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The Most Important Phase in Digital Transformation is The Beginning

Why the Most Important Phase in a Digital Transformation Is Before You Start

Salesforce professional services share their Phase 0 approach to delivering successful enterprise-scale digital transformation projects.

The pace of change is faster than ever. As a result, business and technology leaders tend to launch into projects with speed and momentum without first planning for success. Jonathan Hatcher uncovers a new framework called Phase 0, which aims to align business goals before the project starts. Jonathan draws from vital lessons that the Salesforce Professional Services team gathered from hundreds of highly complex, fully integrated enterprise-scale project implementations.

With inputs from Karl Kuchejda, Director, Services Leader, at Salesforce.

The most important moment in a digital transformation is at the very start. That’s where decision making is nimble and it’s easiest to affect valuable change.

Now more than ever there is an imperative for organisations to meet customer expectations, capitalise on new technology, and create a working environment that attracts and retains the best talent. 

Although it is tempting to move fast into project-mode, shifting into action without proper planning introduces risk later down the line. This shows up as misaligned objectives, internal politics, and over-indexing on ‘getting it delivered’. As opposed to achieving high user adoption and realisation of business value.  

To address this most critical stage, our team has developed a process called Phase 0. This helps businesses develop a clear roadmap of what they want to achieve, and how to get there.

Slow down before you speed up

The sheer scale and complexity of transformations needs a clear runway to ensure the project will be successful. There are innumerable moving parts to consider, competing business goals, and teams to align. With so much at stake, it is vital to get all the important details right. 

Our team has gathered insights from hundreds of complex, enterprise-scale transformation projects. These insights are distilled into a framework we call Phase 0. The most successful projects use this precious time before the project starts to reimagine what is possible, gain internal alignment, and conduct detailed planning. Our aim is to help our customers develop a clear vision of what they want to achieve, and a roadmap on how to get there.

We recently worked with a customer in the telecommunications industry, who ran a strategic planning exercise with Salesforce Professional Services. The aim was  to help align executives, pinpoint business value opportunities, and bring high value Salesforce user experience elements to life. We co-created a phased architecture and delivery roadmap, which will allow them to move into their Salesforce project delivery with confidence, alignment, and speed.

While every project requires bespoke advice for the customer’s scenario, there are three core elements to our approach. These are empathy, alignment, and action.

Empathy: Engage your customers and employees early

At the end of your project, a mark of success is your end users: your customers and employees. 

Does it improve the way customers interact with you? Does it help employees do their jobs? Leading with empathy allows you to reframe preconceived ideas to discover the best possible solution. This is where we start with Phase 0. 

Spending time with customers and employees to understand what they are trying to achieve, their frustrations, and hopes is core to our human-centred design approach. This discovery work is vital to ensure technology decisions centre around user needs.

Designing experiences with the Salesforce platform in mind from day one proactively balances user needs while maximising use of out-of-the-box capabilities. This paves the foundation for fast and agile implementation leveraging Salesforce best practices.

Here’s an example of a healthcare provider who wanted to build an online community for new mothers. We worked with the business and their community to explore how they ideally wanted to share information. Together, we found a solution that could be created with minor changes to an existing product and were able to offer a streamlined solution without reinventing the wheel. This is a win-win scenario for the business and the new mothers.

Empathy isn’t just about the user experience. It also applies to deeply understanding the customer’s broader technology environment. Enterprise customers invariably have multiple complex technology systems that need to deliver their capabilities alongside Salesforce. It’s important to take the time to understand each customer’s unique technology environment. This helps to develop an optimal approach around where Salesforce should play and how it should be integrated to deliver on CX outcomes. 

Alignment: Bring everything back to your why

Executive alignment early in the process is critical. Without it, we commonly see issues arise during project delivery. These issues can cause delays and increase the risk of project failure. 

As part of Phase 0, we map out specific project objectives and business success drivers. This is done with a Salesforce lens, identifying and quantifying the impact of desired changes. Once agreement has been reached, objectives are aligned to executive OKRs or KPIs. This provides a baseline for measuring success throughout the project and serves to align key stakeholders on transformation goals at the start.

For example, we worked with a multinational conglomerate company that was looking for opportunities to optimise their sales and service model and enable them to assist more customers. We proposed a model that would deliver process automation, increase digital channel optionality for consumers, and drive efficiencies across sales and service teams. We helped them gain insight into how a self-service model for customers and partners could be achieved. This enabled the team to visualise new opportunities for technology to streamline their business and better engage with customers and partners. 

As strategic planning unfolds, sharing progress is important to align teams, showcase outputs, and gain additional feedback. We regularly bring cross-functional teams together to share insights, success, and lessons learned. This open forum helps to motivate the team, and keep them aligned on the vision.

Action: Propel your team into delivery

Planning allows a thorough scan of the project ahead, factoring in complexity, risks and navigating roadblocks through better program design.

At the action stage, you want to walk away with a plan that includes how the project will be delivered in detail. You should have a clear idea of the investment, phases, benefits, risks, and dependencies involved.  

We look to understand the customer’s unique environment, the resources they have available, nuances of their business operating model, and their project delivery methodology. 

Our approach is to dive deep enough into key aspects of the project such as costs, risks, integration, and data migration. Then, emerge with a transformation plan that decision makers can proceed with confidence.

It’s vital to have diverse input into this planning stage from both the business and technology teams. There should also be a single executive owner allocated to being accountable for progressing into a business case.

Launch your project into success

The most successful transformation projects clear the runway before launching their project. 

Take the time to plan, reimagine where you are headed, and how to get there. Then the project can be launched into clear skies ahead, instead of building the plane while flying.

Give yourself a month or two to map out a strategic plan, based on empathy, alignment, and action. That’s how you can set yourself up for not just success, but transformation.

This post was originally published on the A.U.-version of the Salesforce blog.

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