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Three Skills Shifts Needed For Digital Evolution

As I discussed previously on PM Today, digital evolution is the continued adoption and refinement of new and emerging technologies to improve business efficiency, reduce costs, overtake competitors, and achieve better outcomes. This is far more relevant than the outdated term ‘digital transformation’ – a term which at Vidatec we believe should be left in the past.

In the new post-pandemic world of work, digital evolution rather than transformation is needed to help businesses reach their target market more quickly and effectively, build a solid customer base, become more efficient and diversify or expand.

However, as I briefly touched upon in my last article, with digital evolution comes a new longer-term way of thinking – very different to the ‘go big or go home’ digital transformation mindset. As a project manager here are a few important skills shifts your business should consider in shifting toward digital evolution:

Shift 1 – Ensuring full business alignment

The single best way to achieve digital evolution is to ensure full business alignment behind this new approach. It’s essential to take your people and stakeholders with you on your digital evolution journey.

Assemble your key stakeholders and employees to outline the rationale – digital evolution will ensure your business can evolve at a steady and sustainable pace in service of your customers and with a people-centred approach. As a collective, agree what your ideal future state looks like and what you need to get there.

Hackathon’ days can be particularly effective to ensure business alignment. This brings people from all different departments, including senior leaders, together into teams, usually with a developer in each team, to pick a problem and work out how to solve it with technology. Properly supported with the right tools, this leads to some creative thinking, with the best ideas often being implemented.

To manage the process, it often helps to frame these sessions for the hackathon with a problem statement – so this could be a solution to a key customer challenge or organisational challenge. This is also likely something to appeal to senior leaders in the organisation who face a whole raft of strategic challenges.

Ensure that your change plan is underpinned with appropriate, ongoing training and development opportunities. This must also be supported by a robust communications and engagement plan.

Your people can, and should, be an enabler of digital evolution. And with increased awareness, skills training and development, they’ll embrace and enable a new digital evolution reality. In moving from a siloed, singular to a unified and connected business, you inevitably move from digital transformation to digital evolution.

Shift 2 – Objective setting and road mapping

With consensus and a clear future vision, invest time upfront on your roadmap. This will establish clear objectives, ensure a sustained focus, and allow you to track progress throughout your journey.

As part of this process, identify success criteria, measurable KPIs, and a formal review process. This helps everyone understand how they’ll be measured, what they’re accountable for, and allows you to flex as and when needed. Just remember that your roadmap may need to evolve over time – so remain open-minded and agile.

Once you’ve created your roadmap, map your existing digital estate and continually revisit it. This should include details of the platform and technology stack in use and its key features.

This process will ensure you identify patterns of overlap between your existing platform capabilities/features, understand customer or audience touchpoints across the digital products and services you provide, and uncover ways that platforms and data can come together to deliver new products, services and experiences for your customers and end-users.

The use of analytics and customer surveys can also play a key role in analysing the effectiveness of your existing technologies.

Shift 3 – financial mindset

Finally, it’s essential to understand that digital evolution requires a different financial mindset to transformation.

The typical, traditional financial mindset for digital transformation is significant upfront investment. However, the danger here is that money is spent quickly and easily with very little left over. Often, these types of projects run over budget, and fail to deliver on key objectives, leaving stakeholders frustrated and leading to digital project failure.

Instead, digital evolution requires regular, sustained investment over a long-term period to achieve meaningful improvement.

A good approach is to ensure a clear and concise business case against each item on your roadmap. What will be the result of the feature or capability? What market, customer or stakeholder benefits will it unlock? How long will it take to realise this benefit? These questions will support your prioritisation, ensuring focused spend where it delivers the most benefit.

Leaving digital transformation in the past and adopting digital evolution is essential for ensuring that businesses can advance at a steady and sustainable pace in service of their customers, in line with the latest developments and with a people-centred approach.

So, consider these important skills shifts for your business and you will achieve incremental, continuous improvement across your digital offerings and propel your business forward in the new world of work.

Greig Johnston is CEO of Vidatec

Greig Johnston
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