‘Transformation’ is the boardroom buzzword that can win you a healthy wedge of the annual budget. And technology transformation projects, particularly, promise to deliver big rewards. But do they succeed?
A recent World Economic Forum (WEF) report showed companies spent $1.2trillion on digital transformation efforts. And 80% of business leaders highlight new ways of working through technology as the top enabler of their success. While it’s no surprise technology transformation projects spend is high, the reality is only 1% of transformation efforts achieve or exceed expectation.
For the 99% not reaching glory, a likely cause is competition – specifically #TMP (Too Many Projects).
Harvard Business Review (HBR) explains we’re witnessing an epidemic of project fatigue and burnout within organisations and offers great advice on how to avoid it. Having reflected on HBR’s article, here’s our advice to help technology transformation project teams avoid getting lost in the noise and falling victim to #TMP.
1. Know where you sit in the pecking order
Do your homework to understand how many projects your organisation has on the go and where yours sits in the pecking order. Financial investment, duration and strategic outcome will give you an indicator of how important your programme is. It will also tell you who and what your competition is and whether #TMP is a risk factor. For example, if #TMP is a risk, you’ll need to do more to get your voice heard by everyone.
2. Make friends with those who count
Your analysis would have told you who has projects on the go within your organisation and which ones are important. Can you dove-tail with any of these projects? Harmonising what you have to say will make your voices louder and united – and help get you attention.
3. You’ll always need your besties
Work hard to make HR, Learning & Development and employee/internal communications your ‘besties’. Everything you do needs to feed into their programmes and they can help you hit all the right channels to get your transformation project out there. They also have the intel on how employees are feeling and what they’re receptive to – great for preparation and measurement. Create and nurture a relationship that is honest and where both parties listen.
4. Have your ducks in a row
You must drown out the noise of the other projects and be objective about your own. Regardless of project competition make sure your project is ready before you trigger the start button. Run a Prosci change readiness assessment to determine how ready your organisation is for the change. It’s based on a model that focuses on three elements: project management, change management and leadership & sponsorship. This assessment quantifies where you’re at on the change scale and what you need to do to get your project ready to go live. Triggering the start button before you’re ready increases the risk of your project failing.
5. Don’t assume positive words means support
Feeling confident because lots of senior people are saying positive things? If they’re saying what you want to hear, it could be lip service. To truly find out who your advocates and detractors are, run a separate sponsorship assessment. After all, change must be led from the top and middle management of an organisation. The outcome of the assessment determines how much guidance and support each sponsor needs to fully support the change. Depending on the results, form sponsorship coalitions to buddy up sponsors who are pro-change and have influence with those who aren’t. This could get everyone on board and supporting the project.
6. Live by the mantra of WIIFM
No employee will listen or change if you don’t sell the ‘What’s In It For Me’ (WIIFM) factor. Everything you do that is employee facing must include the benefits to the employee. That means the project brand, communications, training and selling the success factor. Otherwise, people won’t listen to your project over the many others competing for their airtime.
7. Consider the managers’ clocks
Technology transformation takes up employee time, especially middle managers. Managers are the biggest group who will make your change happen as people seek permission to change from their manager (Prosci, 2018). All the other projects want their time too though. Managers getting overwhelmed and being overloaded is a serious problem so keep it succinct in how you manage their time. We think manager tool kits are a particularly useful way of keeping in contact with them.
To be heard above the noise of the many projects taking place across your organisation requires a head-turning, proven strategy. And you can talk to us to see how our tried and tested approach – Establish, Excite, Equip, Embed – can help your project rise above #TMP.