Demystifying digital transformation: Going agile; slowing down so you can speed up

by Cody Carnachan,
September 7, 2021

It’s astounding but as reported by Forbes, up to 84% of organisations fail in their digital transformation projects. 

Why? There are many reasons but one of the key ones is that with transformation comes change — a lot of change. 

As business leaders roll out digital transformation within their organisation, they’ll need the systems, processes and culture in place that empower their people to understand, embrace and navigate the new “normal”. At this point, it’s important to make the distinction that the new “normal” isn’t about adopting a fixed, new business model but that of continuous change itself. 

Now the phrase “slowing down to speed up” sounds counterintuitive, but, when an organisation is undertaking a digital transformation project, it’s absolutely vital.

So, how can you put the right systems and processes in place in order to give your digital transformation project every chance of succeeding?

Step One: Aligning your organisation with your challenges and goals

In our previous article in the Demystifying Digital Transformation Series, we talked about the importance of Adopting a mission of customer centricity

The final step of our advice was to develop a vision and subsequent roadmap of the ideal customer experience you wanted your organisation to deliver. However, you can’t just stop there.

No remarkable transformation was ever achieved only by the work of a small talented few. 

Key to a successful digital transformation is getting everyone —  not just your leadership team — onboard with why you are even doing it in the first place. You must share the challenges that your customers face on a daily basis and how you intend to solve them. 

Why? Because true digital transformation touches every aspect and every person within a business. You need your people to be supportive of the vision you are trying to achieve so they too can aid in this transition, feed insight into your process and also be willing to rally together when things don’t go to plan, as they inevitably will.

Step Two: Knowing your constraints 

“Change doesn’t happen overnight” 

Digital transformation is a long term commitment and should only be undertaken as such. That means budgeting for a consistent allocation of time, money and resources that your organisation can reasonably invest in transformation activities. 

But it’s also important to ensure your digital transformation strategy is well justified and will net a return on resources invested.

One approach we’ve seen work really well is to break down your roadmap into sensible groups of work that together represent a good amount of value added, and then create business cases around them.

These business cases should include the specific benefits you expect to realise from delivering a group of change, how you will be creating more value for your customers and how this results in tangible business improvements such as increased revenue, decreased costs, time saved, innovation enabled and so on. 

On consistency — it’s vital that your budgeting towards digital transformation is practical and consistent. Why?

The diagram above is an adaptation of the common “Project Management Triangle”. It pretty aptly illustrates the relationship between Speed, Cost and Quality. This Triangle is usually accompanied with the instruction that you may pick two, but not all three, and, more often than not, that is the case.

While your boss may want you to get all three, facilitating that expectation within your team is setting the whole project up to fail. Rather than setting unrealistic expectations, use the Triangle as a tool to help establish clear priorities that are sensible and practical. 

Step Three: Adopting agile 

Agile has got a lot of hype over the years, most of which has been positive. 

Agile Project Management is a very common term, which I’m sure you’ve heard of, and is most commonly practiced in Agile Software Development. So, given that digital transformation is almost always technology, this makes it a great choice as a project management methodology.

While it’s not really in the scope of this article to discuss all of the concepts and practices of Agile (there’s a great in-depth article here), we highly recommend it is adopted as part of your approach to digital transformation.

The main benefits of Agile Project Management include —

  1. The ability to adapt during a project — one known in a digital transformation project is that over time, things will change. Traditional Project Management allows little room to adapt to significant changes in a project’s scope, especially when you are right in the middle of it. Such changes often cause significant increases in cost and time to delivery.
  2. Delivering smaller, faster — a primary principle of the agile process is to focus on delivering the smallest possible working enhancements as quickly as possible. The quicker your improvements are in the hands of your customers and the quicker they can experience the benefit.
  3. Lessened project risk — following on from the previous point, the quicker you can get changes in front of your customer, the quicker you can get feedback. Taking this iterative approach means you are far less likely to spend 6 months building something, with no input from customers, that nobody wants. It also means that you are better equipped to implement feedback and pivot far earlier than traditional methods.
  4. Continuous, ongoing innovation — great ideas can come from anywhere. The Agile process allows for a far greater level of collaboration across the whole project team, not just top down instructing, and as we all know, great, tighter collaboration ends in better products.

Failing to plan is planning to fail

By no means are we trying to suggest that you should get caught up in over-planning. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

By getting your team onboard, understanding the constraints your organisation has to work with, and then adopting a solid framework for delivering to the best of those constraints, you’ll be able to set your digital transformation up for success. 

It’s about slowing down to speed up.

Start your journey of remarkable transformation

For organisations who don’t have the internal resources or capability to facilitate an agile project management process, Flume has an experienced team of Agile practitioners ready to help you deliver. Flick us an email at [email protected] if you’d like to discuss how this type of engagement might work. 

This article is part three in our “Demystifying digital transformation” series — a guide to understanding digital transformation, the value it can provide to your business, and how you can get started so that you, too, can benefit from a remarkably transformed business. Sign up to our newsletter below or follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook or Instagram to be notified of this series as it unfolds.

Don't stop here...
Part 1 – What is digital transformation?
Part 2 – Adopting a mission of “customer centricity”
Part 3 – Going agile; slowing down so you can speed up
Part 4 – Technology and infrastructure; from the ground to the cloud

Written by
Cody Carnachan, Founder
Kia Ora!
I'm Cody and I started Flume over 8 years ago — and it's been a wild ride! I started my journey at the ripe, young age of 14, when I taught myself to code, and ever since, I've been passionate about tech and business. Outside of work, there's a good chance you'll find me cruising out on the Waitematā.
Back to Thoughts

Want to keep a pulse on our latest thinking?

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Want to read more?
May 6, 2022
Website analytics. Measure what matters
Read more
May 6, 2022
Your guide to a high performing website
Read more
October 21, 2021
Our Story
Meet the team - Nathan
Read more