Research over the last two decades has suggested a large percentage of change programmes do not achieve their desired impact. A change programme by nature is complex to manage, and there are many basics we need to get right to make it work. In the digital transformation work we do at 4OC, we find the following approaches can greatly tip that scale and unlock the true potential of your transformation ambitions.
Bring people along your journey (the power of co-design)
People should always be the centre of all digital improvement; it is all about how we unlock the workforce’s creativity and productivity via the power of the technology and not the other way round.
A great way to achieve this is co-design, where operational teams become the change agent and part of the solution guided by an experienced transformation team. Alongside this, a co-developed engagement plan and training plan significantly improve outcomes, decrease blockers of change, and increase adoption rates. We find the best outcomes are produced by combining the co-design approach with some agile methodology, namely, introducing a core user group to progressively test, show-and-tell the evolving solution.
One of the perceived risks to this approach is scope creep in which the user group may add new requirements, therefore increasing cost and time. Our 4OC experience has taught us not to negate these ideas and the reasoning behind them, even though they may seem costly and resource intensive. Instead, have a roll-out plan that allows subsequent functionality drops and a change management process that involves the sponsors to allow these ideas to be funnelled, assessed, and picked up. Many great innovations come from trial and error—don’t stop it, promote it!
In our work in the housing and local government sectors, 4OC helped co-design/roll-out an agile change methodology where we co-developed a series of improvement sprints to support rapid improvement needs on digital customer platforms. With the core user group established and a training plan co-developed for the workforce, we inserted a repeatable process into organisations to enable their staff to improve customer experience using their own insights and knowledge. Demonstrable improvements were made, including streamlining the tenancy process and quickly resolving complaints.
Clarity of Vision
One of the first steps of kicking off a change programme involves extensive stakeholder engagement and the right storytelling in concise, thought-out language styled to suit your organisation is key. Sometimes, this looks like a well drafted, rich picture and narrative, and sometimes it is a set of problem statements, a demonstration or a simple video. We will find a way that works for you to achieve the needed buy-in.
If the vision lacks clarity and expected benefits are not well defined, any transformation aim is doomed to take a wrong turn. This can result in a lack of organisational participation that leaves you unsupported and your change ambition in the drains. Let’s avoid this!
An external change agent who comes into a digital transformation fresh and detached from the status quo may be just what you need. Often, we find, if integrated and communicating with operational teams correctly, an external expert is able to break down the red tape, solicit the right collaboration with different areas of the organisation, and help distill the diverse thinking into a coherent vision and structured requirement model that others can easily understand. The business case then starts to write itself and becomes a product of all involved areas rather than any one department.
At 4OC, we helped one of the largest metro systems in the world shape a complex security programme, making stations safer in the event of terrorist attacks. Over a three-month period, we undertook more than 100 stakeholder workshops and meetings (involving passengers, operational and technical staff, management, and executive), defined problems, developed high-level solutions, and agreed the narrative for a complex security issue. Our ability to translate esoteric, technical/engineering solutions into a language that each stakeholder understood catalysed the delivery of this £40m programme after a 5-year delay by enabling timely decision-making.
Effective sponsorship ensures your transformation aims stay on course and benefits are fully realised. The makeup and structure of your governance board should be laid out in the business case and put to work right at the start of the project.
The right sponsor and governance board shapes the transformation programme, from funding, delivery structure, and pace to forming the team and resolving escalations. They measure success and tell the story. They help prioritise and remind the delivery team of the programme goals whilst they may be engrossed in day-to-day project delivery issues and mishaps.
By adopting a clear delivery pathway/roadmap such as: feasibility assessments, pilots, design & delivery, to testing and roll-out, it aids the sponsors in better understanding costs, resource needs, potential risks and impact, opportunities and, importantly, delivery certainty. Adding this to the correct blend of progress, gate, and acceptance reviews allows timely intervention via effective monitoring of the business case. The sponsor can then scale the programme (or aspects of it) up or down or repeat the same based on results, evidence, and data, maximising benefits. Benefit realisation needs to be at the forefront of any transformation strategy, every step of the way.
In one of our programmes with a local authority, 4OC conducted a Root and Branch Review of both strategic direction and operational effectiveness on one of their services, which informed their service transformation programme. We delivered outcomes, success measures, and the user engagement approach using the principles of co-production and co-design. Following extensive staff and customer engagement, best practice research, and performance/cost modelling, we published 56 specific recommendations, five pilot solutions to build momentum on subsequent stages of change, and a targeted and tailored Implementation Roadmap. This helped the sponsor group revitalise their service agenda and their team re-engage in their improved service goals as well as providing a structured delivery pathway which allows the continuous managing of cost vs benefits
What does it all mean?
At its base level, the success of any transformation, digital or otherwise, is dependent upon leveraging internal capability and organisational knowledge to drive change. 4OC’s subject matter experts have the techniques and tools to expertly apply these approaches, helping you unlock your full potential for maximum impact.
If you’d like to have a chat about a major transformation you are planning or undergoing, contact me at Wilson.Chiu@the4oc.com.