Digital transformation is critical to success in the new normal. Here’s how to achieve it in an uncertain economy
Bit by bit, we’re reopening the economy. No one knows how long it’ll take to get the economy back on track or what kind of regulations there will be to keep everyone safe. But we do know it’ll take a great deal of tech to get the machinery running again.
Consumer expectations have changed. Many in-demand employees have learned how much they prefer the flexibility of working from home—so much so that startups and even large corporations are launching “work from home forever” plans (and we can expect companies in other sectors of the economy to follow), and they need to adjust their tech to make this possible.
Digital transformation—the term we seem to be stuck with—will be the answer; companies that put it off now have to play catch-up.
Everyone’s trying to regain lost customers. They also don’t want to lose their top employees, who now expect to have a remote workplace (or at least the option of one).
We’re in a reluctant revolution, and many companies are short on cash because incoming revenue isn’t quite what it was before. There’s never been such a big need for digital transformation while keeping a close eye on the budget line.
Speak the Language of Business
Before COVID-19, a McKinsey survey concluded transformation is more challenging to pull off than traditional change efforts: Fewer than one-third of organizational transformations succeed at improving a company’s performance and sustaining those gains.
A key reason for the failures: a lack of clear, measurable business goals. Right now, no matter the business, eyes everywhere are on IT. To push through the transformation, you need to benefit not just yourself but your organization. You need to be able to speak the language of business, and here’s how you can do it.
Make It C-Suite Friendly
If you’re going to ask the company to support your program, talk about it in a way the C-suite can understand. Think about the use case they’ll be most interested to hear about. Shortening customer wait times? They’ll care. Aiding supply chains? They’ll listen.
Remember, they’ll want numbers, too. The C-suite will do a cost-benefit analysis, but you should preempt this by conducting one beforehand. This shows your commitment to making the company more successful and inspires trust in the project through data. Avoid using too much technical jargon; doing so will get glassy-eyed looks and perhaps inspire them to give some other department a budget increase or greenlight a different project.
Develop Your Soft Skills
Never make the C-suite do your work for you: Make them understand the value of your plans. Doing so may develop your soft skills.
At SolarWinds, we goad each other with the line, “Explain it to me like I’m 5.” If we can’t do it, then we know we don’t understand the concept well enough to “sell” someone else on it.
Explain your program to someone using simple language and measurable goals, but explain it so clearly a 5-year-old can understand it.
And remember, if you’re working remotely, you’ve lost the possibility of a hallway conversation. You can’t meet somebody in an elevator and throw them a pitch. You may only get a moment on a Zoom call. So work on your game. Practice your pitch on someone not involved—even a loved one at home—who can give feedback on the level of comprehension for the end goal.
It’s not always as simple as you think, and sometimes you’ll need to go above and beyond. This may mean taking a course, reading a book, or watching a YouTube video to improve communication. But do it anyway. You’re learning a new language, so use every tool at your disposal to relay your transformation pitch.
Develop the Process Documents
Once you have approval for your initiative, nurture it. Make sure it succeeds.
If the program has been customized, explain why and give out customized documentation. Your goal is to turn end users and the staff into evangelists.
In departments I’ve worked in over the years, I’ve often noticed a failure in this area. No one properly explained the goal. They maybe have buttoned down the tech, but the humans didn’t understand why they were using it instead of something else. They couldn’t explain it to someone new because no one produced the process documents.
And when they can’t explain it, here’s what always happens: One person makes an effort and becomes the department expert. False information develops. No one wants the program to succeed because they hate it. You end up with a boondoggle.
Clean Out Your Closets
While working from home, you probably focused on your closets and were amazed at the stuff jammed in there.
Do the same at work. What’s the business value for those apps you have? Do you have multiple systems in different departments?
Use monitoring to assess usage. You may save money when you realize there are plenty of apps on hand you’re not using to their full capability.
You could also discover you already have the functionality you need—you just didn’t know it because only one department used the app.
I’ve worked with a lot of companies where one person was using an app nobody else knew about. Someone had to approve the budget line, but it was a blip on the radar. When you have ten blips on the radar, it can add up. Do you need all those blips?
I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen people with oddball applications somebody built at some point. Clean out the closets. Taking inventory will help you find ways to work toward business efforts at little to no additional cost. Saving the business money while achieving progress toward digital transformation during this time is a big deal.
Monitor Your Whole Stack
If you can monitor from the database to the network connection and then from the application to the front end, you get the entire story without the guesswork. This is why I like to monitor the whole stack.
You can correlate this data and see what went wrong. You get the information capable of helping you fix the problem and prevent it from happening again.
But monitoring is different than alerting. I’ve come across this countless times: People set up too many alerts, which they later ignore because of fatigue. No one wants to discover their website has been down for a half-hour and no one knew about it because the emails were ignored.
Instead, start by setting up monitoring on anything potentially important. Then get alerts on actionable things: You need to know about them because you can do something about these issues when you receive an alert. If you’re not going to work on issues until the next day, maybe you don’t need an alert at 2 a.m. Better still, automate actions where you can with alerting.
It’s a confusing time. No one knows how this story will end, so let’s button up the details. Learn how to speak the language of the business sending you a paycheck.
Help those paychecks keep coming by thinking in terms of what will help the company transform and succeed. Then communicate those thoughts in the language of business.
Monitor your stack and clean up: If you can clean out the mess, you’ll save money, and maybe you’ll be ready for what’s to come.