A successful digital transformation that enables new business models through technology requires company-wide changes in processes, organizational structures, and behaviors. In my experience, a phased approach that offers an operating model and can evolve at each phase is the best way to transform a business.
As a Salesforce Program Architect working for customers who have very ambitious transformational goals, I act as a catalyst to make their digital transformations successful — in other words, I’m a change agent.
A change agent is someone who promotes and enables change across an organization. That involves challenging the status quo with actionable and measurable initiatives and earning trust and buy-in from all key stakeholders. One key factor that has stood out to me in these experiences is that the more open a corporate culture is to change a corporate culture, the more effective the transformation.
You must be comfortable with ambiguity. When you start a transformational journey, you will soon realize that your role is not always going to be clearly defined by leadership. Different stakeholders might have diverging ideas about the scope and execution of a new technology.
Most people do not appreciate being told that they need to change their ways to enable transformation. So, you must first earn the trust of your stakeholders by taking small steps that deliver specific value. Learn how to experiment. Help those around you to be comfortable with an agile culture.
Try to get things moving quickly by acting simultaneously on processes that might look unrelated at first while keeping a long-term view to hold them together. Above all, focus on getting people around you to act and embrace change too. This can sometimes be challenging, but nobody said that transforming a business was easy!
Ultimately, your organization’s willingness to change will be key and you can be a catalyst for increasing everyone’s comfort level with the unknown. That’s why I’m here to encourage you to become a change agent for your organization by evolving, adapting, and transforming.
Understanding your organization’s maturity and appetite for change are also important ingredients. Tackle the short-term challenges first while laying a solid foundation for future scalability, thus enabling the introduction of more advanced processes in the future.
Typically, in my first few months of partnering with a customer on their new transformation initiative, I focus on operational excellence by delivering features faster and with a regular cadence. Getting operations and IT teams to cope with the new Salesforce skills and adjust to the pace of innovation is instrumental for short-term success.
In the end, being deliberate about quick wins is a determining factor in the success of a digital transformation.
After your initial success, now is a good time to capitalize on your earned credibility and move to the next step: light-weight governance. Coordinating activities across multiple business units and project teams doesn’t just happen. As the incremental operational changes of the previous step take root, you can begin to connect the dots in two directions:
Top-down, with agile principles and strategic capability planning
Bottom-up, with emerging platform governance mechanisms
In the end, you will be able to navigate from strategy to execution with a digital operating model that can deliver new digital capabilities to your employees and customers. To manage this, you can also introduce a Center of Excellence (CoE) to oversee the platform as a whole.
Still, that’s only half the equation. A catalyst for change must work toward breaking down silos by recommending clear ownership for the platform, ideally by naming an influential leader as head of the CoE and empowering that person to enforce the design, build, release, and support processes of your platform ecosystem.
As this CoE gains traction, it will be relatively easy to introduce new platform governance mechanisms into the mix, like:
Data Governance Council to own and align data models across capabilities
Architecture Design Board to define patterns and design solutions
Scrum of Scrums in order to scale and synchronize agile teams
Coordinated Capability Lifecycle based on Continuous Integration to set the platform cadence
Platform Deployment Strategy based on Continuous Delivery to speed up the delivery of new features
But remember not to overdo it; ensuring that people talk to each other and align regularly is more important than enforcing processes.
Once operational excellence is fully under control, you can now turn your energy towards portfolio management and lean budgeting (funding entire strategic initiatives at once instead of one new project at a time), thus enabling a stronger focus on the delivery of new features (the what) instead of managing projects (the how).
By getting funding for the entire initiative instead of scoping one project at a time, this financial framework allows for product teams to be more flexible, resulting in a truly agile organization. It also helps streamline the transition from experimentation in the design phase to the build cycle, which will result in an improved time-to-market, higher user adoption and better alignment with business goals.
At the end of the day, this is a job that requires the courage to pursue a long-term vision, the ability to draft realistic roadmaps, the willingness to adapt to a rapidly changing environment, and the development of your sense for good timing.
The final objective should be to maximize business value generation for your company in a fast, incremental and predictable way. And THIS is the real change that a digital transformation makes possible.