5 steps from Strategy to Roadmap in weeks rather than months or years
One of the fascinating aspects of digital business transformation is that although the journey is unique for each enterprise, macro hurdles across any industry follow the same patterns. Every organization also pursues the same goals: cut costs, increase revenue and compliance, through the shortest time to market.
Despite this, many organizations still follow delivery methodologies ineffective for the complexity of the technology and today’s business uncertainties.
Outlining a comparison between Lean delivery vs Waterfall delivery I wanted to answer some of the common questions about how to translate the strategy, vision, to the roadmap, while executing a digital business transformation program:
- How to align the business strategy to technology?
- Where to start?
- How to gain speed and scale?
FROM STRATEGY TO THE ROADMAP
When complexity is too high, the scope is too big, the analysis gets easily stuck. Planning based on too many assumptions, in the best-case scenario, lends to outcomes too far away to get value out of them.
When I started studying Computer Science at university I learned three basic principles.
- If you want to solve a big problem you have to split it into smaller ones.
- Technology is based on collaboration. Software isn’t meant to stand alone, same as teams and people
- Change is driven by outcome
You can choose different worlds, methods, labels, fancy techniques but the substance is always the same, and surprisingly to me, those three principles are always very actual and suit every business.
LEAN DELIVERY MODEL
Acknowledge no one keeps up with today’s technology as a whole and business changes by design. Especially in complex and unpredictable environments, systematic processes and continuous improvement are meant to drive business outcomes and scale.
Define a strategy, identify waste, opportunities, gain velocity, while referring back to those three principles: split the big problem into smaller chunks, collaborate cross-functional across the organization, create a roadmap customer-driven based on outcomes rather than assumptions.
Below I outlined a Lean type of approach to align the business strategy to the technology into five actionable steps.
1 — Define the Strategy: mission, vision, and values are business objectives time bounded with metrics. OKRs need to be agreed upon from C-level to senior management cross-functional. Cascade objectives and metrics, top-down, to the rest of the organization
2 — Apply a scientific thinking approach: tackle the problem in small chunks. Aim to discover what works first, get feedback, and then iterate continuously improving as Lean way of delivery
3 — Use Case Identification: the goal is to get quick wins on production. Start with the easiest use case to implement, with the shortest time to market, but significant business impact in order to keep the main stakeholders involved.
4 — Create a Roadmap: what are the bottlenecks that prevent you from achieving the business objectives today? Define an outcome-driven roadmap (see points 2 and 3)
5 — Share learnings: show what’s possible to the organization, build momentum and increase team morale, identify a pattern, measure it, and scale. It is not a one-off activity but comes along with a structured communication strategy and HR involvement.
WATERFALL DELIVERY MODEL
On the opposite side of a Lean approach, Waterfall prevents achieving business goals, agility, and speed. What does it mean?
I compared the previous 5 Lean steps with the ones below:
1- Abstract vision/mission and values, not shared, agreed, or clarified between the leadership and top-down, cross-functional.
2- Too many, or not well-understood metrics by the stakeholders. Teams don’t know how to measure what they are doing against the common objective
3- Analysis paralysis, the organization wants to solve the problem all at once, or Waterfall approach, causing not to move forward making progress
4- Roadmap based on assumptions that can’t be accurate due to the complexity of the program and scope too extended
5- Time to market too long is prone to bottlenecks along the way, killing team morale and business outcomes achievement.
How you initiate something makes the difference between failure or success, and how long it takes to fail or succeed. The initiation phase of any program, project, initiative, or software development is always the most crucial. Paradoxically there is the tendency to rush to the planning and implementation of the whole problem rather than face the hard challenges, initiate difficult conversations, and find a common ground between the stakeholders involved.
Waiting many months or years to pursue a business goal should be seen as a sign of the need to start experimenting with Lean frameworks. It will take practice and time to master it, but will lend to new behaviors and speed with a permanent effect.
The ultimate goal of any business transformation is to rewire the organization around customers, which at the macro-level always means a shorter time to market, reduce risks, increase revenues and compliance.