Most Important Digital Transformation Deliverables and Tools

Written By: Eric Kimberling
Date: February 7, 2023

When embarking on a successful digital transformation, there are a number of key project deliverables and artifacts that are critical to ensuring that you're successful and effective in managing your transformation. 

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When planning for a digital transformation, often times we're focused on what the overall digital strategy is, what the plan is, how we're going to execute and how we're going to resource it. One thing we often don't think about is what are those key deliverables, the key artifacts, the key outputs and the tools we need to manage the implementation and track the success of the implementation. What we want to do today is talk about the 10 most important deliverables and artifacts that are critical both as outputs and inputs into the digital transformation.

Project Charter

The first important deliverable that needs to be created as part of an effective digital transformation strategy is the project charter. The project charter is a playbook or a guide for how the digital transformation is going to go and it includes a number of strategic considerations and strategic decisions that are meant to guide the overall transformation.

For example, in the project charter you will define what the overall implementation plan is, how you'll resource the project and more importantly you'll define what the overall strategy for the project is, the ROI you expect to get out of the project and you'll also include in that project charter key decisions and key variables that are going to guide your overall digital transformation.

The project charter is really that foundation and strategy for how your digital transformation should go and the reason this deliverable is so important is not only because it provides that direction and that clarity of direction but also because it forces you to come to decisions on what it is you're trying to accomplish, how you'll accomplish it, how you'll resource the project, how you'll make decisions and what the project governance will be throughout the project. It really allows you to take ownership of your project so be sure you have a solid project charter as one of your first key deliverables. 

Future State Business Processes

Another key foundational deliverable for digital transformations is the documentation that outlines the future state business processes. These are the documents that define the way you would like to see your end-to-end processes work, it defines some of the pain points and opportunities for improvements that you'd like to address and it also provides some clarity on how you'd like the software to ultimately be configured, built and deployed to support your digital transformation.

Let's consider what happens if we don't adequately define the future state processes and let's just say we instead defer to the software. We assume that the off-the-shelf software is going to give us the best practices and the workflows that we need to run our business. While that may be true at the granular, transactional workflow level, it's not going to be effective if we don't have that overarching, macro, end-to-end business process. A big part of this is because today's modern technology is so flexible, you have so many different ways and different options that you can configure basic workflows that if you haven't taken the time to define your strategic end-to-end business processes, then you'll end up with sort of an aimless project without clear direction. Having those future state, end-to-end business processes is a really important, foundational blueprint for how you'll deploy technology going forward. 

Business Requirements Documents

Another deliverable that's somewhat related to the future state business processes is a document that's often referred to as a key decision document. A key decision document is exactly what it sounds like, it's a deliverable that captures and clarifies key strategic decisions that have been made as part of your digital transformation and the reason this is so important is because a big part of the challenge of digital transformations is that organizations, stakeholders and executives oftentimes aren't on the same page, they're not aligned, they're not heading in the same direction, they're not clear on what decisions have been made, they're not clear on what decisions they need to make and they're also not clear on how those decisions ultimately will affect the overall digital transformation.

This key decision document is a great way to get focused on these key decisions that we're going to be making and allow us to have clarity on what the future state vision of the operations in the organization and ultimately the technology are going to be. It also gives us a solid input to help us guide and direct the technical implementation of new software.

Another key deliverable that's also related to your future state business processes is your business requirements document and this is very important, not only in helping you evaluate and select potential technologies to help you with your digital transformation. It's also important during the design phase of the project to ensure that you're designing and building technology in a way that captures and addresses those business requirements that you've defined.

Oftentimes, organizations will identify some of the higher level or higher priority requirements to help them select the software, then once they've selected the software and they move into implementation as part of the pre-implementation or the implementation planning, they might flush out those requirements in more detail. The key thing here though is to make sure that we don't view requirements just from the perspective of how to build software, we need to define the requirements from the perspective of how we're going to build our business.

