How to Align Stakeholders and Create a Cohesive Transformation Strategy
In this article
Digital transformation is much like a rocket launch — fast, intense and reliant on a bevy of groups with disparate goals to work collaboratively for the greater good.
Just like a rocket launch, transformation requires precision, commitment and collaboration. Even minor discrepancies or hiccups can derail a transformation — sometimes stopping it altogether.
Our experience shows organizations thrive when six separate worlds — each with their own set of stakeholders and agendas — come together to form a cross-functional team of teams. Those worlds are:
But not all companies think this way. And, in fact, even those that do think this way often need help building this collaboration.
We've already detailed the business outcomes associated with blending these worlds. In this article, we explore the how — ways in which you and your leadership teams can begin to build bridges between these worlds and create a path toward progress.
Bringing business and technology together
Close alignment of these groups yields a more efficient and effective partnership, which helps identify deliverables and accelerate ROI. But with market and technology trends evolving faster than ever, business and technology stakeholders typically have competing priorities that get in the way of focusing on aligning with each other.
Spending the time to establish a shared definition of value and common goals leads to a technology foundation that is purpose-built to not just support the business' needs but deliver on its aspirations.
Mike Taylor, our chief technology officer, recently wrote an article about the five things you should clarify before diving deep into digital transformation. His insight and takeaways are all applicable to how you can best align business and technology leaders.
And never lose sight of your audience. Otherwise, you run the risk of delivering a transformation your audience has no interest in.
Proof that aligning business and technology works: Building a Modern, Elastic IT Infrastructure from Scratch for Elanco Animal Health to Streamline and Optimize M&A
Common pitfalls to avoid:
Bringing too many cooks into the kitchen: A smaller, more intimate group of the right people allows for more transparency and vulnerability, which helps break down potential communication and alignment barriers.
Going virtual: Initial alignment of stakeholders is much easier to facilitate in person. Virtual attendance typically leads to multi-tasking and lack of focus.
Thinking about your own needs: The most critical part of this entire process is to create an environment that facilitates active listening and empathy for each other's needs. Stakeholders need to be willing to put aside their ego and adopt a single language and view of success.
Bringing strategy and execution together
When strategy and execution are in lockstep, execution is more consistent, resilient and efficient.
Research and discovery are key. You might think the vision would be the easy part, but without adequate preparation, you risk investing and becoming overly committed to an idea that exists strictly as a hypothetical.
- Aspire to accomplish something incredible. But root yourself by:
- Collecting intelligence on current-state topography and infrastructure recommendations.
- Developing customer and/or employee personas that keep in mind their needs and wants.
- Assessing vendors and your current partner ecosystem.
- Analyzing financial models of ROI.
- Mapping friction points throughout the process.
Keep your stakeholder team in the loop every step of the way. Remember, communication is never overleveraged during these engagements.
Proof that aligning strategy and execution works: Democratizing Data to Reach New Levels of Productivity with Freeport McMoRan
Common pitfalls to avoid:
Compartmentalizing: Whether you're relying on a consultant or keeping it all in house, keeping the thinkers away from the doers is a recipe for disaster. Make sure all research, analysis and recommendations are paired accordingly with the team or teams that will be implementing — on a creative, technological and operational level.
Automatically thinking your people are up for it: Systems and processes can be easier to change than people. As harsh as it may sound, you'll need to take an honest look at your people and assess their capabilities. That's not to say you're looking to cast people out. Knowing where you will need to coach or reshuffle resources, though, can help smooth over a lot of friction points.
Trying to deliver too much at once: An outcome-based approach establishes final business objectives but should not dictate the way in which you get there. An agile delivery strategy enables flexibility in how you realize and consume value. By working collaboratively to enhance communication, you'll create a unified approach that addresses real business challenges. This builds credibility and momentum to continue along the transformative path.
Putting on blinders: Things change — always. Relying too much on charts, graphs or isolated designs leaves you vulnerable to those changes. Adopting a mindset that transformation is a process — complete with constant evolution — will defend against any one change becoming insurmountable from a strategy or execution perspective.
Bringing physical and digital together
Digital should act as an extension of the physical to go the proverbial last mile and deliver an experience that encourages a desired outcome.
For any digital outcome to be realized, it needs to be tightly integrated with the physical infrastructure it runs on top of.
To bring physical and digital together, you'll need to tap into experts that span a variety of digital and technological domains: artificial intelligence, machine learning, IoT, user experience, cloud and edge computing, user personas, big data and digital strategy, just to name a few.
Inform those groups of the vision and let them get to work by stitching together a plan for how to best accomplish it.
Common pitfalls to avoid:
Acting without purpose: Investing in technology without clear goals is costly and inefficient. Identify and gain agreement on what you are trying to achieve and then work to develop a technology strategy that accommodates that vision.
Assuming you're up to speed: Most organizations don't have a good understanding of their own technological, operational or experiential environment. Modern enterprise networks and applications are intrinsically linked to one another through workloads and other systems. When one link fails, the entire chain can be compromised and cause catastrophic repercussions to digital transformation initiatives and their stakeholders. Know what your IT profile looks like before you begin.
Shying away from adding resources: Be sure to think about what consequences this will have for your staff and be prepared to upskill or support your people to do things differently.
Digital leaders who treat IT modernization and digital transformation as efforts that occur simultaneously — not one after the other — are more likely to optimize ROI of digital transformation initiatives.
But to do it, leaders must create an organization that operates like mission control for a rocket launch — a room of teams that have disparate goals but work collectively to accomplish a shared mission.