey. Whether you simply develop a proof of concept or maybe version 1.0 of the first piece of your vision, exploiting Microsoft 365 capabilities can accelerate digital transformation as your vision becomes reality.
Director, EIM Solutions, North America
Rick specializes in leading multi-project delivery of IT solutions by leveraging his ability to expertly establish strategic development platforms and design patterns, and to "get it right the first time." He has engineered critical solutions that are used globally to aid manufacturing and business management. Based on the delivery of more $50 million of projects in the last 10 years, Rick understands best practice for utilizing collaboration platforms, workflow engines, and data integration techniques. Rick has architected many software solutions using SharePoint and other Microsoft O365 products, leveraging Azure, and integrating these with other systems for global customers across a variety of industries.