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We've previously discussed how digital transformation is essential to successfully navigating and thriving amid the business challenges and disruptions of the post-pandemic era.

It's not just about making sure you keep up with the digital Joneses so you don't fall behind your competitors — it's about being positioned to take full advantage of the opportunities that are just around the corner, and achieve the kind of growth that requires a fully modern and centralized set of tools.

But as with so many other things in life and business, whether and how much your digital transformation efforts pay off depends on the execution. You need proper planning and understanding in place from the outset to make sure you're ready for what's ahead. Arriving at the best possible outcome demands well-thought-out goals and a well-planned process.

In fact, there are three crucial areas of planning and management that can make or break your digital transformation efforts:

  • Change Management Plan
  • User Adoption (and Human Engineering)
  • Vision and Roadmap

Let's look at them each in turn.

Change Management: A Smarter Process Enables a Better Outcome

Having an effective change management plan in place is sine qua non — in fact, one of the main reasons that digital transformation plans fail is a lack of prioritizing change management and training.

Here's a basic checklist for a holistic change-management approach (which is discussed in more detail here):

Plan. Establish and clarify the reasons for the change and the way forward. The goal is to develop a tailored plan for the overall business as well as its people and align the intentions of your leadership team. Getting the various stakeholders synchronized and on board should be a central goal this planning; see the section below on user adoption for more on this.

Engage. Regular, ongoing communication is the key to building awareness, overcoming resistance to change and boosting eventual adoption among your teams. Talk with key stakeholders and process owners to understand their needs and perspectives, raise awareness and encourage buy-in.

Create your roadmap and vision (discussed in more detail below). Here you'll be thinking about the change journey for each impacted stakeholder group, visualizing their ideal destination — identifying ways to help them avoid or surmount any potential hurdles they may face, and also how to keep them engaged in the process. Training is critical in this phase; end-user training should include classes and practical sessions that lead up to and go beyond implementation.


Execute. When it's time to set the plan in motion, you'll:


  • build out the change networks with the people who are leading the change effort;
  • execute the change journeys, which involve sharing what a team member (based on their role) may do now and what they can expect to do in the future for any given task;
  • measure progress using the metrics for success you established at the beginning of the implementation; and
  • connect the business and delivery teams through a central control team that organizes workflow and enables teams to communicate.

Assess. From the beginning of the process you should be prepared to keep a close eye on progress, change and impact. But once you've reached the execution state, you'll want to take a deeper look to analyze how the change is impacting your business and its operations. This is a great time to collaborate with and listen to stakeholders. You may find it useful to hold workshops where you can solicit feedback and identify any gaps.

User Adoption: Success Depends on Participation

The most important way you can tell if digital transformation is working is if end-users have embraced the tools they've been given and are using them to solve problems and boost their efficiency — rather than clinging to old ways of doing things just because they're familiar.

Put simply: Has Fred in receiving moved away from pen and paper, and started actually using the handheld scanner to move things into the warehouse? If the scanner is in a drawer because Fred thinks it will slow him down instead of solve problems for him and help him get his work done with less time and effort, you're not moving forward.

That leads us to the single most essential tool for encouraging adoption: Communication. If team members at every level of the organization don't understand how digital transformation will empower them and make their lives better, they won't embrace it and they won't participate.

By contrast, if you establish a process for regularly communicating with your teams — answering questions and concerns, helping users discover the benefits of the new technology, and getting them excited and on board — adoption and employee satisfaction will increase.

It's also important to realize that communication doesn't just mean talking: It means listening and really hearing what your team members have to say, because that's the only way you'll understand their pain points well enough to find and demonstrate all the ways that digital transformation can address those needs.

The last thing you want is employees dutifully smiling and nodding their way through a meeting where they were talked at instead of listened to — because then you've lost the opportunity to truly enlist them for what's ahead.

This is all part of what might be called human engineering — recognizing that the human beings who make up your organization are as pivotal to success as the technology they'll be working with. And therefore they need as much attention, focus and respect as your systems and equipment do. All of that needs to be built into the process from the very beginning.

Vision and Roadmap: Plan Your Route Before You Set Out9

As Yogi Berra once observed, "If you don't know where you're going, you'll end up someplace else." That's why it's so critical not to skip this step.

The process should start with an analysis to assess the current situation and opportunities, leading to the creation of a Digital Transformation Vision and Roadmap for building a high-performing digital enterprise.

In essence, the roadmap is a tactical guide for the execution of digital innovation that includes a timeline.

Here's what the phases of the roadmap development process should look like, with questions that should be asked at each stage:

Phase 1: Gathering Information

  • Which process are in use?
  • Which entities (stakeholders) perform these processes?
  • Roles and responsibilities?

Phase 2: Process impact evaluation

  • Resources needed for the execution of the process (time, people, machinery, money etc.) (scale of 1-10)
  • Process frequency (daily, weekly, monthly etc.)
  • How many people are involved (amount)
  • Process digitalization level (% of manual work)
  • Which software or digital tool is used to support process (name)
  • Evaluated Impact of the process to the value chain (scale 1-5)

Phase 3: Analysis

  • Depending on process hierarchy for each process or process category, a Dataflow diagram is constructed
  • During the analysis, the currently used KPIs are described
  • Findings (problems and challenges as well their causes) are listed and classified (using Ishikawa cause-effect analysis methodology)
  • During the analysis, the statistical data is collected to characterize the priority of defined problems
  • Each problem is attributed to its cost (if such data is available by KPIs) to identify possible losses (RONI) or to evaluate future business value (ROI)

Phase 4: Preparation of Vision & Roadmap

  • For each problem or its cause, a possible solution is proposed (high-level digital initiative)
  • Each initiative includes a description of expected benefits and prospective future business value from its realization (including ROI calculation, if possible)
  • Accepted initiatives are redesigned into improvement projects and transferred into the Roadmap timeline
  • Design a monitoring process (KPIs to monitoring the improvement projects progress and impact to the change)
  • Assign the responsibility for process execution

Phase 5: Delivering Outputs

  • Definition of a Digital Transformation Vision
  • A step-by-step Roadmap visualization (action plan)
  • Preparing an analysis report
  • Preparing a presentation

The bigger and more complex your business, the more complex these conversations and planning initiatives will be. But possibly the biggest X factor here is leadership. There's no substitute for having a management team who understand and visualize not just the rewards of digital transformation, but the importance of having a well-managed and well-considered process for getting there.

Want to learn more about how Columbus can help your company plan and execute a successful strategy for digital transformation? Get in touch with us today.

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