What’s next after Digital Transformation?

In this final episode of our miniseries on digital transformation, Janne Marie Van Vlastuin and Jarosław Granat discuss what comes after a digital transformation project is completed.

Our digital transformation project is all done – no project tasks remaining, no more progress meetings to attend, all boxes are ticked. But does it mean the job is done and our organisation is digitally transformed and ready to conquer the world now? Unfortunately not.

In this episode of IT Leadership Insights, Janne Marie explains why it’s not the time to celebrate success yet and what needs to be monitored to ensure the foundations we’ve laid so far don’t crumble.

And, to find out how to prepare for digital transformation and how to do digital transformation right, watch the first two episodes of this digital transformation miniseries.

Our Guests: 

Janne Marie van Vlastuin is the Co-founder of 10DED who support organisations in humanising technology, both ways. They do this by helping leaders and organisations transform in becoming ready for the digital era in a pragmatic and understandable way. Janne Marie has a unique combination of hands-on experience as a leader in Sales, Marketing, Service, IT and HR, combined with extensive knowledge and experience of best practices, change management and various methodologies. This enables her to speak all the languages needed to get organisations moving and providing them with the right tools and frameworks in the right way. She is different, but this has made her a successful expert in transformational programs within the commercial domain. Janne Marie was nominated as the Most Innovative Leader 2017 by the CIO magazine in the Netherlands.

Jaroslaw Granat is Future Processing’s Head of Client Engagement, working to ensure the highest level of services for the company’s clients. He is a graduate of Computer Sciences and Psychology in Business and has worked in IT for the last 10 years.

The transcript of the episode

Jarosław Granat (JG): Hello and welcome to this episode of IT Leadership Insights by Future Processing. My name is Jarosław Granat, and today’s episode is about digital transformation and what’s next, after the digital transformation project is done. If you haven’t noticed, there are two more episodes on that topic we delivered earlier, so please make sure you watch it as well. Again, I’ve got our expert here, who is a Commercial Business Transformation Consultant, Janne Marie Van Vlastuin – welcome back.

Janne Marie van Vlastuin (JMvV): Thank you.

JG: So, we are just after the project is delivered, is done, we are shaking hands, sending congratulation cards and opening a bottle of champagne. Is that right?

JMvV: Yeah, I hope so. But, not because it’s done, but because we have delivered the foundation.

JG: The foundation.

JMvV: Yes, we have delivered the foundation.

JG: So, what’s next?

JMvV: You set the basis for being able to be a learning and developing organisation, so if your data’s right, you are ready then to start experimenting and really testing and involving emerging technologies. Maybe do some AI because you have the data available and see what happens when you have predictive analysis in place and then maybe automate that or start communicating but in a different way with your customers. That needs to happen afterwards, so your organisation needs to be ready to also pick that up from the line, and not from a project’s perspective.

JG: Alright, so what would be the areas to watch, to monitor? I can imagine the data itself is one of them, right?

JMvV: Yes, absolutely, because data is key and if you do not value data the same way as you value the money you make as an organisation, so have it in place, stored properly. Have the right currency defines, the ownership, that’s one, but you also have to check if the people that are putting in the data are putting in the right data and monitor if they’re performing according to what you’ve all agreed as an organisation to do. So, that really needs to be done because the quality has to stay up to the right level.

JG: One of the qualities of technology is that it is outdated quite rapidly, and a big transformation project may take, like, up to several years or something. I’ve noticed, in my experience, some cases when the project was about to be finished, the technology was outdated already. So, what do we do in such situations?

JMvV: I agree, but that’s why I always go for standard. So whenever you implement something, don’t customise what you’ve bought, if you buy a standard solution, but build functionality outside of that solution. Keep the tables, keep them standard so that the definition of the field cannot be used for something else and what you see with outdated technology, or when it gets stuck, what’s the worst thing you need to do then? Migrate that data from one system to the other. You cannot get, if that quality is bad, you cannot get it right in the other system easily. So I think it takes 10 euro per record to clean, and that’s expensive. So imagine what happens if you have implemented something and you allow your users to abuse it, what cost will come out of that when you have to go to new type of technology in the migration.

