5 Steps to Deliver Order Out of Your Digital Chaos

Paul Boag

Many organisations find themselves amid Digital chaos, with too many initiatives and projects happening simultaneously. In this post, I share five steps to bring order out of this chaos.

According to research carried out by Stanford, most organisations pass through five distinct phases in their Digital maturity. These are:

  1. An informal beginning.
  2. A decentralised model.
  3. A centralised team.
  4. A hybrid approach.
  5. Fully integrated.

Each stage has its unique challenges, but the decentralised model can prove particularly frustrating.

That is because, during this phase, a larger organisation finds itself running a whole host of different Digital initiatives without any overarching strategy.

Many of these initiatives impact one another, leading to internal conflict and arguments over who ‘owns Digital’. This internal conflict leads to the organisation becoming paralysed and failing to progress on their journey towards Digital becoming integrated into operations.

I have worked with many organisations in this position and have identified five steps that help them move forward. It is a journey that begins by defining the scope of Digital.

1. Define Your Scope For Digital

One reason for the conflict over Digital is that there is no clear definition of what it does and does not include. Each departmental silo sees Digital in different ways based on their area of responsibility. Therefore, they naturally believe it should sit with them.

Also, many companies have such an all-encompassing view of what Digital covers that it becomes so complicated that they are paralysed by the enormity of the task.

The answer to these challenges is to define as tightly as possible the scope. How exactly organisations achieve this will vary. However, typically, I differentiate between Digital and I.T.

The role of I.T. has always been a support service. They provide an I.T. infrastructure including servers, platforms and database management. By contrast, Digital is primarily customer-facing. It is about how an organisation uses Digital channels to interact with those it is trying to reach.

That said, there is no right or wrong way to define digital. An organisation can interpret it how they like, but it does need a clear definition.

2. Establish Where Digital Can Help

The next step is to identify where Digital can be of benefit to the organisation. Often organisations approach this task from the wrong premise. They look at what technology is out there and ask how they might make use of it. Instead, they should be starting with their customer interactions.

One of the most common approaches I adopt to aid in this process is customer journey mapping. I look at the entire customer’s interaction with an organisation from beginning to end and look for pain points where digital might help.

The way Uber came to challenge taxi companies was through adopting precisely this approach. They identified all the problems with catching a taxi and used digital tools to eliminate those pain points.

The other side of this coin is to explore how digital can help to resolve internal pain points. That is where the discipline of service design can be beneficial, and the creation of a service blueprint.

The other side of this coin is to explore how digital can help to resolve internal pain points. That is where the discipline of service design can be beneficial, and the creation of a service blueprint.
A service blueprint combined with a journey map can help to understand how digital can support the organisation.

Together a service blueprint and journey map can provide a clear picture of how digital tools can help the organisation.

3. Decide on Your Priorities

The problem that organisations now face is that they will have identified a considerable number of potential ways digital could be of benefit. The next step is, therefore, to work out the order the organisation should approach these projects.

To do that the organisation needs a simple methodology for prioritising digital projects. An approach based on organisational objectives and user needs.

I tend to achieve this using a digital triage methodology I developed that assigns points values to projects. The organisation should then organise these projects into a backlog that they address in order.

As the company identifies additional digital projects, they are also assigned a points value and slotted into the appropriate place in the backlog. That ensures that the organisation is always working on the most valuable project first.

Image of Digital Triage Backlog
A point system can help to prioritise digital projects.

4. Identify Measures of Success

As with all projects, it is necessary to define the desired outcome clearly. In other words, we need a way of determining what success looks like for each project that the company undertakes.

That means we need some key performance indicators for each Digital project, but also the overall digital initiative.

What exactly these are will vary from organisation to organisation. However, I normally ensure that companies have metrics focusing on:

Table showing the creation of key performance indicators.
Key performance indicators ensure that digital projects are delivering on organisational goals.

5. Establish Working Practices

With all the digital projects clearly defined and prioritised, organisations can then turn their attention to ensuring they execute these projects in the most cost-effective way possible.

To achieve this goal the organisation will need to establish some standard operating procedures for building and running digital channels. That will include activities like:

Of course, this is easier said than done. Implementing these kinds of standardised approaches can sometimes meet internal resistance because people don’t like being told how they should work.

It is often wiser to position the outputs of these working practices (training, playbooks, style guides and pattern libraries) as resources people can choose to use to make their lives easier, rather than dictates that employees are expected to follow. If the working practices prove to be effective people will be quick to adopt them.

Moving to a Centralised Approach

In order to implement the above steps it will be necessary to have a digital leader who is responsible for making these things happen. That leader will also probably need a team to produce some of the deliverables outlined above.

That will slowly start to centralise digital activities across the organisation. However, organisations should not see centralisation as the end of the journey. Instead, we should see it as a necessary evil needed to bring order to the chaos. Once that has been done, the real work begins. We need to work at making digital as ubiquitous as electricity across every level and silo in the organisation.