How to Sustain the Accelerated Pace of Digital Business Transformation

February 19, 2021
Contributor: Laura Starita

To sustain the accelerated pace of digital business transformation, pause to find what’s working, evaluate how to hard-wire success into ongoing transformation and teach the new ways.

“There may be a return to behaviours that are inconsistent with the digital plans”

That means ensuring that non-digital behaviours and practises don’t creep back into processes and decisions that were transformed during the pandemic response.

“You most likely have a list of your team’s amazing accomplishments as part of the pandemic response,” says Christie Struckman, VP Analyst, Gartner. “It feels as though organisations can keep the momentum going and escalate the digital plans they have been strategising for. But as organisations work toward their own version of hybrid working, there may be a return to behaviours that are inconsistent with the digital plans.”

Take a three-step approach to counter the pull of old ways: Pause, evaluate and teach.

A graphic showing the shifts in funding due to COVID-19 by percentage of respondents reporting an increase, along with the expected change in 2021

Pause

Stop and assess how the organisation is doing by conducting an intermortem, a mid-transformation assessment during which leaders gather insights from team members and peers and evaluate performance data. Similar to the postmortem exercise teams conduct at the end of a project to capture lessons and best practises, intermortems occur at an inflection point mid-transformation instead of at the end.

CIOs can use an intermortem template to document the changes that took place as a result of pandemic digitalisation, the hoped-for outcome (for example, to drive the business strategy, improve cost optimisation or increase productivity), and whether CIOs want the change to retain, be reinvented or return to the way things were before.

Pausing tips:

  • Involve stakeholders from across the enterprise.
  • Assess practises for sustainability. For example, employees working more hours from home than they did at the office is not a sustainable business model and shouldn’t stay in the “retain” pile.

Evaluate

Once you have identified which behaviours you want to retain, reinvent or return, evaluate the systems and technology that are in place to assess whether they support desired behaviours or discourage outdated ones. If your organisation needs to change systems, processes or practises, develop a plan to design, develop and implement them. Justify these changes by documenting what you have now (from), what you want to replace it with (to) and what the change will accomplish (because).

For example, organisations have learned that employees can be just as productive from home as in the office, leading many to consider recruiting people who live far from the organisation’s physical offices as a way to address talent shortages.

A graphic showing the shifts in funding due to COVID-19 by percentage of respondents reporting an increase, along with the expected change in 2021

Recruiting, hiring and onboarding remote employees requires investments in geographic outreach, video interview processes, remote onboarding assets, and so on. The “evaluate” step in this case would involve documenting and justifying the changes the organisation needs to make from on-site hiring of local talent to remote hiring of non-local talent, because the organisation can access a deeper pool of talent.

Evaluation tips:

  • Prioritise between one and three practises highlighted in the intermortem template.
  • Identify the changes that need to be made, why and how the business will benefit for each priority change.

Teach

After you’ve identified the changes needed to retain, reinvent or return the priority behaviours, document them, assign responsibility for overseeing and implementing them, and define what those people need to do — and by when. Socialise this plan with all affected stakeholders, and have regular meetings to assess progress, remove roadblocks, provide feedback or redefine timelines.

Teaching tips:

  • Develop concrete action plans for each priority set of systems, processes and practises needed to avoid digital backsliding.
  • Assign responsibility with clear expectations to ensure the changes are made.