It has been almost eighteen months since I published The Digital Director (how directors govern digital transformations). Since its publication, I took on the role of Chief Digital Officer at Breast Cancer Network Australia (BCNA) to lead the technology function and the development and subsequent delivery of its digital transformation. After eighteen months and several milestones met, I took time over the Christmas break to reflect on our digital transformation. When writing The Digital Director, my research focused on executives and directors involved in large-scale digital transformations and drew on my own experiences, which, until now, had all been with large energy companies. I wanted to see if the findings from my book were as relevant with a not-for-profit, serving a network of ~175k people, as they were with commercial organisations serving millions of customers.
I was pleased to see the key themes that increase the likelihood of a successful digital transformation remain, regardless of organisational size or type. The most important themes are:
- Agree Your Destination. Your Board, Executive and Senior Management must be able to articulate why you are embarking on a digital transformation, what it will deliver, and how you will measure success.
- Executives must have skin in the game. A transformation of any size requires significant business change. While one Executive can lead, the whole Executive must be accountable.
- Know the end game, but respect your capability and capacity. While you must have a clear view of the end state, the best approach is to start small, deliver often, and build up the pace of change over time, creating the capacity for your people to develop the needed capabilities.
- Assumptions are a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Assumptions are not facts, and you must treat them as risks. A common reason any program fails is people not validating assumptions and those assumptions turning out wrong.
There are two themes that, while I could argue are implied in my book, I wish I had explicitly called them out. These are:
- Be consumer and data-led. Everyone will have an opinion on every aspect of your digital transformation. You must look to your consumers for direction and leverage what data you have to cut through opinions and deal with facts.
- It still comes down to the basics. As in my recent three-part blog post, “The nuts and bolts of digital transformations”. You must focus on your people and be clear on your target operating model and how you will transition. You must document business processes that are easy for anyone in the organisation to understand and monitor compliance with those processes to identify where people may need further support. You must govern information management to apply consistent data rules across the organisation.
It is reassuring that the themes in my book remain constant regardless of organisation type or size.
What will be interesting to observe is whether these same themes remain constant as we incorporate artificial intelligence at scale within our digital transformations.
For all planning or undergoing a digital transformation in 2024, I wish you all the best and encourage you to connect with me to continue to share experiences.