Understand your own recipe before cooking your meal: setting a proper Digital Transformation structure

You don’t go to treasure hunt without a map, right? It’s the same way we don’t start to transforming the company without a digital transformation (DT) business solution in place. 

“The main reason we have a companies is to solve some real life problems by applying a range of different business solutions to them. When you unpack the ‘’business solution’’ what you get is people, processes and tools” – Go digital or go dead: A business survival kit

In the very same light, the digital transformation can be perceived as a business solution to digital enterprises need to continuously transform itself in order to meet the market demands. As a business solution DT is a “System within the system (company)” and as such has its own structure that must be in place. This means that DT process needs to be clearly defined, a competent and accountable team is dedicated to this and tools chosen to carry it out to completion. All three DT components should be ready in order to start using DT business solution. We are going to demonstrate here how to set up first one by:

  1. Defining general DT process as one of key DT business solution components 
  2. Adapting general DT process to hypothetical “Telco” company introduced in former blog post.

In order to do above, we will use quite simple and intuitive ”5 steps” problem solving framework. As a first step it starts by defining the problem to which we are seeking a solution. Then, in the step two, there is a need to consider team competency level and assure there are available knowledge and skills required to solve the defined problem. This means that as the final outcome of this step the competent problem-solving team would be formed to find solution for defined problem. As the third step, the team needs to allow itself some time to reflect on the context within which defined problem is taking place. This means considering the following:  industry, size of the company, position on the market, problem domain, etc. In step four, the team would look into many available frameworks and pick the ones that works for them. The team would select the frameworks that are aligned with the context of the problem considered. In final step, the team applies its knowledge and skills on selected frameworks and generates solution. 

In order to fullfil our first task and define general purpose DT process we went through steps presented in table below.

Problem definition: Define general DT process determining an approach that transformation projects should be organized as an ongoing effort to continuously transform company into digital enterprise.
Competency assured: Knowledge and skills required to find solution for problem defined related to following domains:
project portfolio management, business analysis, project management, agile practices, business process management, problem solving techniques.
Context: General DT process is intended to be applied by the middle to big size company from any industry. Transformation projects will be implemented within the complex systems with high level of uncertainty.
Selected frameworks: pmi.org
Generated solution: Solution is provided in form of high-level DT process and presented on figure below. DT process starts with initial assessment of the company digital maturity across all three dimensions (Organisational, Cultural and Technology). According the assessment portfolio of the digital transformation projects should be created and prioritized. Upcoming digital maturity assessments don’t necessarily encompass all three domains.  Portfolio of DT projects need to be updated and prioritized on regular basis according to digital maturity assessment results.

As we already noted in one of our previous blog posts digital transformation starts with vision, which is shared and communicated by top management. It is from this vision that a business strategy flows. The key questions every business strategy needs to answer are: “What is our current status?”, “Where do we want to be in the future?” and “How should we get there?”. Given DT process enables alignment of the DT projects to the business strategy. It starts by assessment of company’s digital maturity status thus answering the first key business strategy question. Assessment is done across all three company dimensions: technological, cultural and organisational. The assessment outcome will be used to define strategic goals thus answering the second question. The DT projects will be defined relying on these strategic goals. What then will ensue is envisioning the details, scoping, prioritizing, budgeting and preparing for implementation. As the project is implemented the new assessment of digital maturity is conducted and strategy goals updated or newly created accordingly.  

Model for Digital transformation process

One of the key reasons we presented not only DT process as the outcome but the “5 step” framework as well is to promote using the mixture of proven frameworks as the systematic and recommended approach to solving complex problems. Another reason is to apostrophe difference between the framework and methodology or technique professionals use to solve a problem. What frameworks do? The frameworks will give you definitions of terms, structure and extension rules similarly like dictionary of foreign words. If you want to look for a word e.g. “truck” you know that it should be in the “t” section since dictionary has a clear alphabetical structure. But knowing the meaning of every single word from dictionary doesn’t necessarily mean you are able to compose sentences and speak the language. In the very same way, having a framework available but not being skilled and not having developed methodology to use it doesn’t help in solving a problem. In fact, more often than not, the results of such an approach do more harm than good. It is precisely because of this that you should pay special attention to how you handle step two of the “5 step” described framework . 

Now, let’s assume that Telco executives decided to start DT journey. They asked the CEO of IT department, we will call him Jim, to take lead on and conduct all necessary steps towards the realization of adopted vision. DT department staffed with cross functional, multi-disciplinary team has already been formed. Jim scheduled and facilitated team meetings where he shared the company DT vision and asked about the next necessary steps in the process. After shorter discussion team agrees they need to set up the first stage and prepare for implementation of transformation projects. They already participated in “Digital Transformation: fundamentals” training and have certain knowledge about DT process and “5 step” framework as general problem solving tool. Within the next 20 days, Telco DT team has gone through steps in table below. 

Problem definition: Adapt general DT process to Telco 
Competency assured: Telecommunication domain knowledge, project portfolio management, business analysis, project management, agile practices, business process management, problem solving techniques.
Context: DT process is intended to be applied by the telecommunication service provider company.
Selected frameworks: tmforum



Generated solution: Solution is provided in form of selecting and applying industry specific Digital Maturity Model.

DT team members have invested some time to investigate available frameworks, standards, tools and best practices related to digital transformation in telecommunication industry. Thus, among many available Digital Maturity Models (DMM) team has selected one appropriate for telecom industry. DMM is in form of questionnaire with 110 criteria in total that can be rated to provide a view of the company current level of digital maturity. DT team is ready now to conduct initial DMM assessment. The DT strategic goals would be set based on initial DMM assessment outcome. Proper metrics, with key performance indicators (KPIs) in place, would be defined and set as a target for the next digital maturity assessment. Based on this the team would need to identify and prioritize the portfolio of DT projects and make it ready for executives’ approval so transformation projects could start with the implementation.  

This time we talked about how to put the DT structure in place, next time we will demonstrate how to use it. To find out the must-know aspects of this, stay tuned.