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Lessons from Digital Transformation Projects: 7 Steps to Successfully Plan Business Expansion and Optimisation Projects

Lessons from Digital Transformation Projects 7 Steps to Successfully Plan Business Expansion and Optimisation Projects | The Change Hive | First Automate, Then Scale | No, Low Code Automation Agency | Yemi Oluseun

Do you feel you’re not quite getting the expected return on investment (ROI) on your transformation projects?

Your projects may be misaligned with your business strategy and culture – but, fret not.

Sadly, most transformation projects become a huge distraction, return poor ROI, or get abandoned altogether.

This need not be the case…


Here are 7 effective steps to help you plan and implement successful transformation projects.


1.  Start with Why – Define Clear Goals

Make an outline of what your business wishes to accomplish – aka ‘the Objective’. Objectives are usually qualitative.

For each objective, state what outcomes would indicate that it has been achieved – aka ‘the Key Results’. Key Results are usually quantitative.

Once defined, your objective and key results “OKRs” will help you measure and track your progress.

They serve as a useful decision-making tool for selecting the right solution.

OKRs should be tracked and re-evaluated at least once every 3 months.

Here is an example of an OKR:


Objective: Increase Recurring Revenue

Key Results:

–      Reduce churn rate from 20% to 10%

–      Increase average subscription value from £99 to £129

Useful Tips:

    • A review of your business’s vision and mission statements may be a good starting point for OKR definition.

    • Identify your business’s unique strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats – aka SWOT Analysis. The SWOT analysis should help tease out opportunities to maximise and/or threats to minimise. 

    • Google Trends and Keyword Planner: These free tools from Google are great starting points for market research. They offer insights into the search volume and related searches on topics (including industries, and niches) of interest. They help you spot potential value-creation opportunities.

    • Some additional sources of value-creation opportunities are your employees and clients. Where possible, include them in this step.


2.  Create a Flow Chart of the Current Business Process

As the saying goes, a picture speaks a thousand words.

A flowchart (aka business process model) showing the current process across your entire business would help make sure everyone involved in the project has the same understanding.

The flowchart would also help identify any missing steps, or repetitive steps that can be improved.

Additionally, as the project progresses, and new people join – the flowchart becomes useful onboarding and reference material – so it is worth the investment of time and effort.



3.  Assess Your Business Change Readiness. Identify the Opportunity Costs of Change.

Optimism is usually highest at the beginning.

For this reason, there is the risk of underestimating the effort required to complete the project and the impact the project may have on your existing business.

To reduce this risk, proactively determine the opportunity cost of the project.

What impact may the project have on your current productivity and revenue?

Where might resistance to change come from?

Which stakeholder’s ‘tribal power’ and subject matter expertise would be threatened by the project – how would this be managed or replaced?

Other questions to help with this assessment include:

    • Do your people have the mental and emotional capacity for a transformation project? 

    • Is there a need to identify and upskill internal change agents and champions first?

    •  How would existing employee roles and responsibilities change after the transformation?

The output of this assessment may lead to the previously defined OKRs (i.e., the goals from step 1 above) being broken down into smaller goals – that better fit your business’s available resources.

The gains of moving at a healthy pace for your business and preventing burnout would in the long run make for a more sustainable project.



4.  Brainstorm Possible Solutions 

Identify and evaluate possible solutions.

Please note that “do nothing (for now)” may be an option and is worth considering.

For each option identified, outline the pros, cons, potential risks, expected implementation timeline & costs

It may be helpful to engage an independent consultant with a good overview of multiple third-party solutions for insights at this point. 



5.  Define How the Project Would Be Managed and Controlled (Project Governance)

Define key project roles & responsibilities – at the very least, aim to identify the project sponsor (the accountable executive) and project manager.

Determine how the project progress would be tracked and reported.

Define the risk, issues, and dependencies management process.

Outline the requirement change management process – so that the scope of the project does not change without appropriate approval.

Identify any skill or tool gaps that would need to be addressed to ensure the project runs smoothly.

Tools like help with project planning and tracking.



6.  Build A Business Case

For every possible solution identified, draft a business case that highlights:

    • The Expected High-Level Milestones and Target Dates.

    • Expected Project Cost by Year/ Quarter/ Month

    • Expected Revenue by Year/ Quarter/ Month

    • Any Risks, Issues, Assumptions, Dependencies

    • Next Steps, If Approved

The business cases can then be presented to the identified project sponsor or board for review and approval (or feedback).

Completing a business case for each option gives your business a chance to evaluate each option in a systematic way.

Reasons for dropping any option should also be documented. This would come in handy if the option is brought up again in the future – you can revisit this business case to see if things have changed and if the decision should be revised.

PS: The business case need not be complex, here is a simple, one-page business case template as a guide.



7.  Run a Pre-Mortem 

This step sounds morbid and pessimistic. But it is so useful.

pre-mortem done right reduces the risk of needing to do a tough post-mortem.

Here is how to do it:

Once a solution is approved, get the project team together, and ask: “Imagine we are at the end of the project, and we failed – what went wrong?”

Get everyone to anonymously write as many answers as possible that come to mind.

The project manager should collate and prioritise these responses. Then work with relevant stakeholders to put proactive mitigation in place for as many as possible. 


Follow for more actionable best practices and lessons learned from digital transformation projects.


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