Technology is only an enabler. However, in digital projects often the biggest amount is budgeted for technology. While other aspects like change management, user experience and governance are often afterthoughts. How can that be the case when it is generally accepted that a tool on its own can’t be the solution. Possibly because the project isn’t funded appropriately or the strategy focuses on the wrong aspects? In this blog post we are going to explore how to better connect with your users and create more meaningful solutions with three small questions.
I believe that a consultant’s value lies in providing an external view and the ability to act as sparring partner. Thus, it’s key to question some of the thinking. Not in a destructive way but to help understand the thinking why this project should deliver the desired outcome. It all starts with the simple question of “Why?”.
The power of Why
You might have seen the TED talk by Simon Sinek “How great leaders inspire“. In a nutshell, he argues that messages should be made bottom up. Ask Why, then How and then What and not top down. By putting the Why in centre, you can learn more about the thought process behind the request. Is it because somebody came back from a conference, is all excited and believes that this shiny new thing is the best thing since sliced bread? Because their competitor is doing it too? Or just because there is an obvious gap that need to be addressed. These insights are invaluable and should help in raising red flags. So, if your customer wants to digitally transform then ask why? Why do you want to? Which impact will it have? Which audience will benefit? Which capabilities do you want to provide? In short it should cover all critical aspects of a business model.
After the Why is clarified, the How should address topics like processes, governance and resources. Again, the value of a consultant lies in asking questions and highlighting potential issues which might not be obvious. Is the mind-set that this is a project with a fixed start and end or is it being treated like a product? This is crucial since maintaining anything digital should be something that never stops. Does the organisation have capacity for responding to requests? Budget for ongoing development and think about the next steps?
Finally, it’s about the What. The lessons learned in the Why and the What should give you a good understanding of what is possible. This is the step where technology should earliest enter the discussion in concrete terms. Of course, mentioning mobile capabilities is not prohibited in the Why phase but discussing if it’s an app or a mobile website, or an augmented reality tool should only start to be discussed here. Otherwise the danger is that you lose yourself already in these discussions an earlier phase.
While the discussion starts out top down it doesn’t mean that if you’ve identified a lack of resources and processes in the How phase that it eliminates a sensible solution discussed in the What phase. This feedback can trickle back up and lead to hiring a resource to mitigate that issue. However, it should not lead to a complete reshaping of the Why and How. Otherwise you end up in a technology focused mind set.
Method to the madness
This now all might sound like a practical adoption of what Simon Sinek talks about in his aforementioned TED Talk. Yet a glance over into the world of management theory reveals that this sounds rather similar to what the St. Galler Business Engineering model by Hubert Österle and Dieter Blessing describes at its core: Strategy (Why), Processes (How), System (What). While adding two further dimensions of “Transformation” and “Culture, Leadership and Conduct”. These additional dimensions certainly are important and should be touched upon. However, it strongly depends on the nature of the engagement how these topics are covered.
The most important message the Business Engineering model communicates is that only one part of the model covers technology. Which brings me back to my initial point that technology shouldn’t significantly dominate the budget if a holistic view is taken.
So, by asking Why, then How and finally What and allowing enough time to answer your customers will benefit even if it means having a rethink. The digital transformation means that things are changing. People are more informed and fickle. Hence knowing the Why, the How and the What is more important than ever.
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