by Isaac Sacolick

5 goals your 2017 digital transformation program needs

Jan 18, 2017
CIOEmerging TechnologyIT Leadership

While digital transformation is a multiyear journey, CIO's have to show success incrementally. Here are five goals that will engage different parts of the organization on the transformation journey.

Chances are you’ve spent the better part of the last quarter working with your business colleagues on your digital strategy and 2017 business objectives. You’ve assembled the best research, gathered the appropriate stakeholders, reviewed the latest data, consulted with key customers and prioritized a list of 2017 initiatives. Each initiative is designed to improve the customer experience, grow revenue, become more efficient, enhance security, and invest in new digital capabilities.

To be truly transformative, a significant part of your strategy needs to consider how to involve a growing number of people in your organization to participate in the various programs and to evolve to a more digital mindset and operating practices. Since many of you are working on 2017 team and individual performance objectives, it’s probably a good time to define additional goals beyond your business objectives that will inspire more involvement and drive digital practices.

So let me share with you several goals worth considering.

1. Develop a citizen data science program

In a digital world, every department has the challenge of becoming more data driven and leveraging data in decision making. If you’re facing a data science skill shortage like many organizations, then consider developing a citizen data science program aimed to engage the more data-savvy individuals working in the marketing, finance, operations, and other departments that work with lots of data.

If you develop and lead this group, then they are less likely to go rogue on you and select their own data technologies or establish poor data management practices without your knowledge or endorsement.

They are also very likely to become the most important customers of your transformation initiatives. They will become the most “hands on” users of advanced technologies and can drive significant business results if you steer them to the analytics that are within their skill set to perform and have the greatest business potential.  

2. Define a backlog of agile process improvements

Many digital transformation programs will require an increase in application development and digital marketing programs either to develop products, improve customer experiences, or increase automation. If you haven’t developed an evolving governance practice that takes feedback from agile team retrospectives and drives process improvement then consider developing this as a 2017 goal.

What you focus on should depend on the feedback from stakeholders and from agile teams. Perhaps product owners want development estimates so that they can make better prioritization decisions and adjust their roadmaps? Maybe developers believe technical debt isn’t being addressed sufficiently and developing metrics is needed. There’s plenty of opportunity to evolve beyond basic practices.

This is a good place to leverage and demonstrate agile management practices. Consider developing a backlog of process improvements, assigning a “product owner” that drives their priorities, and assembling leads from multiple teams that will be charged to solution process improvements.  

3. Innovate with new technologies

Transformation agendas should include research, proof of concepts, and pilot projects that leverage new technologies. If technical innovation is already part of the business priorities, then consider how to track and report on the goals, accomplishments, pivots, and learnings (including failures) of these activities. If business priorities do not include technical R&D, then consider how to identify even small opportunities to do some experimentation.

Industries are going to be transformed by emerging technologies especially in artificial intelligence, blockchain, user experience (voice, virtual reality, augmented reality), IoT (wearables, sensors) and other so it’s important for many businesses to invest time to research technologies and validate business benefits.

What a technology innovation goal should look like will differ by organization, but it’s important for transformation programs to identify it as a specific objective. Organizations that leave it out may fall behind their peers. When it is called out, successful innovations can lead to new business programs and intelligence gathered can influence or pivot ongoing initiatives. 

4. Demonstrate the impact of automation

CIO have lots of new opportunity to move beyond bimodal-IT and cloud infrastructure by investing in a DevOps culture and automation. Some CIO will invest in continuous integration and deployment to improve speed to market. Other CIO will migrate more of their cloud environments to containers and software defined configurations. Still others will focus on improving test coverage or developing more end to end application monitoring.

But it’s really hard to do all of this work in one shot and most CIO will have to prioritize the type of automation to go after and what environments and applications to apply it. CIO can use a combination of data and best practices to decide where to focus their efforts, but to ensure ongoing investment in automation requires demonstrating the business impact. For those of you heavily investing in automation, this should be the year that you begin measuring and communicating results and business value.

5. Communicate results, small wins, and program changes

I left the most important goal last. Transformation is a multi-year journey and it’s very common to lose stakeholder interest in long running programs. This is especially the case when the end point needs to evolve with market conditions and when entire industries are transforming. Your roadmap may be a couple of years long now based on what’s known, but can easily extend as the digital strategy evolves.

Whatever your internal communication program is today, it likely needs to evolve. For stakeholders that have been involved with the transformation program from the early goings, you don’t want them to lose stamina or get frustrated through the speed bumps and pivots. However, you need a different internal communication approach to those that have just come onboard and have new roles, and a separate one for those you need to engage in future programs. Like all communication programs, the more you can tailor the message to the audience, the more likely you’ll have higher engagement.

Ask any marketer and they’ll tell you their communication strategy scales and evolves as they learn more, expand their audience, and experiment with different creative and modes of communication. Larger transformation programs need this sophistication and smaller ones still have to optimize their communication processes.

Communicating Goals

Once you have the business objectives and these additional goals defined, think through how you will communicate it to your team and how you can make them smart objectives in performance plans.