Three Tips for Taking on Digital Transformation

Instituting change in large organizations can seem like a thankless task with insurmountable challenges, only slightly easier than sending a rocket to Mars. But with the rewards of digital transformation so bountiful, the destination more than pays for the pain of the journey.

Mnet 126367 Digital Transformation
Chris MoustakasChris Moustakas

Instituting change in large organizations can seem like a thankless task with insurmountable challenges, only slightly easier than sending a rocket to Mars. But with the rewards of digital transformation so bountiful, the destination more than pays for the pain of the journey.

Since digital transformation can mean an awful lot of things, to focus this article I’m going to hone in on one particularly popular use case — moving manual processes to mobile. There are plenty of ways to approach these sorts of projects; below I’ll cover three tips that have worked well for us.

No. 1 - Start Small

Our customers’ own business cases have shown that it costs an extra $10-50, on average, to execute a single process manually — e.g. filling out a calibration form or executing a paper-based procedure — most of which is due to the extra labor required.

When suggesting a project, it can be tempting to shoot for a process that’s near the upper edge of that range — after all, the bigger the savings, the faster the ROI. This has an undeniable logic to it, but in practice the more-costly processes tend to be ones that are more core to the business — they take longer due to built-in controls that minimize the chance of failure, for example. Therefore, they are ones that key stakeholders would rather not touch with a ten-foot pole.

By picking a smaller, less convoluted process to digitize first, you’re reducing the risk of failure and lowering the amount of resistance you’re likely to encounter. And a business case proven in the field is infinitely more valuable than one theorized on paper, because you can simply extrapolate the savings from the smaller process to the larger ones.

No. 2 - Engage With Actual Users and Pilot, Pilot, Pilot

Nothing dooms a technology project quicker than functionality designed and built in the halls of good ideas instead of in the trenches of actual practice. Especially when it comes to mobile functionality, and especially when you’re dealing with field or line workers, don’t underestimate the boring but crucial circumstances of how and where that work takes place.

Will the users be wearing gloves? Are they ever in cold or wet conditions? How far away are they from wireless access points and power sources? All of that, and much more, can drive the design of the software and the hardware you choose.

One requirements-gathering session or workshop isn’t enough. You’re going to need multiple releases before you have something reasonably production worthy. Pilots can test everyone’s patience but they’re critical information-gathering tools, especially when you’re blazing new trails.

No. 3 - Have a Consistent Long-Term Vision

This one is last because it’s the hardest, and it’s the hardest because there’s no single answer. The vision you choose will depend on your organization and its capacity for change, the talent of your IT department and chosen software partner, cyber security limitations, and much more.

Decide early on if you’re going to build in-house or buy a software platform; use Mobile Device Management software or let users download from the public app stores; allow users to bring their own devices or provide ones to them; design the app for tablets, phones, or both; support one mobile operating system or all three; etc.

Wherever possible, opt for the simplest approach, but in cases where that’s not possible, it’s better to take a little extra time in the beginning to do some due diligence than it is to go down a path, prove out a concept, and have it shelved or derailed by a key stakeholder who wasn’t consulted. Your project may be a little baby now, but plan for the day when it will be all grown up and off to college!

Chris Moustakas is President & CEO of DevonWay.

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