Good e-Learning recently hosted a webinar, ‘5 Quick & Effective Ways to Drive Success in any Digital Transformation Program’. 

Hosted by subject matter experts David Cannon & Richard de Kock, the non-technical webinar laid out how organizations could leverage digital transformation to create real, tangible value. Rather than simply treating it as a buzzword, it described elements that make up digital transformation, such as modernization, automation, and transformation initiatives, and how they all help companies achieve new heights of success.

In this series, we’ll be taking a look at the questions asked by attendees, as well as the answers from our digital transformation specialists.

Jackob asked: David Cannon, Will you elaborate on your view on Vision vs.Mission and Strategic position. What is just management lingo, and what is useful, in your opinion?

It is important not to be too literal in using these terms. They are used in many different ways, depending on the country you’re in, the college you attended, and the type of organization you work in. I have seen organizations spend so long trying to craft the perfect statements that they neglect some very important strategic questions.

Statements like purpose, vision, and mission help to do many things, including the following:

  • To answer specific questions about how the organization intends to move into the future
  • To communicate in a succinct way to all stakeholders on different aspects of the organization’s strategy
  • To provide some high-level principles for decision making by people who are expected to execute the strategy

Note that these statements can only be produced after a lot of important questions have been asked and, often, after detailed analysis has been done. Organizations should focus on answering these questions before they worry about crafting perfect vision and mission statements.

These questions include:

  •  “What business are we in?” –  It sounds like a simple question, but in times of volatility, every organization will have to ask that question again and again as new opportunities and markets emerge.  Many organizations have seen an opportunity offered by some emerging technology and pursued it, only to find themselves having to expand their business model into areas that they did not originally intend. The answer to this question is often contained in a statement called the “purpose” of the organization. It states the reason for the organization’s existence or what business it is in. One example was when US utility companies were given the opportunity to start trading energy, in addition to generating and distributing electricity. This move required a conscious decision that expanded the purpose of the organization and also required it to be structure differently, enter new competitive markets, etc.
  •  “Within our chosen business, what do we want to achieve?”, or “where do we want to be in x years’ time?” –  This answer is often obtained by research and scenario analysis, but the result is a ‘vision statement’, something that communicates what we aspire to as an organization
  •  “How will we differentiate ourselves from our competitors?” – The answer to this question comes in the form of a positioning statement. Sometimes they are simple. For many years, Avis ran behind Hertz in the market. They turned their market position into philosophy, “We try harder”. At other times it’s a very complex answer. For example, it might outline all the ways in which you use technology differently from your competitors

Mission statements are rather confusing because they mean different things to different people.  For example, compare how the word ‘mission’ differs between a military organization, a company, and NASA. Here are some of the many ways in which organizations have used the concept of a mission statement:

  • To describe the values of the organization
  • To provide guiding principles for all employees to use when making a decision
  • To outline the plan of how they will achieve their vision
  • To describe desired behavior by employees
  • To offer a high-level description of the products and services we provide to customers
  • To set expectations with customers about the level of service they can expect

Personally, I prefer to avoid using a mission statement because there is too much argument about what it actually is to justify the value in putting it together. If you want a set of guiding principles, call them that and explain how to use them. If you want to set expectations with customers, have a statement on a poster that does just that.  If you want to describe the values of your organization, include them in all your employee handbooks and policies. If you want a high-level overview of the steps you’re going to take to achieve your vision, create a roadmap.

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Anthony: What are the 1-3 biggest mistakes leading to digital transformation project failures?

A lot of research has been done on this, and each study varies a little. At first, you might expect that the biggest problem would be “digital technology does not live up to its promises”, or “many digital technologies are new and change too quickly”.

