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Managing Digital Transformation Initiatives, Part 2

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

In part one of this two-part series, the importance of a business case management platform to capture and institutionalize data, processes, and metrics standards aligned with digital transformation strategic objectives was outlined. While world-class execution will always be important, ensuring the most impactful projects and programs aligned with transformational objectives rapidly take flight is fundamental as well.

A flexible, fluid process that incorporates high-level idea capture and business case development is important to continuous planning.

But what about projects once in-flight and completed? How can an organization objectively validate that the transformational change comprising the thesis for a project has occurred?

Effective execution of digital transformation strategies relies heavily on collaboration and harmonization across many constituencies in the typical enterprise, each with its own perspectives, motivations, goals, and objectives. Nowhere is the matrix nature of transformational programs more important to manage than the tracking of benefits. Ultimately, accountability for realizing benefits resides with operating units and shared services, so it is very important at the outset to agree on how capabilities to be delivered will map to the benefits to be derived. Lack of clarity at this stage often results in insufficient alignment on whether the project execution team has “delivered” and related assertions concerning ability for the operating group/project sponsor to capture benefits.

This means benefits tracking or, more precisely, “benefits realization” capabilities are an important component of an end-to-end process. Often a blind spot for organizations, benefits realization enables comparison between a baseline drawn from benefits contemplated at the time of business case finalization compared to benefits realized, usually post the one-time setup period.

Most benefits are derived subsequent to the conclusion of the project execution phase, so a purpose-built system of record is required to integrate corresponding data and provide context. Only a dedicated platform can pull financial outcomes from a general ledger, for example, and add context in terms of planned, forecasted and actual benefits recorded. For some important elements, the business case platform is the system of record where metrics with no corresponding general ledger credit/debit entry, such as cost savings, can be captured. Best-in-class technology platforms support implementation of sophisticated forecast methodologies to provide actionable analytics to facilitate early intervention with clear visibility to likely outcomes. Success of transformation programs is measured across a number of dimensions, so tracking non-financial results—tangible and intangible—is important as well.

Process automation capabilities help ensure that results recorded for projects are certified and validated. Multi-step workflows for benefits review and approval are very important to engender alignment and accountability throughout the organization. This is critical for review of financial results, but also of great significance for non-financial results, e.g., to confirm whether the projected redeployment of 10 existing business/account management FTEs to new business capture functions was executed on time.

Incorporation of benefits realization in a business case management framework enables a portfolio governance model that allows for simultaneous analysis of projects at all stages of development—from ideation, to business case development, to projects in-flight, to initiatives in the post-execution value period. A systematic approach to monitoring benefits capture provides an objective framework to validate whether targeted outcomes were achieved, be they financial or non-financial (tangible and intangible). A business case management technology platform is the only means of capturing and providing context for these data in real time, providing the ability for digital transformation executives to make timely assessments and adjustments based on experience, market opportunities, and corporate/organizational changes.

Strategic implementation of a business case management platform along these lines can help organizations deliver quantifiable benefits and sustained competitive advantage in conjunction with digital transformation initiatives by providing an operational framework to capture new best practices and support continuous improvement.

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