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Why Digital Initiatives Fail: Skipping Strategy & Planning

Why Digital Initiatives Fail: Skipping Strategy & Planning

Digital solutions can solve critical challenges among firstline workforces, but these initiatives often fail. This is the first of a three-part series in which we discuss the reasons why.

Technology should solve a specific problem, with measures of success clearly defined. When you skip this step and go right to building a solution, you miss out on clearly understanding the business problem and defining desired outcomes.

The problem

Not truly understanding the problem you’re trying to solve

Too often companies start with the technology and not the business outcome they ultimately want to achieve. We hear things like “we need a mobile app for our field workers,” or “we need to digitize our paper processes.” Now, these could be very valid technology solutions to solve business problems. But frequently IT and business leaders have a difficult time articulating exactly what the problem is and what they want the desired outcome to be.

Not identifying clear measures of success

Even when companies have determined the core problem and desired outcomes, they often forget one important piece: how will you measure success? For example, if we’re trying to lower costs and inefficiency in our field operations, what does that mean exactly? Improving complete times on certain jobs? By what percentage? Reducing time spent doing administrative tasks at the end of the day? How much time? Eliminating errors due to incorrect reporting and documentation? What is the error rate today and how much can we change it?

Trying to do too much all at once—and losing sight of the most important features that will lead to success

This is an age-old problem for enterprise technology projects. Companies approve a budget for a “project” and all the stakeholders throw everything they can possibly think of into the requirements document. In the process, they lose sight of the original objective, instead focusing on features instead of outcomes. In fact, we believe that 80% of a solutions’ value is largely derived from only 20% of that solutions’ features. Failing to identify and prioritize the most important 20% is missing a huge opportunity for success.

The consequences

By missing these key upfront components of strategy and planning, both business and IT leaders run the risk of seeing technology initiatives fall short of their stated goals–or fail completely.

Even when IT leaders and development teams can deliver projects “on time and within budget,” without the ability to measure success through clearly defined business objectives and metrics the true value of their technology investments are never realized by business stakeholders. Additionally, without measuring success, it becomes difficult to identify areas for future improvement and innovation of the application or technology that was implemented.

By not identifying and prioritizing the most important features, projects often become bloated, taking too long to launch and running over budget. Additionally, these solutions run the risk of being overly complicated for end users, which increases the chance of user frustration and low adoption.

Most importantly, when initiatives take too long to implement, cost too much, and lack user engagement, it creates a lack of confidence among business executives and field users when it comes time for future digital innovations.

How to do it right

Prioritizing effective strategy and innovation from the start isn’t as complex as it seems. Nor should it require months of advanced planning or consulting to get it right. Instead, companies should implement the following for all technology initiatives:

  • Identify the problem and what success looks like: Start by clearly understanding and defining business challenges and the ultimate desired outcomes. What are potential solutions for this problem? How will we measure success when it’s done?
  • Focus on the most important elements of the solution by prioritizing and narrowing your list of features and functionality. By determining which 20% of initiatives will yield 80% of the value (and desired results), you will also determine what your minimum viable product (MVP) looks like.
  • Prototype, pilot, and iterate with analytics and feedback from the field. With input from  end users (your mobile workers), create working proofs-of-concept to validate your approach. It’s also critical to run pilots and gather user analytics and other feedback from employees to understand what’s working and what isn’t. From there you can iterate to create your first release.
  • Measure results. Remember those desired outcomes and metrics you’ve identified? Now it’s time to see if your solution is yielding business results. In many cases, you’re getting close; it will likely take some further iterations and improvements to your solution, but if you have the right analytics in place you know where to focus.
  • Repeat. It’s also important to remember, digital strategy isn’t only an “upfront” thing. Business requirements and objectives change over time. Your solutions need to continually evolve to meet those objectives.

Getting started on the right foot is the first step toward success

Want to see more tips for managing successful digital initiatives—-and avoiding common mistakes? Check out this guide, which includes a checklist that will help your team hit the right marks from start to finish.

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