Thoughts on Complex Digital Transformation projects

Challenges facing Complex Digital Transformation projects


  1. Executives who purchased software and want you to execute a project and not solve a problem. Executive reward systems often lead to mixed messages reaching the project team.
  2. Project team members, who are permanent employees, are often stuck in a rut, a paradigm of hierarchical management in a business. The stumbling block is often just project team members who fear speaking the truth to those who have hierarchical power over them.
  3. Digital Transformation endeavours fail when business and project leaders listen to the wrong people. Often the ones who shout the loudest or supposed business partners who are more interested in making sure they do not get blamed for failure than in adding value to the company.
  4. Project or so-called program managers are often stuck in the paradigm that they need to direct and not do. Sometimes getting off your chair, is what is needed to unblock the constraints in large complex projects.
  5. Fear of deep diving. Sometimes a singular focus is what is needed to unblock the constraints in large complex projects.
  6. Deals that are negotiated badly because of incorrect assumptions or simple lack of knowledge of the subject. Scenario planning is a powerful tool.
  7. Project or program managers and leaders who accept “No” as the final answer.
  8. Distrust
  9. Corporate bureaucratic systems


How to succeed with complex digital transformation projects:


  1. Start by realising that projects are a team sport. You cannot do it alone.
  2. Get to know the problem you are working to solve and know that technology must serve the business and not the other way around?
  3. Know who the influencers and decision makers are and how the project will serve their business areas. Also understand how the project will disrupt their business areas and what their push back motivations are.
  4. Work to secure unambiguous consensus from your stakeholders on the problem that you are working to solve and, on the approach.
  5. SaaS technology solutions have implications on your accounting due to International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS). Make sure you get a handle on your CAPEX vs OPEX budget requirements and rules for the technology and project services investment. This can provide unpleasant surprises if handled incorrectly at the outset. Do this work before finalising the commercial model and shape of the deal with your vendor.
  6. Complex digital transformation projects typically span many business units and divisions of your business. Make sure everybody is on board and that they all budget and contribute proportionally to the endeavour. Divisional budget priorities are rarely aligned, this very often results in strategic blockages for complex digital transformation projects. One division cannot carry the entire budget.
  7. Invest time and budget in Scenario planning
  8. Teams who need to multi-task to get through their day, too often resign to Minimum Viable Product merely to tick a delivery box. Focus is important for your complex project to deliver value.
  9. Project team members who are numb from everything being urgent, develop an inertia when moving from talking to planning to action. Linking the required action to project purpose and strategic value to the company helps to unblock this.
  10. Realise that you do not need to be nasty, obnoxious or rude to get things done. Bring the team with you on the journey by ensuring they buy in to the problem that needs solving is key. The team knows what needs to be done. They just want to feel that they add value and that their work has meaning.


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