Actually, all the research has one conclusion in common: the way in which the organization conducts the digital transformation project causes the most failures. This includes such factors as:

  • Not enough involvement from the CEO (or other key decision-makers)
  •  Lack of preparation for resulting cultural changes.  Many people believe that the organization will continue to work in the same way, just more quickly, cheaply, and easily.  Actually, digital technology is often disruptive.  It changes the way things work, what products and services we sell, how we market and sell them, and so on. Digital transformation means that jobs will change, the skills needed are different, working methods are more agile, etc.  The organization is going to look, feel and behave very differently.  Many projects underestimate this
  • Failure to overcome the political issues caused by silos. Because digital transformation depends on cross-functional teams, an organization that continues to work in silos will find it very difficult to succeed.  In addition, digital transformation will challenge the current silo structure, which often causes strong resistance from those unsure of their future position
  • Delegating the project to a technical expert without giving them the authority to make decisions or implement the strategy.  In some cases, organizations appoint a leader for digital transformation who reports jointly to the CIO and another C-level executive.  All that happens is that the DT leader gets caught between the two executives, and all they can do is influence their decisions.  This is not too bad if the two executives have the same vision, but it is a disaster if there is a lack of alignment between them

Huy: Does the combination of TOGAF, COBIT, ITIL, and PMBOK work thoroughly with Digital Transformation strategy? If yes, how can we make it real?

None of these approaches were built specifically for digital transformation as it is being conducted in the industry today, although ITIL has been updated to incorporate a lot of these.  The rate of innovation is far higher, and the amount of organizational change and transformation that must be included in these projects is vast.

At the same time, all of them are essential tools to be used in digital transformation projects:

TOGAF (or other architectural frameworks) describes how to map different aspects of the organization to one another.  It is impossible to transform an organization without this information

The control objectives provided by COBIT are still relevant as governance mechanisms.  Will they be implemented and monitored in the same way?  Probably not, but experience in several industry shifts over the past 30 years has taught me two things:

  • The more things change, the more you need to manage those changes.  Understand them and figure out how to make sure they don’t spin the organization off in a direction it shouldn’t be going in.  COBIT gives a good list of those things that you need to keep checking to make sure it doesn’t
  • The more things change, the more you need to manage those changes.  Understand them and figure out how to make sure they don’t spin the organization off in a direction it shouldn’t be going in.  COBIT gives a good list of those things that you need to keep checking to make sure it doesn’t

ITIL is still a relevant best practice guide. It tells you what other organizations are doing. Of course, many will still try to implement it as if it is a framework, and all pieces should be implemented as written. But if you take ITIL as an informed guide about what you should focus on as a professional involved in adopting and delivering digital solutions, it is a very good resource

PMBOK and other project management approaches like PRINCE2 are critical. Transformations are run as projects. However, you will need to apply the guidance to agile – that is, iterative building environments – rather than waterfall-type projects. A good approach to use is Agile project management as defined by the PMI

Bottom line – it is not possible to use every aspect of every approach for every organization. You need to select those approaches, methodologies, and frameworks that are relevant to what you’re doing and then identify the subsets of those inputs to create your own framework based on the components that are most relevant to you. Also, don’t forget to take into account the frameworks that have been created by the groups that have created the technology that you’ll be using

Good e-Learning provides a broad portfolio of online certifications in Business & IT covering frameworks such as ITIL 4, Change Management, Agile, DevOpss & many more. To learn more, click here to visit our website.

David Cannon

As a business executive and consultant, David Cannon has led and contributed to digital transformation initiatives of various scopes and sizes across several organizations. He specializes in defining and implementing strategies in a challenging digital world, from IT back-office to front-line business processes.

He has seen what happens when strategies work and when they don’t, and brings the benefits of these lessons to his writing and consulting work.

Over the years, David has used ITIL as a practitioner, consultant, and business executive in companies that include Hewlett-Packard, BMC Software, and Forrester. He is also the lead editor of the ITIL® 4 Digital and IT Strategy book, as well as the co-author of the ITIL® v3 Service Operation book in 2007 and the ITIL® v3 Service Strategy book in 2011.

Richard de Kock

With over 17 years of experience in the Service Management industry, Richard currently works for Microsoft where he has been assisting organizations in modernizing their cloud strategies, operating models, and cloud capabilities.

Across the tenure of his career, Richard has engaged organizations of all sizes across the globe in a variety of industry verticals to resolve complex strategic and operational challenges using a multitude of frameworks and standards.

Richard is an award-winning consultant who holds a Master of Science degree in Service Management from Northampton University in England and specialized in digital transformation practices and capabilities. Richard is currently authoring the ITIL 4 Digital & IT Strategy book and has co-authored VeriSM: Unwrapped and Applied released in 2018.