Stuart Avery shows how a 'rapid first live’ approach, combined with playing the long game, are key to the success of your digital change programme.
Having spent many years delivering in digital, we’ve seen many successful programmes but also a good few that haven’t reached their full potential, as well as those that haven’t even made it to the light of day.
Many factors influence success and failure, however in the vast majority of cases it isn’t due to the quality of experience, creative ideas or technology. More often it’s due to underestimating how change impacts an organisation and communication - impact on other departments, future operational challenges, the definition of success as well as how communication of that success is managed.
Like any business initiative, success with digital change is about playing the long game, combined with an element of pragmatism. This means delivering a collective set of small, successful transformations and innovations, whose impact add up to greater than the sum of their parts.
With that in mind, here are a handful of learnings from our 20 years of delivering digital change. There are of course many more, people have written whole books on the subject. However, these are some of the most frequent challenges we see and support our clients through.
Success needs to be demonstrated quickly to avoid budgets being allocated elsewhere. Most budgets for significant digital change have to be fought hard for and are often funded by reducing budgets on other projects. Big budget digital programmes are often controversial and no matter how well researched the supporting data is, there’s an element of leap of faith. Combined with historic over-selling of what technology can deliver, there’s often cynicism, so unless success can be demonstrated quickly budgets are often reallocated.
If success needs to be delivered quickly then it is essential to have a clear framework for prioritisation, which accounts for achievability and value. Then be ruthless in selecting a small number of items/features to be in your first release.
Digital programmes need to be able to demonstrate their impact and justify their existence from day one. Prioritise features which are easier to measure the impact of and ensure the correct analytics are in place from launch. If the focus is on delivering efficiency, ensure the basis of calculating this is widely agreed and clearly demonstrated.
With many stakeholders and external programme influencers, it’s always easy to get distracted, which risks watering down the impact of your first release. Once you have framed your first release, stick to it and resist the temptation to open it back up again unless there are very good reasons to.
It also goes without saying that hitting milestones is important. However, losing focus and allowing slippage in timescales carries greater risks early on as well. As soon as there’s any slippage there’s a temptation to include new features, which can delay things further and in turn may lead to a commercial conversation. That in turn may open the door to rejustifying value for money - with its own inherent risks.
A client recently said to us, “If we ruffle some feathers along the way, all will be forgiven once we deliver,” which I think are wise words. Collaboration is of course vital, with multiple partners and stakeholders involved in any programme you can’t succeed without it. However, what’s ultimately delivered is what everyone will remember, so a strong leader who will make the right – if unpopular – decisions is vital.
As soon as the Discovery phase has finished and requirements are finalised for v1, the planning teams should move straight onto shaping the subversions and next major release. Ensuring as soon as engineering have finished v1, that they have a firm set of new features to roll straight onto.
Consumer expectations and new technology move quickly. The best way to keep up is to move continually at pace yourselves. We recommend establishing three parallel tracks from the start:
Vision for the future and major releases
Discovery and planning for subversions
This will ensure that the programme always has future direction and the delivery teams are being fed new requirements as fast as they can develop them.
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