How can a business better define and communicate the context of digital programs within their organisation?

On the surface of it, digital programs are essentially no different from any typical program undertaken by most organisations and while the fundamentals of program and project management certainly hold true, there’s always a “but”.

That “but” typically comes from the struggle many digital transformation programs have in effectively positioning themselves as to what exactly the digital operating model is, and how it integrates within the broader context of an organisation.

The challenge with poor – or in many cases a lack of – positioning and definition of digital transformation programs is that it can lead to unnecessary tension between business stakeholders which is more acute in times of crisis. If the impact of COVID-19 has taught us nothing else, it’s that change managed well can deliver incredibly good outcomes for business. Managed poorly, the results can be poor adoption or worse – a failing project.

So how can you mitigate this tension and deliver a well-positioned digital program? We’ve outlined four steps to set you up digital programs for success.

Step One: Define the context

Digital as a business term has become an all-encompassing descriptor for a range of business needs that can include:

  • The creating of a digital business unit offering products and services
  • The Internet
  • Cloud-based service delivery and SAAS
  • Digital automation of business processes
  • Customer interaction and engagement via online marketing or social media
  • Mobile applications for tablets and smartphones
  • Data, predictive analytics, online security, and other data-driven initiatives

When we reference ‘digital’ without being clear about what type of digital, it’s easy to see how it can be misinterpreted and misunderstood. Avoiding the tension that comes with having differing definitions of digital can be achieved by ensuring there’s a clear definition and clear communication around what digital is in the context of the program and the business.

To help organisations with this conversation, we distil Digital into three key categories:

  • Providing new products and services to customers
  • Enhancing existing products and services with digital delivery
  • Process improvement, be it re-engineering, replacing and integrating digital functionality into the mix

Step Two: Define the Operating Model i.e., Business Integration

Digital programs often struggle with gaining clarity and agreement around the business ownership model, particularly when new digital products and services are being developed.

For example, traditionally IT has been the owner of all things IT and as such digital programs would naturally fit there. However, when technology is the business, the lines of demarcation become blurred.

A good example is to look at is publishing.

Traditional print business models are well established with clearly defined processes and owners for editorial, pre-press, advertising, publishing, and distribution. As the online and digital distribution of content has become an ever-increasing norm, the traditional norms of IT supplying and supporting underlying publishing systems and infrastructure to support business processes have had to shift.

Where should ownership lie? Some guiding principles that can help to determine ownership and accountability of print vs digital products or services might include:

  • IT defines the standards and technologies that are acceptable for the organisation to ensure it can be supported and properly integrated into the enterprise environment.
  • IT continues to support the environment including networks, services, security, storage, devices and desktops, internet etc (even when via the cloud)
  • The business unit then selects the digital products it will use within the constraints mentioned above, then provide functional support for those products.

When existing processes are simply enhanced by digital, decisions around its support and delivery should be agreed on a case-by-case basis.

Step 3: Defining Roles and Responsibilities

Digital business may have several functions which in the past have naturally sat in the IT domain, for example:

  • Product Developers
  • Product Architects
  • Digital Producers

Care needs to be taken to clearly identify these roles and agree on accountabilities and responsibilities and how they interact with IT and other business owners. Where end-to-end business processes cut across manual and digital boundaries, clear definition of ownership, accountability, and responsibility for each step in the process is paramount.

Step 4: Defining and Communicating the Delivery Approach

As many digital initiatives naturally lend themselves to agile and innovation style delivery approaches, we strongly encourage ensuring the delivery approach is well articulated, fit-for-purpose and that stakeholder expectations are actively managed.

However, for a business more familiar with waterfall or iterative styles of delivery, stakeholders often struggle to adapt to agile ways of working. This is particularly true with understanding how projects are funded, project-managed, and how benefits are realised.

Minimising stakeholder concerns comes down to properly defining, creating, and staying on message about the project, ensuring proper governance is in place, and making sure that funding and procurement processes are appropriate to the method of delivery. It is also about being aware of and understanding how to communicate change impacts clearly.

Leverage experience and knowledge

Digital programs are really not any different from any other program and should be set up for success with appropriate governance, delivery methodology and project management.

The key to maximising the chances for success are simple: clearly define and communicate context of the program within the organisation; ensure the operating model supports the program during and post-delivery; have clearly defined roles and responsibilities; and focus on communicating the ownership and integration of end-to-end businesses impacted by the program.

As project specialists, we develop fit-for-purpose project management and delivery.  Contact us here to find out more about how we work with your teams or call 02 9098 6300.

We believe that quality thought leadership is worth sharing – click on any of the links below to share with your colleagues. If you’re interested in republishing our content, here’s what’s okay and not okay.

About Quay

Quay Consulting
Quay Consulting is a professional services business specialising in the project landscape, transforming strategy into fit-for-purpose delivery. Meet our team ...