Integrating digital tools can't be done without a personal touch
In this second article from our ‘Transforming performance of major programmes’ series, we explore how the proper integration of digital systems is essential for today’s major programmes. While this relies on a solid understanding of technology, success also hinges on an underappreciated element: understanding the people involved.
The value of digital to the successful delivery of programmes is being increasingly understood - from the efficiency and visibility of real-time data on progress, costs and forecasts, to the ability to benchmark against a global database of comparable projects, to tracking carbon footprints.
When embarking on any project, the starting principle needs to be to think digital first. We must identify the tools and platforms needed to support business objectives and consider their impact and use across the whole asset lifecycle.
This is not as straightforward as simply rolling out new software or ways of working. Each project and team is different; the specific package of tools will change; and systems, features and user interfaces evolve.
The risk of failing to integrate these tools in the right way is high, with subsequent impacts on adoption undermining the programme and its outcomes. This is a risk we cannot afford.
The following six steps will help businesses set up projects and programmes for success when integrating new digital systems.
1. Understand objectives
A common cause of failure in rolling-out new systems is to underestimate the people part of the change needed. If you do not spend enough time understanding how teams across the enterprise will engage with and react to what you're doing, and how they enact their processes, adoption will suffer.
A new system may seem like it will offer a solution to a host of challenges in any organisation, but technology can only help if it's matched with a clear - and shared - vision of what results the organisation is aiming to achieve.
2. Identify the best digital package
Having identified clear programme objectives, the first stage in any successful deployment or integration is to identify the digital package that will support the desired outcomes.
3. Deploy and embed this digital solution
The next step is a bit more difficult, which is devising how you will successfully deploy and embed that digital solution.
People need to be at the heart of this process to ensure they fully understand the project, its goal, and the systems that will be used to get there.
4. Map out people processes and requirements
It is important to map the different processes and requirements of teams and individuals who will be using the digital platforms. Each team and individual may need to use tools in a different way, or for a different purpose, and many have varying levels of experience with technology.
It is critical to understand how teams are currently working and the level of change that will be required to work in a new way with the new tools.
5. Incubate and communicate
The next phase is to incubate and build readiness. There must be a comprehensive process of involving stakeholders across your organisation. First, prepare individuals and teams - train and explain what will be required of them, including why. Then, as systems are developed and built, you need to maintain a constant dialogue through early-stage adoption and into use.
At the root of this is the need to communicate what is changing. This must be a key strand in the programme overall, so that you're bringing team members with you and avoiding surprises down the line.
Early decisions need to be taken as to how new ways of working are scaled, and at the appropriate pace for your organisation and teams. This needs a realistic assessment of what's achievable to make sure that integration happens smoothly and that any troubleshooting can be dealt with as you roll-out.
This might need to be done in bite-sized chunks so you can give teams the attention and support they need to move forward productively.
6. Avoid stagnation: take a long-term view
The successful execution of this process is just one step in the journey to ensuring comprehensive integration. Digital systems, processes and capabilities are constantly evolving, and stagnation is a real risk as systems become embedded.
Right from the outset clients should be thinking about long-term strategy, including continuous improvements and iteration in systems design and functionality.
This is especially critical when looking at programmes or enterprises that are set to grow and scale. In present times, we are increasingly familiar with projects that don’t have a simple completion date, and in the same way, there is no ‘end’ to the integration and adoption of digital tools.
It is an evolving process which requires constant attention and focus, and which should be factored into programmes from the start. Expansion and transition to new phases of programme delivery need to be considered from day one.
Looking ahead to the future
Digital systems - those existing, emerging, and yet to come - will all have a vital role to play in delivering the transformation of infrastructure in the future, as we’ve seen in Hong Kong and our work with MTR Corporation on the digital transformation plan for their railway system. It’s critical that we don’t let the human element of systems deployment and integration be underappreciated in programme planning or delivery.
Only by understanding and valuing the people in our teams, as well as the process and technology they use, can we maximise their potential.