Digital transformation continues to be a top priority for all businesses, with CEOs aspiring to be a ‘digital-first’ business, operating ‘like a start-up’. However, once these aspirations meet the realities of legacy infrastructures, operating models and ways of working, businesses find themselves grappling with complexities that make it increasingly challenging to meet their ambition. Based on our experience working across industries, the challenges often begin at the planning and initiation stage.
Age-old approach – more important than you think
Whilst organisations should strive to move at pace, the importance of conducting a current state assessment prior to defining the desired future state should not be de-emphasised. It helps uncover invaluable insights that are critical to:
- defining the strategic aspirations and desired target state; and
- forming an executable set of actions and informing investments in the right areas to help achieve the vision.
Translating vision into reality
Responding to desired changes at pace requires organisations to become increasingly nimble and agile, and, therefore, steer away from traditional planning and execution methods. Adopting new, agile ways of working requires a different approach, and it is important that this is recognised early on when undertaking a detailed planning exercise.
What is different?
It is difficult and also impractical to create detailed long-term project and task-based plans in a dynamic and evolving environment. However, working backwards from the desired target state, along with an appreciation of existing capability and capacity, organisations can define the outcomes they want to achieve at each stage. Depending on the appetite and level of organisational maturity, each transition state could have a varying degree of focus between short-term wins and strategic actions, including bolstering internal capabilities to achieve greater agility, pace and resilience.
The transition state outcomes provide a starting point to create a backlog, which the delivery teams should use as a single source of truth to prioritise their efforts. The backlog should be regularly reviewed and updated to ensure alignment with evolving priorities.
Defining the transition state outcomes brings the vision to life and creates a continuity of purpose, gaining stakeholder buy-in and funding by providing a view of key delivery milestones (in an otherwise difficult-to-plan agile environment), subsequently informing execution priorities and delivery efforts.
Simply adopting a different approach to planning and execution isn’t itself the key to success. It requires a culture and mind-set shift to ensure everyone in the organisation is aligned around a common vision, and there is a secure environment that fosters trust and autonomy to achieve the desired outcomes.