Digital Transformation Part 2: Succeed from the start

Digital transformation - succeed from the start

In the first part of this series of posts, I looked at the context in which digital transformation is happening. In Part 2, we’re going to focus on the best practices that will help you succeed from the start.

Executive support is critical but not enough

There is no question that having buy-in from the top is a must, but in addition, the whole organization should be engaged in the journey.

To initiate a successful transformation, decision-makers need to believe in the potential value of analytics and operational intelligence. However, a frequent challenge to this support is the tendency of leaders to demand a proven Return on Investment before being willing to commit budget to a new and speculative program. Often the economic questions that leaders ask cannot be directly answered at the onset. I’ve noticed that when this approach of “proof before investment” is pursued, it can easily become a showstopper – killing the potential opportunity.

Visionary leaders can instead support the beginning groundwork by helping to tear down internal barriers and supporting the program’s vision. By promoting transformation as a positive change for all, executives can attract bottom-up acceptance throughout the organization – and this is the key to success: transformation works best when all levels of the organization are engaged.

Instead of only pushing a vision down, top leaders will identify champions and advocates who can help them generate momentum through cross-functional teams. These teams can be established and with the visible support of the executive, can be given a clear mandate to get things done and sufficient resources to enable the program. Their responsibilities within the transformation program can form a part of their yearly KPI’s, formalizing their contributions in a transparent way.

Start small, celebrate quickly and scale fast

From a strategy standpoint, starting small and celebrating fast with an eye to scale quickly is the best formula to successfully implement change.

This approach offers multiple benefits, such as:

  • A smaller first scope makes starting the project easier to initiate
  • A quick success is encouraging; it attracts momentum and gets more people on board
  • An early proof of achievement helps overcome speculation about value and attracts investment
  • The most successful parts of the initial project can be copied to all subsequent scopes
  • Learnings from the initial project can be quickly applied in future to optimize larger scale success.

The single greatest advantage of this approach is the flywheel effect, and this is the key to scaling fast.

When a digital transformation program is first described, it can be difficult for stakeholders to imagine it in practice, like being shown a huge static wheel and told that it could be set in motion. However, when that wheel starts to move – even a little – you can imagine it spinning faster, and it becomes easier to believe the next step is possible. Likewise, the credibility quick success generates makes every subsequent step (such as scaling out to multiple plants) much easier to achieve.

What comes next?

A successful start to your transformation program is a great beginning – but it’s only a start. In the next post, I’m going to show you how to maintain momentum by failing forward, changing fast and managing change.

Join me for Part 3: Keys to continued success


More information?

Enabling digital transformation in the process industries

CEO Bert Baeck cuts through the hype around Industry 4.0 to show the practical considerations of using big data for industrial analytics. Discover the opportunities that disruptive technology offers the process industry, and how to get started. Learn how a self-service approach makes this change easy and achievable.