Five essential tools for digital transformation success

Digital transformation is pressing agenda and translating vision to reality can be challenging.

Here are five useful tools for overcoming common challenges.

Business leaders are under increasing pressure to deliver digitalisation strategies that will enable them to remain competitive with reduced costs and increased efficiency and agility. However, this is easier said than done. Recent research from IDC found that 74 percent of European organisations are struggling with making their digital visions a reality.  

One of the most common roadblocks is balancing the strategic and tactical elements of digital transformation efforts. On an individual level, it’s never been easier for workers and teams to acquire the resources they need to digitise their activity. There is a wealth of technology to choose from, much of it easily accessible through SaaS delivery.  

However, while it is good to give teams the autonomy to make these decisions, such initiatives need to be balanced against the need for control and visibility from an enterprise perspective. All efforts need to align with the company’s greater vision and value stream mapping. However, working from the top down has its own problems, as it can be challenging to ensure that this vision trickles down throughout the company.  

Below are five of the biggest challenges standing in the way of digital transformation, and some of the best tools for overcoming them.  

Mapping out the future  

Like any business activity, digital transformation can only succeed if the company knows what it wants to achieve. Measurable goals need be in place, along with a roadmap on how to get there. However, the task of applying digital transformation to an entire company can often be so complex that it’s hard to see the wood for the trees.  

A surprisingly low-tech solution to overcoming this complexity is Explorer Mapping, a technique that helps teams align short-term actions with long-term goals. Teams visualise their goals, achievements and actions by writing them on sticky notes to be applied to a map on the wall. Each day then starts with a quick review of the Explorer Map, with the idea being that all of the day’s activity should feedback to the goals one way or another.  

Driving companywide conversion  

Most businesses are still highly siloed, with different departments – and often teams – more or less working in isolation. This can make it extremely challenging to manage and optimise the flow of the company’s value stream across the company.  

One potential solution to this challenge is to introduce the lean manufacturing tool “Obeya”, a Japanese term literally meaning “large room”. True to its name, Obeya traditionally involves a physical space displaying visuals such as charts and progress boards in order to make activity and progress feel open and accessible to all, as well as promoting discussion. Today, it’s easy for large, globally distributed organisations to recreate the idea using various whiteboarding, video conferencing and activity tracking tools. 

Gaining a vantage point  

Decision makers and team leaders must be able to keep on top of a great deal of information at any one time and will usually need to provide constant progress reports higher up the chain. This can quickly become an onerous task with more complex activity.  

Collating all on-going activity in a visual team board can be an effective way of providing an overview. This can also include relevant historical data to provide context, and upcoming activity to help with future planning. Team leaders can use the board as an easy reference point for reporting to senior management, while individuals on the team can likewise use it to guide their activity and priorities. Team boards have traditionally been displayed on physical white boards, but as with Obeya the concept easily translates into online whiteboarding.

Judging the “smell” of the team environment 

The tools used to develop and deploy software applications as part of digital transformation usually have various reporting functions to aid with tracking progress. However, digital transformation must also account for the impact on the company’s employees, and the human side of the business doesn’t come with its own automatic reporting function.  

One popular approach for gauging the mood and experience of the workforce is to break it down into “good smells” and “bad smells”. A bad smell for example would be the realisation that teams are purely focused on meeting deadlines, while a good smell would be a strong awareness of working towards real customer needs.  

Businesses can implement a “Smell-o-Meter” board to provide workers with simple visual representation of how they feel. At the end of the day, everyone in a team moves their sticky note along the spectrum of good to bad. Keeping track of these trends can help to identify potential problems when digital vision does not align with human reality. 

Mapping the impact on outcomes 

In the race to keep up with industry trends, it can be easy to lose sight of the actual impact of digital transformation. All activity must result in better outcomes for the business but correlating the effect of digital efforts can be difficult.  

Impact mapping can help stakeholders to communicate assumptions, align work to business objectives, and make better long-term roadmap decisions. The mapping can extend to include the entire process from start to finish, including the actors who are responsible for different elements, the impact they will have, and the deliverables that need to be created. By working back from the end objectives, impact mapping can often uncover more efficient ways of achieving goals.   

Digital transformation is such a complex and involved process that it is easy to get lost along the way, focusing on individual projects and deliverables, and losing sight of the big picture. By arming themselves with a judicious number of white board pens and sticky notes (or its cloud-based equivalents) and following a combination of these five techniques, businesses can keep their digital transformation journey on track and ensure that everyone is heading towards the same destination.  

About the Author

 Andreas Prins, VP of Platform Strategy at is the intelligent Value Stream Management company that enables Global 5000 enterprises to accelerate their digital transformation initiatives and deliver secure digital products their customers can trust.

Featured image: ©Corund