We opened this series by discussing why digital transformation and continuous improvements are critical to long-term success. But once you’ve made this realization, how do you actually make it happen in an effective and streamlined way? Just because you’ve discovered the key to your company’s inefficiencies and the importance of aiming higher doesn’t mean everyone else does. Besides, small to mid-size businesses don’t typically have a dedicated professional or department to oversee the endeavor, so you need to champion internal support.
Here, we’ll take a quick look at how to craft a value proposition for executive sponsorship, then focus on who you should enlist to ensure the endeavor is handled intelligently and without delay.
Crafting a Value Proposition & Making Your Case Internally
Swimming upstream toward executive sponsorship is no easy task – but it’s a necessary one. Even if you’re right about what metrics are “good enough,” the CxO must be the one to say “this is important to us as a company;” otherwise you’ll be met with hesitation, passive resistance, reluctance, and competing priorities. To garner the necessary high-level support, put together a “short form” business case, or problem/opportunity statement, which briefly describes the current situation, clearly articulates the business need, and offers a solution and estimated range of costs.
Convey where the company stands on business performance and where you want to take it or where it must go (“as-is” vs. “to be”). The strongest cases are backed by customer pain points. In the previous post, I outlined key metrics to consider, such as improving order fill rates and boosting turnaround and delivery speeds. If you need to choose a point of focus and priority, start with what your top clients are telling you they lack.
As you sell this initiative internally, prepare for the customary scrutiny on the expected risk and payback. Digital transformations can be disruptive, so it’s important to consider and communicate the levels and scope of change you expect along with the planned deliverables. Include a “soft” cost and benefit estimation; at this phase, you want the go-ahead to pull together a cross-functional project team to refine the business case and proposal essentials.
That said, in my experience, the most effective CEOs I’ve worked with will say: “Tell me how much we will make, not how much it will cost.” When discussing key metrics worth improving, highlight the projected impacts to revenue, profit, quality, customer retention, or productivity.
Gathering Cross-Functional Support
Too often, businesses will quickly assign a project manager, usually someone from operations or IT. Enlisting a single person narrows the breadth of expertise and limits their ability to adequately assess and communicate what the full scope of the initiative will entail. Further, if they have to juggle between this and their full-time job – which is equally involved and time-consuming – both areas will suffer, and the project will drag out with little progress. If you’re really serious about making an impact in your business, select a team of about 3-4 people whose sole short-term focus will be to bring the endeavor into fruition.
The chosen team will become the resident experts, aiding in the roll-out after the proof-of-concept is demonstrated and training the rest of the organization. As such, they should represent the various departments and interests of the enterprise. The core, full-time group should include someone from operations, as they will be responsible for executing the upgrade; IT to assess what will fit with legacy systems; and finance to handle the cost-benefit analysis. Consider rounding out the team with a couple of professionals from sales and business development to assist part-time; they will relate whether they can sell the benefits to customers. Once assembled, the mission of the team is to expand the “short form” into a quantifiable proposal, gain approval, and march toward a pilot.
Finally, once the initiative is underway, be sure to commit the team by incentivizing their perseverance. The last complication you want is for a key person leaving the project mid-way. I’ve rewarded people with completion bonuses that make it worth their while to stick around, plus they’re gaining new skills they didn’t have at the onset, making them more valuable to both the company and marketplace.
Once you’ve assembled your dream team, it’s time to do the work. Coming up next in the series: compiling a list of considerations for your initiative, identifying the pool of prospective providers that’s right for your business, weighing the values a provider must satisfy to make you successful, and what the detailed business case and proposal should include.
Bryce Boothby is an MPO board advisor and former executive of Flextronics, Celestica, ModusLink, Regenersis PLC, and Lulu.com. His blog series, “Making the Case for a Digital Transformation,” will investigate the topic of “Achieving the perfect order” and how companies can differentiate between solution providers, calculate returns on investment, choose a vendor, integrate with legacy systems, sponsor and sell the business case, and ‘try before you buy.’