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Setting a Baseline for Your Digital Modernization

Your organization has begun digital modernization. You have developed your roadmap and strategic plan for the initiative. You’ve rallied buy-in and support from senior leadership. Maybe you have even begun to identify which applications or infrastructure you want to prioritize for modernizing first. We know how exciting it is to dive right into the project, but you will want to make sure you take one more important step before getting started: setting a baseline for your digital modernization.

The benefits of a digital baseline

In a digital modernization project, we refer to a baseline as the current state of your current digital ecosystem before you’ve undertaken any steps toward modernization. Setting a baseline is the process of analyzing your digital ecosystem—and its data—to strategically determine what metrics you will use to evaluate it and how it is currently performing in those metrics. Your baseline serves as a reference point that you can use to assess your digital modernization efforts’ progress and impact objectively. 

There are several benefits you will get from setting a baseline for your digital modernization project. 

  1. Evaluating Outcomes & Impact: Comparing performance in key metrics from before and after the modernization project will allow you to report on the outcomes of the project objectively. When you evaluate outcomes and impact, you will identify sticky areas where the investment in modernization didn’t get the expected results and may need additional work. On the opposite side, it also highlights where you were successful, which you can use to make a case for further digital modernization investment. 
  2. Measuring Progress: When you have set a baseline, you can measure how far you are between it and the end goals for modernization. This helps you see how far along you are in the project. Tracking progress is useful for evaluating performance against the project’s initial budget, scope, and timeline. It will help you determine if you need to make any course corrections. 
  3. Level Setting: A crucial part of setting a baseline is determining exactly what data and metrics are essential for evaluating your digital ecosystem. A digital modernization should always be in service to advance organizational goals and solve problems for people across the organization. Going through the process of figuring these out can build alignment among stakeholders on what those goals and issues are. 
  4. Reducing Bias: When you set a baseline, you select the metrics for success at the start of the project. It is hard to avoid the subconscious pitfall of picking the metrics that show the most improvement when evaluating how successful your digital modernization efforts have been. By setting a baseline, you can reduce bias by ensuring performance is objectively measured in the key areas you determined were necessary for advancing your organization’s goals.

How to set a baseline

We always recommend the first step in establishing a baseline is to map your current ecosystem. Take inventory of what systems, tools, and processes your organization is using. Identify who uses each system and their processes for doing so. What data or insights do you have from each? How much are you spending on licensing, fees, and other costs? For a more detailed overview of how to map your digital ecosystem, check out this post

Next, audit your digital ecosystem. How well are the systems working? What are the goals for each piece of your digital ecosystem and how well are the systems you are currently using to accomplish those goals? We recommend looking at systems and taking some time to meet with and discuss them with the members of your team that use them regularly. What are the inefficiencies or pain points regular users run into? What modernization improvements would provide the most impact?

Finally, and most importantly, is to develop the baseline. Setting a baseline can be the most challenging part of the process. It can help to first start by reviewing the vision, goals, and priorities for your organization as a whole and thinking about how your digital ecosystem enables you to achieve them. Evaluate the most significant challenges or frequent pain points with the current state of your ecosystem. Select a manageable number of metrics that capture performance in furthering your organization’s goals and solve challenges the people in your organization face. When you’ve decided on the metrics to include in the baseline, confirm that you do have accessible, reliable data for each. Digital modernization is an ongoing process, but now that you know the benefits of a digital baseline and how to set it up, you are setting your organization up for long-term success.

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