As the economic slowdown bites, demonstrating and clearly articulating enterprise change projects’ business value is imperative. This is especially true for years-long initiatives like those surrounding cloud adoption. If business leaders don’t recognise that a project is fundamental to future performance, it is likely to be abandoned in hard times.
Technology leaders and CIOs can’t assume that the wider team understand where and how sophisticated cloud projects will deliver benefits. It’s important to rigorously define business value at a project’s outset, then vigorously champion it for the duration. In the current climate, enterprises that get this right will gain headway while the competition flounders. So, what’s the best way to go about it?
1. Define Business Value
Big ticket cloud projects often involve the transition of enterprise IT from ‘service provider’ to ‘strategic business enabler’. They are inherently geared towards the delivery of business value, but it’s not always easy to convey this to stakeholders.
Take the creation of an automated self-service platform. This is one of the most powerful ways to leverage cloud benefits, enhancing the ease, speed, and security of software delivery so the business can move fast on emerging opportunities and achieve competitive differentiation. However, it is a feat of cloud engineering which requires time and a high level of investment, making it a prime target for cutbacks.
In this case, the business value proposition should be rooted in customer-centricity and improved business performance. The platform is not a ‘nice to have’; it provides essential capabilities for relevance and profitability in the digital age. Tying the technology to tangible outcomes that people care about in language they are familiar with is key. Programme leaders should be able to answer the question ‘why are we doing this?’ clearly, persuasively, and sincerely. Details might vary for different people in different parts of the enterprise, but the headline message is the same for everyone.
The core rationale for the programme needs to be backed up with a concrete case for the desired outcomes, and an explanation of the value that will be derived over time (e.g. at six months, 18 months, five years). Armed with this information, it’s possible to have meaningful conversations about the investment and the likely timescales of returns. As well as ensuring the decision-making process is fully informed, this sets realistic expectations and enables a smoother change journey.
2. Secure (Then Maintain) Buy-in
It’s important to achieve buy-in throughout the enterprise, from anyone who will be impacted by the change programme. Members of the C-suite and other senior leaders are the priority as they set the tone for the rest of the organisation. A solid business case will go a long way towards securing leadership buy-in. Demonstrating high-value business outcomes can take this one step further, persuading leaders to become staunch advocates.
Ensuring messages and objectives related to the programme are communicated in a relevant way to the wider business is also vital. While teams and individuals will have varied roles to play, they all need to feel energized and aligned with a common purpose. Business value comes to the fore again here, and it can be captured at a granular level via approaches such as the objectives and key results (OKR) framework. Google famously uses this method to keep teams engaged with ambitious goals that may require individuals to step outside their comfort zone (read more here).
McKinsey’s latest transformations research also underlines the value of adapting goals for different employees:
“It’s not enough to set effective and ambitious aspirations for the transformation. People need to understand what these goals mean for their day-to-day jobs and what they will be expected to do differently; if they don’t know how they connect to the transformation, their behaviours and how work gets done won’t change.”
Similarly, stakeholders at all levels need to be kept informed of progress towards project goals. This is essential to maintain buy-in and ensure the project doesn’t lose momentum over time. Enterprise change is hard and there will inevitably be challenges to overcome along the way; anticipating and acknowledging this can ease the journey. Routine reporting on progress in relation to the longer-term roadmap should be a given. On top of this, milestone achievements and noteworthy successes need to be recognised and celebrated.
3. Take Calculated Risks
Once business value has been defined and initial buy-in achieved, it’s important to make a start on the programme quickly. Arduous planning and decision-making processes can be a major hindrance to enterprise scale initiatives. Fear of the unknown and risk aversion may lead to over analysis and delayed action. Yet it’s often the case that indecision and inactivity are major risk factors themselves.
There’s no point looking for perfection – it doesn’t exist. But it is possible to stop theorizing and get started on a minimum viable product. Finding out what works (and what doesn’t work) then building on that will facilitate quicker execution and progress. This can be positioned as a ‘show don’t tell’ methodology. Iterative steps are taken towards the greater goal, with cumulative business value demonstrated to stakeholders at each decision-making stage.
Early steps don’t have to involve high levels of investment or change, but they do need to get things moving. Ideally, they should offer a taste of the business benefits that wider rollout could deliver at scale. Uncertainty is always a feature of change and innovation, but with expert input it’s possible to take smart, calculated risks. The outcomes of this preliminary work can reinforce buy-in or earn it from those that have been sceptical.
4. Harness Learnings
An iterative approach to enterprise change boosts the chances of success as well as accelerating progress. Every time an objective is achieved or missed it reveals new insights which can be looped back to improve future performance.
This is especially relevant with enterprise cloud projects. From a technology perspective, public cloud is a dynamic, evolving space. New tools, solutions, and features are being launched by major cloud providers and third parties at a rapid rate. There’s no point making detailed plans for a technical challenge that might be encountered in the build of a self-service platform in 12 months’ time. Chances are that the technology and best practices to resolve it will have advanced by then.
In contrast to the shifting nature of cloud technology, the need for tangible business value is constant. In constrained times, finding solid ways to demonstrate the commercial benefit of enterprise change is crucial.
Supporting Organisational Change
At Sourced, we have a strong track record implementing cloud-led enterprise change programmes.Find out more about how we support organisational change
Wes is a Managing Lead Principal Consultant at Sourced with over 20 years of experience delivering high-value business solutions in regulated financial and telecommunication institutions. In his time at Sourced his areas of focus have been in developing cloud platforms, and being a trusted advisor in cloud security and solution architecture.