Why successful digital transformation is like baking bread
Have you ever baked bread?
The beauty of baking is that all you need is a recipe, the right ingredients and tools, and the ability to follow instructions.
The point of difference from one recipe to the next is the ingredients used, the methodology, equipment and of course, the chef.
What I have concluded is that digital transformation projects can be approached in a similar way. There needs to be a solid recipe, the right ingredients and a methodology must be followed with very similar mindset.
Let me explain.
Anyone who knows me knows that I am definitely no chef. However, in my forever efforts to learn new skills, baking soda bread became part of my repertoire last year. My mother-in-law taught me and I have adjusted, experimented and injected my own personal flare along the way.
Over the weekend, whilst baking a coconut and chocolate loaf, I could not help but liken the whole process to how I would approach a digital change project. Strange I know, however, when you are always looking at ways to improve or do things differently this seems to be how my mind operates.
Therefore, today you get a double whammy… I will not only give you the ingredients for a delicious loaf of bread, but I will also give you the secrets to digital transformation success.
Step 1 – A good recipe and competent chef
This step is not rocket science, however, so important when getting started. Unless you are a seasoned MasterChef, you need to research a step-by-step recipe and be patient and competent enough to take the lead and execute it.
Before you start any digital project you need a clear vision and the leadership to drive the project.
Let me quickly clarify.
In this context, when I talk about digital transformation, I am talking about new digital experiences; whether it is in the workplace, on mobile, or incorporating new technology like the IoT (internet of things) or new systems like ERP. Basically new forms of interactions, tools and engagement, that impact the way you work or how consumers interact with your brand.
To implement digital change effectively, businesses must have a strategic plan that considers the cultural strengths of the business, a dedicated team of internal and external partners, and buy-in from stakeholders across all areas that the change touches.
Every tier of leadership within the organisation needs to be invested in the change, from executive members to lower-level management. Studies show that ownership of digital strategy by the CEO leads to higher levels of digital maturity, digital investment and ultimately success.
Every transformation project needs to start with a clear vision, a detailed strategy, and defined outcomes; and have people accountable for the change’s success.
Step 2 – The right mix of ingredients
Before you start any task you need to ensure you have the right components to make your venture a success.
To make my mother-in-law’s famous soda bread you will need:
- 400g of wholemeal flour
- 2 teaspoons of baking soda
- 1 teaspoon of brown sugar
- 500g organic yogurt
- Milk – enough to make the mixture moist
- 2 pound bread baking tray.
By following the correct steps and mixing the right ingredients, with the right equipment, you will be placed in good stead for the perfect loaf.
When considering a digital project, the right mix will also make or break a project.
The following mix are fundamental for change success:
- A core team, from different departments, driving the implementation
- A Leadership team providing the vision
- The CEO spearheading the transformation
- The appropriate investment to ensure the project is implemented correctly
- A consistent communication strategy that binds it all together
- The right technology.
The complimentary mix of skill sets, strategy, leaders, investment, communication and technology will have a dramatic impact on the outcomes of the project. Leave out any of the ingredients and the project risks its chances of success from the outset.
System transformation success is largely dependant on management support and employee awareness, understanding and buy-in. The impact on employee day-to-day operations, including adoption and ownership of the final changes, will also impact effective roll out.
Crucial in gaining this employee support is creating a steering group with members from the different teams effected; who can not only provide information about the impact to daily operations, but can also relay information about the system transformation back to the team. This process allows you to more effectively address any challenges during the process, rather than after implementation when it is much more difficult.
By having a team focused on the strategy, creates efficiencies across the organisation. Cross-functional collaboration with a team from different disciplines, such as designers, engineers, strategists and finance, will also mean twice as many ideas for optimisation and improvement.
Also, don’t be afraid to unleash the power of information leaders on your organisation, who don’t always have to be management. You need drivers who are trusted, motivated and passionate for what they do.
Another important element is the equipment or technology used. Having the right size-baking tray will allow the bread to bake as the recipe dictates. Just as digital technology facilitates digital transformation. Having the most appropriate tech for your project will aid the effective and accelerated implementation of the change.
The right mix of ingredients will make the difference between a well-executed loaf and one that falls flat.
Step 3 – Mixing and improvising on the fly
You need to have an agile mindset. If you need more milk then pour more. If you have lumps then you need to find ways to knead them out.
An agile approach, when baking, allows you to respond to any unexpected challenges, discoveries or outcomes in a positive way. Similarly within businesses, an agile approach helps integrate any learnings, employee or customer feedback, and any new technology innovations into the roll-out process. This enables the team to boost productivity and reinvent business developments quickly and easily, assisting with growth and preventing failure in the long term.
Having a consistent approach, together with an agile mindset, allows the team to pivot when it needs to change direction and improve.
Step 4 – Ovens are all different
The recommended temperature to bake your perfect loaf is 180 degrees for 45 minutes, however, not all ovens are the same. You need to monitor, check and adjust accordingly.
With any project, you test your core ingredients and monitor their adaptation to the change. Adjust the temperature when needed to ensure you have the perfect pace for growth.
Having a recipe, chef and mix of ingredients with an agile mindset will help the adoption of any new technology, and lead to a greater chance of integration and long term success. Innovation, in tech and your approach, is crucial. Your approach should never be hampering or stagnant.
Patience is also a valuable element. Opening and checking the oven every five minutes does not speed up the process. One must trust the recipe and give it time. You can of course observe and monitor, but don’t interfere to the point that it obstructs progress.
Tech and digital tools can support this change through deeper context, enhanced employee experiences, flexible and more responsive onboarding, personalised training, greater collaboration and real-time support; all improving speed of adoption, new behaviours and ultimately ROI.
Your digital tools can better connect, communicate and build relationships. They can provide just-in-time feedback giving recipients the opportunity to make adjustments to their behaviour and to witness the effects of these adjustments on performance. It is about driving awareness, understanding, engagement and adoption.
Digital tools also enable actionable analysis. This accelerates optimisation and ongoing improvement throughout the implementation program. The effective application, onboarding and utilisation of tech are crucial to the success of any plan.
Step 5 – Building and adding flavour
Once you bread is baked to perfection, you can add your own creative touch. Perhaps you want to include something savoury, sweet or both. You can share it or eat it all by yourself.
My main point here is that once the transformation has been rolled out, you can continue to optimise it for its consumers – whether it be staff or customers. You can continue to consider ways to improve it, or add different layers and ingredients. Once you have a solid product, that has already been improved and optimised throughout the baking process, there is always opportunity to pivot and make it into breadcrumbs if you fancy crumbed fish for dinner.
Step 6 – What do your taste testers say?
The last and final step for a chef is to listen to feedback and look at ways to improve his culinary skills. digital transformation needs to be seen as a long-term, forever improving, investment of time and resources. The aim of the digital transformation is to create a positive business outcome. Remember, to remain competitive you need to continually optimise.
What happens if your bread tastes terrible? Well you feel pretty disappointed and are less likely to make another loaf. You have wasted ingredients and, time, and worst of all you go hungry.
Empowered customers and employees are changing the market fundamentals for virtually every industry, forcing companies to reinvent their strategy, operations and ingredients.
Setting your project up for success encourages teamwork and a sense of community, reduces change fatigue, improves processes and ultimate delivers ROI.
We are approaching a fork in the road where companies can either make the change to improve their ways of working and chances of success, or stick to old models, avoiding digital and operational advancement at the risk of failure.
The choice is yours.
Are you a Master Chef or just happy to be a kitchen hand?
And remember, with the right mix of ingredients, the right mindset, and the right approach, change is as easy as baking bread!