Five Essential Tools for Planning and Tracking Digital Transformation Success

July 1, 2020 Andreas Prins

“Digital transformation” isn’t a simple, one-and-done project that an organization executes. It’s an ongoing process that involves people, processes, and tools, and that requires constant experimentation, reflection, and refinement. Therefore, it’s important that both business and technical stakeholders can visualize and measure the way their day-to-day work contributes to the organization’s digital transformation journey.

Let’s look at a few visual instruments that you can use to identify what really matters to your business and your teams, and that will help you move your focus from technical outputs to business outcomes.

Discover where to go using Explorer Maps

The challenge: Organizations face a few deceptively simple questions: what do we want to achieve? What are the big goals we want to reach in the next year or two? How do we break those goals down into measurable achievements? And what actions do we need to take to get there?

The tool: Explorer Maps

Explorer Mapping is a technique created by Ruben Jannink that helps teams align the actions they are taking today with the long-term goals they want to achieve by visualizing goals and refining them on a regular basis. To visualize goals, achievements, and actions, you draw them on sticky notes and display them on a “map” on the wall. Each day, the team spends a few minutes going over the Explorer Map to ensure their plan for the day aligns with the actions that have been identified. And each quarter, the Explorer Map is thoroughly reviewed and updated or discarded to reflect how the big goals have changed.

Drive company-wide conversations using an Obeya

The challenge: Organizations struggle to manage and optimize the flow of value across many different silos of responsibility. How can everyone stay up to date on the work their colleagues in other teams are doing? And how can managers uncover opportunities for changes that would help value flow to the customer faster?

The tool: Obeya

Obeya is a Lean manufacturing tool that promotes collaboration and information sharing among teams, managers, stakeholders, and decision makers. An Obeya is typically a physical space where employees can see charts, progress boards, and other visuals that promote discussion and a common understanding of what’s happening with their products. Today, globally distributed teams can take advantage of a variety of videoconferencing, work item tracking, and online whiteboarding tools to recreate the Obeya experience digitally.

See everything in one place with a team board

The challenge: Product owners, scrum masters, and engineers have a lot of information to track, and are often asked to report on their progress. Is there a way to visualize the information that’s most important right now, and to lighten the load when it comes to sharing the team’s status?

The tool: Team boards

A visual team board that describes current activities and includes relevant historic data and a preview of future work helps DevOps teams see where they are at a glance. It also helps highlight critical issues, such as incidents that need attention. The team can use the board to facilitate their daily standup, and product owners and other stakeholders can use the board as a reporting tool. In the office, a physical board is best; but when team members are working remotely, an online whiteboarding tool can also do the trick.

Understand the team environment using the Smell-o-Meter

The challenge: The tools you use to develop, deploy, and monitor software applications produce a lot of data that helps you understand your applications’ health and how long it takes to move features from planning to production. But what about the human factor? How can you measure the experience your teams are having on a day-to-day basis?

The tool: Smell-O-Meter

Strategic management expert Sumantra Ghoshal introduced the Smell of the Place as a way to understand the context people are working in and how that context affects their behavior, by contrasting “bad smells” against “good smells.” Scrum educator Barry Overveem gives several examples of bad and good smells that he has seen in organizations; for example, temporary teams only focusing on executing deadline-driven projects is a bad smell, while long-lived Agile teams building products that meet real customer needs is a good smell.

Scrum educator Wouter van der Meer created the Smell-o-Meter: a visual board where team members can provide a simple representation of the way they feel about the smells they observe within their team or in their organization as a whole. At the end of each workday, everyone updates their feedback by moving sticky notes along the spectrum between bad smells and good smells. Regularly measuring the working environment in this way can reveal trends and uncover issues that output-focused tools cannot detect.

Apply impact mapping to business outcomes

The challenge: Optimizing the software development and delivery pipeline is important, but the ultimate goal of a digital transformation is to use technology to achieve better outcomes for your business. What instruments can you use to plan and measure transformation beyond software development activities?

The tool: Impact mapping

Impact mapping is a collaboration and strategic planning technique that helps teams communicate assumptions, align their work to business objectives, and make better roadmap decisions. By extending impact mapping beyond software delivery, you can visualize the business goals you want to achieve, the actors who will make it happen, the impact each actor must have to achieve the goal, and the deliverables associated with those impacts. Software development or IT teams often start by talking about the deliverable that needs to be created. But impact mapping can help you discover that there might be faster or easier ways to achieve the same goal—maybe even without writing a single line of code.

Learn more

About the Author

Andreas Prins

Andreas Prins is VP of Platform Strategy for Digital.ai. Andreas brings real-world experience building and scaling teams to deliver mission-critical software applications. He has extensive experience as an agile transformation coach and as a former manager of a DevOps team. At Digital.ai he is responsible for platform vision and direction to build an end-to-end value stream management solution that enables the digital transformation of customers.

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