JG: Okay. I think that there is plenty of procedures or things that need to be taken care of while the project is delivered, with regards to the data. And who should be responsible for that? Because, I think that there is always a huge pressure when the project is in place and set up, but when it’s done, I think that it may be quite loosely treated after it’s delivered.

JMvV: Yeah, and that is why, before you start the project, you already should think about who the owner is and what he or she requires to be able to manage what is being delivered, so for making sure that things are supported in the right way, that the roles are in place, that your functional support is in place, those are your technical support and if you’re lacking certain knowledge, for example, if you have a specialised solution or a SAS solution, or you’ve the development done by a third party, that you already think about who is going to be responsible for making sure that the continuity of that solution is being safeguarded? So don’t do it at the end, do it at the start, because there you can still make good agreements about it and make sure that it lands properly.

JG: How often do you come across a situation when there is a lack of knowledge in the company after the project is finished because of the people who work on that, especially external consultants and companies, they finish their contract and they are gone?

JMvV: Yeah, you just see that a lot.

JG: That must be catastrophic in the consequences, sometimes.

JMvV: Yeah, absolutely. Fortunately, I haven’t yet experienced that but I think that, if you look at documentation, and really safeguarding knowledge. Because people should not be the beholder, individually, of company knowledge. It should be somewhere, accessible for all others. So this is also why we’re setting up the whole transformation thing in the first place, so that knowledge is not in one person’s head but that you can share knowledge and, as a company, become smarter. What I prefer doing now because, such knowledge bases are usually not part yet of the evolution, is that I keep my service provider involved. So after it has been delivered, at least for few hours per month, you can contact them for functional questions, even though you have the capabilities in-house, because they have their own base properly installed to get the right knowledge out again in case there is a question from the company. And you are not depending on the people that were actively involved in the project themselves. So yes, I’d prefer to outsource a little.

JG: If I recall our whole conversation about the topic, it strikes me that it’s all about proper preparation. It sounds obvious, but when we hear the examples and the potential consequences, it’s a massive thing. So the value of the preparation is the key factor to success, is that right?

JMvV: Absolutely, absolutely. So taking, if you look at project management, because it’s very traditional project management that’s being done, so I’m not going to call it fancy, it’s old fashioned Prince Two, with some knowledge from Standish, which I would advise everybody to go to, because Standish does research, I think from the 80’s and 90’s about why projects fail. And they used to be only about IT projects, and if you look at what the factors of failure are, or factors of success, only about 70%, 80% is really determined by how the organisation functions. And 20 to 30% is about project management. So this is what you can influence. If you are preparing the organisation, and partaking effort and time in preparing the organisation to run projects properly, the chances that you get controlled projects where the quality is predictable, within time, within budget, they increase with every measure you take in advance.

JG: So, let’s assume that we’ve got solid fundaments for building the future. For what the organisations should prepare? What’s next in the digital transformation agenda in the world?

JMvV: I advise everyone to start learning because if you… It’s like you are working on a piece of land and you’re used to doing that with a bucket and a shovel and that was your old way of working and now, all of a sudden, you get a cow and a plough, so that’s innovation. But out there, there’s already sensors in the ground where you can see how the potatoes are growing and what humidity is and you have all these big machines that can do acres in a day. So, get out there, be happy with your cow and your plough, but get out there and really see what all is available and get that back into your organisation. So make people more aware of all the possibilities that technology can bring you, because innovation is nothing more than having an existing solution plotted to a problem that is occurring, tied together with another way of letting it be of usage, and then you innovate. And if you don’t know what’s out there, you cannot innovate.

JG: Okay, thank you for that really interesting insight on what to do after we are digitally transformed and for the whole conversation about the digital transformation.

JMvV: Well, thank you.

JG: It was really interesting and I hope our viewers liked it too. And thank you, the viewers, for watching this episode of IT Leadership Insights by Future Processing. This episode was about what to do next, after we are digitally transformed, and it was the final episode of our miniseries of digital transformation. If you found that useful, please do not hesitate to share it and recommend it and if there is anything you would like us to discuss in next episodes, just let us know. Thank you once again, until next time.