The Human Side of Digital Transformation: 7 Recommendations and 3 Pitfalls (Part 2)
Cloud Foundry sponsored this post.
The following is the second in a series of posts from The Cloud Foundry Foundation on digital transformation, in preparation for the upcoming Cloud Foundry Summit in Basel, Switzerland.
We made the case that digital is just as much about people as it is about technology. In our previous post “The Human Side of Digital Transformation,” we started with three recommendations: setting clear objectives, saying “yes” only if the project will generate revenue and acquiring the right kinds of talent.
In this post, we take up where we left off, with more guidelines to get digital right — and three pitfalls to avoid.
4. Give Teams the Tools to Communicate
As the story goes, three blindfolded people asked what they’re touching to give three different answers: a snake, a tree or a wall. Only by communicating do they realize they’re stationed at different parts of the same elephant.
The same disconnect can occur when developers, security and operations teams work in isolation. Make sure they all know and agree with the common goal. Express it from your user’s point of view. Keep focusing on the goal by building MVPs and continuously measuring their value to your user.
5. Design the Organizational Structure to Encourage Innovation
Form two teams. Assign one team to evaluate emerging technologies by conducting small-scale experiments. This team’s job is to quickly assess whether the technology has the potential to distinguish your product or service. Expect a high rate of failure. That’s okay; every failure nudges you closer to the right path. Create another team to scale the innovations you identify as having promise. This team’s job is to iterate and refine.
Think of it like this: the first team grows seedlings in a controlled environment while the second team transplants them to the field where they can grow and multiply.
6. Reduce Waste and Work in Progress
Digital aims to accelerate product release cycles from nine to 18 months to just one to three. How? By formulating a hypothesis and conducting small-scale experiments to build an MVP. After two weeks you should know whether continuing the experiment makes sense.
This change won’t happen overnight. Think about how to bring different parts of the organization together to move quickly. What do people need to learn to get to MVP? What parts of your organization need to change?
Don’t try to boil the ocean. Instead, find opportunities for incremental improvements. Change the culture to become more accepting of small, frequent change. Put a time limit on the decision to pivot or persevere. Before you know it, you’ll be delivering software at a higher velocity and delighting your users.
7. Foster a Learning Culture
The value you get from digital hinges on how good you get at deciding whether to pivot or persevere with a product. Learn from every success — and every failure. If you remember just one thing, make it this: Don’t penalize teams for failure. A team that’s unafraid to pivot if the product doesn’t do what users want will deliver the right product more quickly. Make failure less fearsome by keeping experiments small and executing often.
Avoid These Pitfalls
Just as important as what to is what not to do. Some mistakes we’ve seen:
- Chasing shiny new things: An example is researching blockchain when there’s no business case. Assigning resources to projects with dubious business value can starve worthy projects.
- Building what you can buy: Take a hard look at where you’re investing development time and money. If it’s remodeling the front-end for your time-card application, or provisioning web servers, think again. Be ruthless about investing only in projects that will give you a competitive advantage.
- Blindly following the same path as another company just because it worked for them: If you’re wandering in the desert, it’s tempting to follow other wanderers who’ve made it out. That’s unwise. The organizations you follow might have different goals, resources or timelines. Before setting out on your digital journey, assess your starting point, strengths and weaknesses. Another road might lead you to a better destination or to the same destination, more quickly.
We’re Always Transforming, Never Transformed
Your digital journey won’t end on a certain day. Customer expectations and business objectives never freeze — and neither does the imperative to stay out ahead of them.
If you take just one thing away from these recommendations, make it this: cultivate a learning culture that doesn’t penalize people for failures. Embrace failure as a badge of honor for having experimented. Then fail fast and pivot quickly.
Feature image via Pixabay.