Jeremy Behler, Chief Financial Officer, Sargento Foods Inc.
Technology continues to transform our lives in many ways, but its benefits in the workplace typically lag those in our personal lives. In the quest to bring those benefits to the office, we often initiate projects that require significant financial support, time, and organizational resources.
As CFOs are aware, these projects rarely come in on time or on budget. Moreover, they often fail to create the value promised. At Sargento, we are in the midst of our own digital transformation. We are excited about the transformative potential to the organization, but we have seen our share of twists and turns along the way. For those who may be earlier in their journey, I’m sharing four valuable lessons we’ve learned along the way:
1. Digital transformation isn’t a discreet project with a clear endpoint
The nature of digital transformation is it’s a fluid process, which inevitably requires agility identify and react to changes, both internally and externally, and ensure the organization’s people and processes work seamlessly with the technology platforms. There will be tradeoffs and roadblocks not initially considered that must be navigated and since no two digital transformations are the same, timelines and solutions will differ from one company to another.
Further, as both your business and technology evolve a formal endpoint can limit your ability to identify and implement promising new capabilities.
2. Don’t underestimate the risks of stretching resources too thin
A forced sense of urgency can lead to frustration, with many digital transformations adding more work onto the plates of those involved and sub optimizing both the project and the core business. This can lead to slow progress on the project and result in discouraged teams and little visible progress. Deploying dedicated resources with the right skills and buy-in while listening to those closest to the business processes impacted can lead to faster course corrections and ultimately a smoother transition.
3. Workplace digital transformations have an unrealistically high bar and cost when compared to our personal lives
When we think about our home lives, Siri, Alexa, and Google are all fantastic tools that can answer questions or perform a multitude of tasks with a simple voice request. Why can’t we do something similar at work with our enterprise technologies?
As you likely know it’s not that simple. Consumer-facing solutions are scaled and integrated, with the research and development being completed before we are ever exposed to the product. R&D for a digital transformation, however, is part of the transition process.
Every digital transformation is ultimately a customized solution on some level, and frustrations can arise when things don’t go as planned initially or cost much more than expected. Setting the right expectations is essential to minimizing end-user frustrations.
4. Before launching a digital transformation project get all key resources and support in place to maximize success
Change management is ultimately about people. It’s easy to assume the solutions a digital transformation bring are welcomed with open arms across the organization but that is rarely the case. Buy-in is critical to mitigate resistance to change so you must identify who will be most affected, involve them early in the process, and leverage them as vocal change agents. Training should be tailored to ensure employees feel a sense of control over what’s happening and can become advocates for the project. Finally, assess the magnitude of change you are embarking upon and plan accordingly. If you are implementing a broad-scale greenfield ERP technology that is relatively new to the marketplace there will be many areas in which your team, and even your integration partners, won’t have expertise and will require additional effort and iteration to implement.