Most businesses understand the importance of a digital transformation strategy, but selling a project to the board can be difficult. Merkle’s Richard Mathias gives some advice on building and selling your business case
- Identify value metrics
- Create a roadmap
- Communicate often
- Prove ROI
- Assess and optimise
- Find an advocate
- Ensure understanding
Businesses are embracing digital transformation like never before. Nowadays, a digital transformation strategy it is at the core of every leading company, with major business decisions based on data and technology trends.
Let’s recap firstly and remember exactly what is digital transformation? Here’s a definition from Salesforce:
Digital transformation is the process of using digital technologies to create new — or modify existing — business processes, culture, and customer experiences to meet changing business and market requirements.
So, business leaders understand the importance of a clear digital transformation plan, and to reach certain business milestones, they know digital projects are necessary. But that doesn’t mean they know the nuts and bolts of implementing a successful digital project.
Many CEOs did not get to their position through a technological background. To support a digital project, they need evidence that it is going to deliver, and trust that the benefits of technology will reap benefits more quickly and efficiently than their competitors.
So, how do you build a solid, water-tight digital transformation business case? Here are some steps to make the best possible case to a board for a digital project.
Identify value metrics
The first step is to identify the value metrics, which will showcase the value the project will bring to the business.
These vary massively, from those that are easy to evaluate, including revenue, conversion, and employee retention, to those that are more difficult to measure, like productivity, creative performance, brand sentiment, and customer satisfaction.
For all digital transformation projects, metrics must be determined from the outset so that success or failure can be clearly and continually assessed.
Taking customer care as an example, evaluating effectiveness can be done in multiple ways to provide an overall picture of performance. Do customers repeatedly call back? How long do calls last? How many times is customer care searched for? These can all show how a project is progressing.
Mapping this from the beginning of a digital transformation project is imperative, there’s no chance it will get off the ground without clear value.
Work up a roadmap
Once the board has been convinced of the value of a digital project, it’s time to sell them on delivery, which starts with a digital roadmap.
A good roadmap should have multiple levels, setting out actions in the short- and long-term, whilst signposting milestones along the journey.
The short-term map sets out the stakeholders that are involved in the next month and what is expected from them. It should be detailed, yet contain flexibility in case of challenges along the way. A long-term plan is less detailed and instead outlines when certain value metrics can start to be assessed.
Crucial to both is confidence and positivity – nothing undermines a project quite like when it falls behind schedule and morale falls low.
Throughout the process, clarity is the key; however, digital projects are far from certain and often run into unexpected roadblocks. Therefore, communication comes to the fore – creating a dynamic, flexible comms plan is the key to keeping momentum and confidence.
All stakeholders must be updated regularly and proactively to ensure they are kept up to date with development at every stage of the journey. This is a fantastic time to start sharing metrics and small milestones that are easy to understand and shareable.
Also, don’t be afraid to celebrate and publicise any successful implementations or milestones, and why they were successful. Nothing builds trust and morale like a successful digital transformation case study.
Prove its ROI
For the vast majority of businesses, demonstrating effectiveness and proving ROI is the most difficult aspect of a digital transformation project, even with metrics in place.
The difficulty for many businesses is that a baseline for the performance for many aspects of a business are just not available (even workplace attendance isn’t tracked by a huge number of businesses) – that is a key reason for the implementation of digital projects in the first place.
After metrics have been decided upon at the beginning of the project, there are two vital things to consider.
First, that these metrics may prove not to be effective or completely reliable. If that’s the case, it must be flagged proactively. Only by flagging can they be amended and updated to better reflect goals and ensure that trust is not lost.
Secondly, feedback is vital. Sometimes the metrics will be spot on, but the ROI is just not there. Again, if that is the case, it must be evaluated and shared. Assessing the project from day one, showing whether it’s working or not, and giving the business the opportunity to move on is always the best move.
Assess and optimise
The most overlooked aspect of a digital project is how it is assessed and improved.
So much value is lost from within a business by lessons not being passed on after projects end. Did delivery meet the roadmap? Were the right value levers identified? Were the right people in the right roles? Were the right stakeholders on board? All are retrospective questions that can help improve the process and the business.
While these are questions quite commonly posed, the intangibles are often completely ignored. What skills have the team learnt from the project? Can others be trained on findings? Are employees more satisfied after the project? Has employee retention improved?
A business must be constantly looking to improve and evolve. A huge part of that is retaining and sharing the experience, skills and contacts that employees have picked up during projects. Showing this to the board is another way to demonstrate the worthiness of a project and demonstrate its legacy.
Find an advocate
Sometimes, you need someone of repute who is willing to back your digital transformation case.
According to Gartner’s annual CEO report, growth is the top business priority with technology and internationalisation cited as the main drivers. Purse strings are tight, and boards are constantly being bombarded with new tech, each with the promise of boosting growth.
Finding a senior team member who can influence the board, back up your promises with an alternative point of view, and consistently bang your drum can often make the difference between a red or green light.
Clarity is the key to a digital project – understanding processes and their outcomes is truly the difference between success and failure. Anything that can better help that understanding is worthwhile.
By gaining that understanding, predicting and effectively demonstrating tangible and indicative results will become possible. Ultimately this is only way to gain and maintain the trust of all the stakeholders involved.
At LiveArea, we collaborate with clients to define and apply digital transformation strategy on all fronts – B2C and B2B, in-store and online – for emerging brands and well-established global enterprises.
Our seasoned experts specialise in turning your goals into actionable strategies delivering measurable results. We blend digital knowledge with industry-specific insight to develop phased roadmaps, organizational models, and essential frameworks all tied back to desired outcomes. We guide you step-by-step through the execution of these plans, which typically include total cost of ownership (TCO) and return on investment (ROI) analysis.