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Aligning Digital Transformation with Organizational Strategy

Elisabeth Bradley

Vice President, Strategy, Forum One

Digital transformation is as much about culture change as it is about technology. It isn’t uncommon for an organization to set up a sophisticated email platform and hope for increased revenue and engagement numbers without considering the necessary changes in culture and workflows that are also needed.  To see a return on your investments in technology, you have to align digital transformation and organizational strategy.

Aligning Goals with Solutions 

Digital solutions should always be in service of advancing significant organizational goals AND solving problems for people across the organization.

Defining a vision, goals, and priorities or themes for your future-state digital presence is a great place to start. Even if your vision seems obvious to you, it might not to others in the organization.  The goal of this activity is to concisely articulate what you want to achieve so that everyone knows where the organization is going. Your vision should be direct and clear. Your proposed improvements should be mapped to organizational goals (not department goals) and metrics for an expected return of investment (or ROI), even if you can’t assign a dollar value. 

 The working group who makes decisions or recommendations should represent key departments whose priorities and constraints are well represented in the process. Get input from all departments through a survey or interviews and start planning for and communicating about change management early.

Achieving Buy-In Across the Organization

Buy-in is a crucial aspect of digital transformation. Your digital transformation plan is going to require resources of some sort (e.g., financial, staff time, etc.), and you need to start building support from the very beginning of the planning process. If you’re waiting until you have a budget defined, it’s too late. Here are a few  tips to get buy-in from your executive team:

  • Conduct 1:1 interviews early in the process to hear concerns, challenges, and potential opportunities you hadn’t considered. 
  • Schedule multiple review points and opportunities for input. 
  • Offer high-medium-low investment levels.
  • Account for staff time, even if it’s a rough estimate. 
  • Identify an executive sponsor for the work.

If you require buy-in from a board, identify a board member (or several, depending on your governance structure) to include in each phase of planning. Allow time for roll-out to the board when thinking through your timeline, even if they do not need to formally approve your plan. When presenting to the board, focus on the projected ROI the plan will yield for the organization. 

Following Through on Your Strategies

You can create the most innovative, brilliant digital transformation strategy, but it won’t be effective if you don’t have strong processes in place for follow-through. Your plan should include how you are going to execute the work and how you will achieve long-term culture change. Start by expanding the core project team into a digital working group, including a project manager and others that are responsible for the execution. Adopting Agile-style project management methodologies can help you stay on track while refining plans over time. Finally, integrate the digital strategy into everyone’s goals and make time to review the strategy and metrics quarterly.

Addressing Culture Change

Culture change is the key aspect of your digital transformation.  To tackle culture change, begin by identifying digital champions for peer-to-peer training, sharing successes early and often, and investing in training. Build-in feedback loops from staff to the digital working group and consider the PARC Framework (People, Architecture, Routines, and Culture) as a way to identify opportunities for influence. Culture creates routines; architecture and people feed and build culture.

If you are thinking about digital transformation, it is more than buying a new platform and implementing it throughout the organization. To be truly successful, your plan should include alignment across your organization, buy-in from staff, and the ability to execute upon and measure the success of the plan.

Written By

Elisabeth Bradley

Vice President, Strategy, Forum One

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