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  • Writer's pictureRiikka Tanner

How to Build Digital Transformation Roadmap

By now you and your company are convinced that digitalization is really happening and you should be surfing on the waves of digital transformation. There is no shortage of cool, hip technology out there which are better known by incomprehensible abbreviations and affiliated with terminology that makes you head spin. But as much as we need technology, digital transformation is essentially about transforming your business and organization.

Unsplash / Ambitious Creative Co.

“You don’t need a digital strategy – you need a business strategy for the digital age.” – Judy Goldberg, Sony Pictures

I am highlighting this since on many occasion our digital pursuits are all too focused on new technology. It is as if technology in itself has become the endpoint. We should not be building digital technology roadmaps, instead we should focus on building a roadmap for the business to change, with or without technology. So where do we start? How do we know what to do? Who should take responsibility?

These are the questions you need to resolve at top management but it is crucial that you have a clear strategy on what areas to tackle first. To get you going, it is always easier to start with the ones you already have existing capabilities and strategic assets, then as your capabilities improve, you can shift your focus to new areas of transformation.

I love nothing better than a good strategic pow-wow! So I will share here one of my favorite ways of setting your transformation roadmap. It always starts from the end.

Ask yourself the question, where do we as a business want to be three years or five years from now? Zooming out helps setting long-term business goals for your digital transformation program. Start by brainstorming a long list of targets and must-haves across the organizational structures. There will be plenty, I am sure but it is important to listen to all the voices in the organization and look at all the options before start making any decisions or short lists for action.

Look for impact on your long list of suggestions, which of the suggested activities will have an impact throughout the whole organization and which will benefit only parts of the business? Focus on those targets on the list that have definite market value. Be careful not to overlook issues that are on the first look internal such as improving your product quality but would in the longer run pay pack as improved customer satisfaction and loyalty.

After you have been able to put together a long list of targets, it is time to scrutinize them once more. Think about each target on the list and ask questions such as “How would our world and business look like one year from now, three years from now if we choose to go with this target?”, also just as important it is to ask that “What would happen if we ignored this issue?” “Is it possible to win this target? Do we have the capabilities today or is it possible to develop the needed capabilities in the given timeframe?” “How does this target affect our stakeholders, both in the company and outside, what are the considerations here?”

Your goal is to get down to a short list of maybe 3 – 5 targets all of which have gone through exhaustive assessment on impact and return on investment, analysis of current resources and needed capabilities, stakeholder and risk analysis and preferably be left with only targets that are energizing and exciting and agreed upon by the whole management team..

“Easier said than done.”

So how do you know if you have picked the right priorities? The real pressure hits in only as you release your plans to the wider audience, which is actually not a bad idea to do. Before deciding on the final list of strategic initiatives in your digital transformation program portfolio, why not test your ideas and assumptions with a limited number of employees, customers and stakeholders?

The thing here is not only to seek reassurance to your strategic choices but also to look for the “If:s”. You know? The “if factor”? “Sure, if we can get the R&D to complete this in six months.” Maybe, if we can find the correct resources to do this” and so forth. These conditions attached to the probability of success for each of your targets reveals instantaneously where the real uncertainties of each target lie and offers you the basis for planning for the implementation. [1]

What is good about working out your transformation roadmap this way, is that it suits all levels of organization. You can do your own strategy roadmap on the boardroom but have also each team in the organization work through their own strategic initiatives and development actions by using the same methodology.

Building a solid digital transformation roadmap is your number one priority to do, yes, but that is only when the fun begins – also known an execution, implementation, action plan – the remaining 90% of your strategy’s success.

Stay tuned!

[1] Killing, Malnight and Keys: Must-win Battles: How to win them, again and again

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