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Making Meaningful Progress toward Digital Transformation

Digital transformation is typically a marathon, not a 100-yard dash. It requires looking at every aspect of how your organization delivers services to and communicates with key constituents, manages work and information internally, monitors audience needs and behaviors, and operates your current ecosystem of digital products. Where do you start to make meaningful progress toward digital transformation?

Not everyone has the time, resources, or know how to conduct a full-scale digital transformation. If you can’t embark upon a large digital project at the moment, you should consider taking a lean approach. In our recent webinar, we discussed how to use lean management principles and agile methodologies to help your organization quickly apply a digital solution that helps you continue to improve the delivery of your mission. 

How to stay lean

Lean management is an approach that supports the concept of continuous improvement, which is great for organizations who want to see change, but don’t have time to do it all at once. Lean principles will help you systematically achieve small, incremental changes in processes to improve efficiency and quality. Here are the five simple steps, or pillars, of lean digital transformation.

Define the problem.

First thing’s first: what are you trying to solve through digital transformation? The answer to this question should be rooted in your organization’s mission and Theory of Change and informed by how your digital systems support that goal. Perhaps you are looking to increase your donations or improve brand awareness. What are all the ways in which your digital ecosystem helps you achieve these organizational goals?

Figure out the value.

What value is each of your digital systems providing in reaching your organizational goals? While this could be a dollar figure, the value could also mean the time your digital tools are saving you, insights they are giving you about your audiences, or other meaningful metrics relevant to your work. By assigning a value to each of your digital systems, you will be able to have a better understanding of where to focus your time.

Prioritize and make a plan.

Based on the value and the resources you have available, what are the most important pieces of your digital transformation to tackle first, and which can wait for three, six, nine, or 12 months? Breaking your work into a prioritized roadmap will give you a clear vision for how to achieve digital transformation over time through a lean-approach.

Measure progress.

For each of the prioritized tasks on your list, how are you going to measure whether you were successful or not? These metrics should directly measure whether or not you have achieved the goals associated with each of the platforms you have in place. This will help you stay lean because you can learn quickly about what works and doesn’t work so that you can improve the process for the next chunk of work on your roadmap.

Iterate and improve.

How will you use what you learned in the last phase of your digital transformation roadmap to apply to the next phase? Iteration will allow you to make small changes to the process you have used to apply to your tools. Have a short meeting after each task on your roadmap to determine what went well, what could have been better, and what you want to do differently next time.

What to look out for

You will be even more effective with lean management if you’re aware of some of the red flags that might stop you from making progress. Here are a few things to look out for when creating your teams, prioritizing tasks, and tackling your digital transformation roadmap.

Too big or too siloed teams.

Lean Protip: Try to keep your teams smaller with only one representative from each relevant team.

Making quick progress means keeping your teams … lean! Too many decision-makers can overload the process and make it hard to move through tasks. Try not to group departments within these teams or fracture decision-making as that will also slow down the process.

Everything is priority number one.

Lean Protip: Use goals, time, and budget to truly prioritize tasks.

In lean management, you must choose what to tackle first. Don’t be afraid to prioritize the work with a team based on time, budget, and value. Make sure that everyone on the digital transformation team knows why you have collectively decided to prioritize one item over another and that you will be able to apply lessons learned from that work to more effectively and efficiently work on other priorities.

One entity dominates decision-making.

Lean Protip: Make sure you have equal representation on your digital transformation team.

When one team or department is louder, it is hard to ignore their requests to prioritize their digital needs. However, this is all about messaging. Perhaps your primary need is to ensure fundraising and your current platform is simply not cutting it. In cases like these, root digital transformation decisions in organizational goals and the value they bring to the overall work. This will help other teams feel less trampled on when you are trying to make decisions about what’s next.

Key metrics are not being captured.

Lean Protip: Always build in metrics from the start and focus on ensuring that your systems can capture what you need to measure progress.

Without insight into how you are performing, it is very difficult to know where to go next. During your planning phase, make sure that you are able to collect the metrics you need to measure progress before starting the work or making a change. If you don’t have the key metrics you need to make a decision about what to prioritize next, move that item down the list, ensure you can collect data, and revisit it again once you have the right information.

No plan to reconvene and reassess.

Lean Protip: At the end of each meeting, make sure there’s another one on the calendar. Spend time assessing what works and what doesn’t.

Lean management relies on constant iteration and a quick review of what has worked and what hasn’t. Without regular meetings, your work may lose speed or fall off of people’s radar. Your meetings don’t have to be long! You can do weekly 15-minute or Slack check-ins where each person notes progress, blockers, and what’s next.

Learn more about Lean principles

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