Digital Transformation: 5 Steps to Align Your Organization
While we’ve discussed Digital Transformation being an organization’s ability to provide customers with a unified, innovative digital experience, in this article, we will focus on what it means within the Delivery Practice at Universal Mind - creating an organizational culture in which teams are empowered to move fast and make their own decisions in the context of a larger digital roadmap. Additionally, we will offer five steps that will help align your organization.
Many organizations that try to create this kind of culture start by creating agile development teams within IT. These teams may move fast individually, but their work is often slowed by lack of support from less agile silos in the organization or misalignment with changing business priorities. The organization as a whole will remain slow unless agile is implemented on an enterprise scale across multiple teams, functions and organizational silos that collaborate together.
Universal Mind takes an organization-wide approach to Digital Transformation. We recommend the following steps to ensure a continuous delivery flow and to make sure that different parts of the organization are in alignment:
- Plan A Digital Roadmap
- Grow Product, Not Project, Teams
- Build A Strong Foundation
- Develop On Cadence
- Look For Ways To Get Better
Plan A Digital Roadmap
Anyone who has worked with large organizations is familiar with examples of redundancy and misalignment between silos in the organization. Perhaps one team designs a feature for a web site, while unknown to them another team in a far-off department designs the same feature for a smartphone app. Or maybe a team that’s tasked with delivering a feature this quarter needs data from a database team that doesn’t plan on doing the work until next quarter.
A digital roadmap that spans the organization can solve this problem. It’s the bridge between an organization’s 10,000 foot view of digital strategy and the more granular projects, tasks and user stories managed by individual teams.
Roadmap planning starts with an enterprise backlog. The backlog contains all epic-level work items expected to advance an organization’s long-term strategic goals, including features and architectural initiatives. Agile planning tools like Kanban boards can provide visual representations of the backlog so that different parts of an organization have visibility into each other’s planned work.
A unified, well-organized enterprise backlog is the basis for regular digital roadmap planning sessions. During these planning sessions, key stakeholders across the organization agree on short-to-medium term sequencing of backlog items. Individual teams will use the resulting roadmap to manage their own work backlog and identify dependencies between their work and that of other teams.
Grow Product, Not Project, Teams
The core building blocks of any successful Digital Transformation are the individual teams that execute an organization’s digital roadmap. These teams are cross functional and may include designers, developers, analysts, testers, and delivery managers, and they work with product owners to make decisions in the context of the organization’s larger digital roadmap.
Many organizations struggle with creating cohesive teams because their staffing plans and budgets are project based. Teams are assembled for a single project at a time, and team members move on to other initiatives after their role on the project is done. This model not only deprives teams of continuity, but it limits the flexibility of product owners to redirect their teams to pursue new priorities without jumping through procurement hoops and other red tape.
Universal Mind works with organizations to build product teams that support a long-term roadmap, not just a single project. A properly constructed digital roadmap ensures a constant flow of work for all team members. For example, user experience designers can prototype future roadmap items while developers and testers work on features for a current release and technical architects define standards for upcoming releases. Work can be started on new roadmap items as team capacity becomes available, not when dictated by a fixed project start date. Over time, the team builds up a high level of trust and a deep product knowledge that allow them to innovate and execute at a high level.
Build a Strong Foundation
Digital Transformation doesn’t mean letting teams loose to run as fast as they can on their own. All teams benefit from a robust technical and user experience foundation that they can build on, from APIs to digital style guides and asset libraries.
Traditional agile development encourages “emergent design” – the notion that the best technical architectures and user experiences emerge organically from individual teams. While this practice works well in many situations, it may result in teams delivering inconsistent experiences that ultimately require rework before they can be part of a unified whole.
Centralized enterprise architecture and user experience standards allow teams to move fast without sacrificing consistency. For this reason, Universal Mind encourages organizations to include enough runway in their digital roadmaps for technical architects and creative directors to work across individual teams and create these foundations.
Develop On Cadence
An effective digital roadmap is based on a predictable development cadence that offers regular opportunities for teams to replan.
Much like individual agile development teams work in 2-week increments called sprints, larger organizations can plan work in increments of 6 weeks or one quarter. Foundational architecture efforts may require a different speed. Regular release dates fixed on the calendar create predictability across the organization, and offer an opportunity to shift focus to new priorities at regular intervals. If a feature doesn’t make the cut for a given release, the next release is always around the corner.
A rapid but sustainable cadence also allows organizations to adopt the “fast feedback” ethos that is key to Digital Transformation. Releasing work for feedback on a regular basis minimizes the likelihood of costly rework, spurs innovation, and can help build consensus across different parts of the organization.
Look For Ways To Get Better
A development cadence also provides organizations with regular opportunities to identify bottlenecks and areas of improvement. Universal Mind uses a number of methods to help organizations regularly identify and correct barriers to success, including both quantitative measures like velocity, cycle time and budget allocation as well as qualitative feedback from teams using daily scrum meetings and periodic retrospectives. At the end of each development increment, teams meet to review metrics and discuss what they can do better next time around.
Metrics and open discussion can help show teams where they need to get better. However, anybody who has implemented agile practices on an enterprise scale has experienced the challenge of explaining concepts like velocity to business or executive stakeholders or getting those team members to regularly participate in team meetings. Furthermore, many of the challenges faced by individual teams will be challenges that exist at a wider enterprise level and can’t be communicated by team-level metrics or fixed by the team alone.
Universal Mind supports Digital Transformation by ensuring that all stakeholders in the organization have access to the right level of information for their role so that they can help remove impediments. “Scrum of scrums” meetings and executive summary dashboards that roll up team-level metrics at a program level can be useful ways to make sure that leadership within an organization are part of the feedback loop without getting bogged down in minutiae.
Digital Transformation means creating a culture of collaboration and shared vision so that individual teams can rapidly execute a unified digital experience. To this end, Universal Mind’s Delivery Practice helps organizations apply agile practices at an enterprise scale, not just for individual development teams.