Embarking on Your Path to Execution Excellence: Making your Strategy a Reality

Below, I consider five criteria of technology execution excellence to make your strategy a reality, including project management tools, tracking the right metrics, and adapting to changing circumstances in a challenging business environment.

So far in this three-part article series on ‘thoughtful technology,’ I’ve outlined the five core tenets of a great tech strategy and discussed why businesses should put their people at the center of any transformation program. The final piece of the puzzle is driving the project to completion.

‘What gets measured gets managed’

Famously attributed to management theorist Peter Drucker, the observation that ‘what gets measured gets managed’ is never truer than in a digital transformation program. For the project itself, there should be a set of assigned and tangible deliverables which, when completed, offer a great indication of program progress. Quantifiable metrics like velocity measurements are useful and consistent proof points to provide against a plan.

When evaluating the wider impact of the transformation impact on the business, make sure you understand the metrics that the business tracks each day, how they are calculated, and how they expect to be tracked in the future. There are typically a few key metrics that are used as a day-to-day indicator of performance, and these can be used to drive key decision making. Assuring alignment on these and any expectations for future changes should be well understood by all stakeholders. Without this, credibility of the program could be diminished.

Get organized with project management

Project management software can be an extremely useful element when driving a program to successful completion, and it is worth investing in this upfront to save time and cost in the long-term. When utilized properly, project management tools will deliver ROI very quickly in a complex transformation project; for example, if a tool saves an hour a month for a user it has already paid for itself.

At a basic level, project management software allows your team to keep track of tasks against the wider program backdrop and easily see outstanding jobs to be done. Additionally, all communication is held in one centralized repository, simplifying team collaboration, and making it easier to define priorities and resolve issues. When it comes to tracking budget and resources, project management tools can offer a complete fiscal picture including internal costs. Finally, KPI dashboards and insight reporting will save significant time as you try and relay status upwards in the organization.

Engage in smart meeting management

In this new hybrid working world, we are drowning in virtual interaction technology. If excessive meetings are draining your workforce and halting transformation progress, it may be time to reassess how they are managed. Ask yourself three key questions: does this need to be a meeting, are leaders demanding too much, and are too many people involved?

Not every meeting should be a status meeting; as a general rule, meetings can be useful for reviewing work that’s occurred, to clarify and validate something, or for tactical prioritization discussions or executional workshops. Additionally, project sponsors and leadership should recognize the reporting burden they may be placing on a program; if you are asking for steering committee level information more than monthly, or requiring multiple status updates a week, you may be the one taxing the organization and depleting highly-valuable resources. Finally, consider how many people are being invited to meetings. Can daily huddles be replaced with updates on Slack for example?

Make employee responsibilities clear

Most companies do not have teams specifically dedicated to a technology transformation – and yet complex programs often take a near full-time commitment from employees who are already working their day jobs. If this is another project they are working on, in addition to the job they were hired to do, timeline and costs often extend because day to day operations trump project work needs. Without assigning clear employee responsibilities, organizations risk slowed programs and burned-out teams, creating a ripple effect throughout the whole business.

All executives should stay realistic about the commitment they are asking from their employees. Tangible plans to backfill day jobs should be developed for those resources requiring heavy commitment to the project. Program managers should stay aware of the early warning signs of burnout and put in the necessary resources to support their teams; by understanding behaviors that correlate with workplace success and failure, managers can proactively identify and support team members suffering from fatigue. Additionally, business leaders may wish to re-evaluate KPIs for employees working on the project – something I discussed in my previous article on the human element of a major transformation initiative.

Remain flexible and agile

One of the most common reasons for failure we see when executing transformations is underestimating the amount of money, time, and resources that the project will take. If your program has an overly ambitious scope and a rigid budget, you are far more likely to end up with an unsatisfactory result; with any complex project there are likely to be both anticipated and unpredictable issues that threaten to halt the project. Additionally, many organizations tend to underestimate how much it will cost, only to be surprised further down the line.

Expect shifts, budget for them, and be adaptable when they manifest. Part of a transformation initiative is uncovering what you don’t know and being flexible enough to pivot. Remaining agile can help mitigate risks, limit exposure, and ensure tangible progress throughout the project. And, although timeline is often a key constraint, people negatively remember bad deliveries much more than they remember late ones. Stakeholders and customers usually do too.

Digital transformation is a complex undertaking that requires clear prioritization, measurement, people management and a flexible mindset. Get in touch if you’d like to discuss navigating these choppy waters to deliver execution excellence and realize ROI from your program. I look forward to your thoughts on this topic.

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