In other words, the business should drive the requirements piece and those requirements should ultimately dictate how we develop, build and deploy new technologies for our business. Business requirements are very important, it's something that allows us to select the right software, it helps us implement the right software and as we get closer to go-live and even post go-live, that requirements traceability is a great way to make sure that we've addressed all the requirements that we wanted to capture and if we didn't, it allows us to optimize the business benefits. 

Change Impact Assessment

When we're embarking on a digital transformation, we are moving from point A to point B, our current state to our future state and oftentimes we're focused almost solely or exclusively on just building technology to address that future state. We might look at the current state in terms of what technologies we have now and what technologies will go away and how we're going to replace those technologies with new technologies but what more often gets overlooked is the impact to the organization, the impact of people, so in other words, how is my job going to change now that you're deploying new technology to my part of the business.

So this is where I need to understand as an employee exactly how my job is changing, the way things work today, how they operate today and how I can connect the dots between current state and future state business processes, roles and responsibilities. This is a big deal for organizations that are going through significant changes, not just in terms of digital transformation but if you're trying to integrate operations or you've grown considerably since your last technical deployment or if you've grown through mergers and acquisitions, it's really important in those cases that you define clearly how people's jobs are going to change.

One of the biggest reasons why people resist change is because they don't have clarity and understanding of what their future job is going to look like and if we don't clearly articulate that for them, fear will get the best of them inevitably and they will inevitably push back on the changes, so it's really important that we clearly articulate, understand and document what the change impacts are, who's impacted and how and ultimately what we're going to do to help transition the organization through that change. The change impact assessment by the way is one of the most important inputs into the overall change management strategy and plan. 

Another key deliverable from a change management perspective is going to be the stakeholder analysis. Stakeholder analysis is a way of looking at all the key executives, the key influencers within the organization and the key stakeholders, the people that have the most to gain or lose by a successful transformation. It also considers the people that if we don't have alignment and buy-in from these people they have the power organizationally to potentially derail the project and this is another tool that's critical to ensuring that we have alignment and focus as an organization and that we have buy-in from the organization. The stakeholder assessment is really a way for us to get a lay of the land of the organizational dynamics for the key stakeholders and executives and also the key influencers. It's a very targeted, one-on-one sort of change management activity, that's very critical to ensure that we don't overlook some of the key considerations and key needs of these stakeholders and it's also a great tool to mitigate and neutralize some of the change management resistance and misalignment that often comes from digital transformations.

Organizational Readiness Assessment

Another change management deliverable that's critical to digital transformation is an organizational readiness assessment. This is really an assessment of where the organization is today, what the culture is, what some of the strengths and weaknesses of that culture are, what the areas of alignment and misalignment are just as a way to understand what the strengths are of the organization, the things we can build on to enable a more effective digital transformation and the things that are weaknesses and potential problem areas.

For example, one of the things we often find when we do organizational readiness assessments for our clients is that the organization doesn't communicate well across silos. If we're going to deploy new technology that's going to give people that visibility of end-to-end processes and the transformation is going to allow them to collaborate more effectively, that can be a good thing but it's not just going to happen because we give them the tool set, we know that people might resist that change. So that would be something we look at within an organizational readiness assessment. 

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Test Scenarios and Scripts

One of the key transformation deliverables that really reflect the rubber meeting the road of a transformation, this is where the vision of the transformation now becomes reality, is test scenarios and test scripts, those are something that allow us to ensure that the way we've built the processes and the technologies, roles and responsibilities and the way we've loaded data in the system in the future state, that we've worked through all the kinks and the nuances of the new technology.

Now what often happens here is that software vendors, system integrators and technical implementation partners will define the scenarios more from the perspective of what they need to know to make sure that the technology works the way they expected it to. This certainly is an important part of test scripts and scenarios but really what's most important is the business aspect of things. Looking at your business scenarios, some of the exceptions that create problems or could create problems in the new system and making sure we've thought through all the different scenarios. Too often the simplicity of the test scenarios and test scripts lead us to a false sense of security that the system works, we haven't found any major bugs, the processes are working the way they should and we've tested everything and it looks great. The only problem is we're misled by the fact that we only looked at a small subset of the possible scenarios. What we need to do is make sure that we looked at all the scenarios and developed scripts that address all of those areas. In today's agile environment, where organizations want to move fast and get a minimum viable product in place and aren't necessarily interested in perfection, that's fine but what often happens is we tend to gloss over this important testing process, so making sure that you have clear scenarios that define the end processes and document the way we test and the outcome of those tests is something that's very important. 

