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Managing Digital Transformation Initiatives, Part 1

A well thought-out business case can make all the difference to the success of your digital transformation strategy.

Digital transformation has become one of the most overused bromides across a range of capital-intensive sectors, vague and fungible to the point of becoming meaningless. But, at its core lies a solid and simple premise: significantly advancing the use of people, process and technology to compound impact of outcomes and capabilities.

Of course, simple doesn’t mean easy; focus and context are everything. Many digital transformation initiatives fail because measurable outcomes are not targeted at the outset and budgets are allocated as either a single undifferentiated wallet or mapped to a complicated matrix of cross charges and allocations.

At the root, these problems are the result of planning and business case processes that are not well defined. Upfront planning and business case development is at least as important as effective project execution, the near exclusive focus of many ePMOs. While effective business case planning and management is always important, the nature of digital transformation strategies compounds significance. In fact, a well-formed business case discipline is a leading critical success factor for digital transformation programs, alongside items such as senior executive level commitment and accountability across business units, functions, and geographic regions.

Using a business case framework as a point of reference for digital transformation initiatives helps to reinforce important disciplines and core competencies. Implementing a business case framework in a technology platform provides a terrific opportunity to institutionalize the transformation process, capturing intellectual capital in terms of best practices and providing support for collaboration and iteration.

Transformation is about much more than capturing information “digitally” and decreasing reliance on manual, sequential processes. A technology platform provides a mechanism to establish a number of capabilities fundamentally important to activating a business case-driven digital transformation strategy:

  • Standard taxonomy provides the scaffolding for digital transformation. From definition of organizational structure, to harmonized categories for costs and benefits, along with consistent definitions for key metrics, such as ROI, NPV, IRR, EBITDA and NIBIT, taxonomic standards are the keystone to accelerating the collaborative creation, analysis, and evaluation of high-quality business cases. Standardization facilitates rapid implementation of models that span multiple business units and geographies, along with advanced use cases, such as assessment of multiple business case versions or scenarios outlining different approaches to achieve the same desired outcomes. Business rules and automation make it easier to ensure appropriate considerations are incorporated, such as the corporate standard depreciation model for computing infrastructure or capitalization of select labor components.

  • A rubric for understanding how a proposed initiative aligns with and advances core strategies and capabilities is extraordinarily helpful, especially when combined with an assessment of risk from the standpoint of ability to execute. This allows an organization to create a fact-driven matrix for governance around a high-quality decision-making process.

  • Design automated processes that go beyond digitizing existing manual/semi-automated processes to add velocity and integrity to decision making by ensuring all requisite elements are present in a business case prior to moving through the executive review and approval process with access profiles that provide rights to process participants based on role in the organization and step in a particular process.

  • Using all of the above, establish a process that moves from high level planning and idea capture to full business case development in one fluid motion, allowing focus on quality of ideas and robustness of business cases, all while supporting an iterative continuous planning process that provides the rhythm required to support digital transformation initiatives in today’s dynamic business environment.

The right business case management technology platform can bring to life digital transformation initiatives and accelerate results. Capturing ideas that align with corporate strategies and key capabilities targeted by transformation programs and leveraging a standard framework for collaborative creation and objective assessment, projects with the highest impact potential can be advanced rapidly to development of detailed business cases that can proceed to approval and execution with a greater level of velocity and precision. Such a simple, elegant institutionalized process implemented in a thoughtful manner lays a solid foundation for outcomes-focused digital transformation.

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