Risk Assessment

Another important deliverable that's more important from a governance and risk perspective is a risk assessment. A risk assessment is something that should become part of the DNA of the way you manage your overall digital transformation. A risk assessment is really exactly what it sounds like, it's an assessment of where the risks are and more importantly the mitigation strategies that we're going to use and employ to mitigate those risks.

The tricky part here is that oftentimes your software vendor and your technical implementer are not the best inputs or the best candidates to identify risk. The reason being that oftentimes if they identify risks and they identify problems with the project, that oftentimes reflects poorly on them or they at least feel like it might reflect poorly on them, so there's sort of a self-preservation bias that comes into this.

When you ask your software vendor or technical implementer to manage risk management this is why oftentimes organizations either manage that function themselves, if they have a strong PMO and they have strong experience with digital transformations in their past or they might hire an independent third party like our team at Third Stage Consulting to help identify and mitigate those risks. 

Regardless, you want to make sure that the risk management process and deliverables and outputs are separated from the system integrator and technical implementer. Be realistic about the risks too, you don't want to wait until you feel the risks and you feel the pain because by the time you do, it's oftentimes too late. You want to anticipate where the risks are likely to emerge based on what you're seeing ahead of you and that's where organizations like my team can help. Risk mitigation is something that's often overlooked but very critical from a project governance and risk management perspective.

One of the last important deliverables that comes later in a digital transformation is the go, no-go assessment and this is huge from a risk management perspective, to ensure that you know what you're getting yourself into or about to get yourself into as you think about going live with new technology. The go, no go assessment or checklist as it's often called, is a way to look at all the things that we know need to be done by the time we go live, so things like what percentage of our test scenarios have we worked through and solved the problems for, what percentage of our staff has been trained, what's our level of user adoption an so forth.

It's meant to be a very quantitative assessment of where we are in the project and it's a way for executives and the project team and other key stakeholders to really look objectively at data to determine if you are 100% comfortable with going live. it's not uncommon by the way to do a go, no-go assessment and decide that we're not ready and we're going to delay go-live, a lot of organizations don't like to do it, it's not the most pleasant thing to do but if we base it on data we have an objective assessment of our go, no go readiness, then we're at least making a solid, quantitative, objective business decision.

So, rather than going with gut instinct, rather than just assuming that we can throw up a Hail Mary and hoping for the best, we want to use the go, no-go assessment deliverable as a way to ensure that we're ready and we know what the risks are with our digital transformation.

Hopefully this has provided you with some guidance and some ideas on key deliverables that you want to make sure you include and incorporate into your digital transformation for more information and more best practices on how to manage your digital transformation and how to manage your software implementation.

If you are looking to strategize an upcoming transformation or are looking at selecting an ERP system, we would love to give you some insights. Please contact me for more information

Be sure to download the newly released 2023 Digital Transformation Report to garner additional industry insight and project best practices.

Kimberling Eric Blue Backgroundv2
Eric Kimberling

Eric is known globally as a thought leader in the ERP consulting space. He has helped hundreds of high-profile enterprises worldwide with their technology initiatives, including Nucor Steel, Fisher and Paykel Healthcare, Kodak, Coors, Boeing, and Duke Energy. He has helped manage ERP implementations and reengineer global supply chains across the world.

Eric Kimberling
Eric is known globally as a thought leader in the ERP consulting space. He has helped hundreds of high-profile enterprises worldwide with their technology initiatives, including Nucor Steel, Fisher and Paykel Healthcare, Kodak, Coors, Boeing, and Duke Energy. He has helped manage ERP implementations and reengineer global supply chains across the world.
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