Understanding an organisation’s vision is crucial when thinking about using technology effectively, says Jan Joubert, CEO at Rainmaker.
This type of message can often sound too abstract so I thought it worthwhile to put some flesh on the bones and explain how we go about turning vision into reality at Rainmaker.
Every organisation needs a clear articulation of its vision; one that describes its desired future. To spell this out is to provide an aspirational destination for the organisation to head toward. At Rainmaker, we believe a clear vision is so vital to success that it is our starting point when working with organisations on their digital transformation journeys. Without clarity of vision and purpose, ambiguities are more likely to arise on the journey, leading to expensive changes of direction and increasing the time it takes to deliver.
Clients often have an existing vision, but frequently these are aged and may have been created by external agencies, so we test how widely known and measurable the vision is and how well the portfolio of projects drives towards it. Vision statements must be co-developed by listening to the views of those within an organisation, not simply imposed from the top without consultation.
But how do we go about turning organisational vision into a transformation plan?
First, we help clients articulate the supporting values and guiding principles that define and distinguish how they’ll achieve their vision. We bring together technologists and non-technologists alike for workshop discussions, since digital transformation requires collaboration across numerous skill sets. Traditional divisions between “the business” and IT create artificial barriers that get in the way of satisfying the needs of technology users, both those inside the organisation and external service users.
Understanding the genuine needs of all technology users, as well as the needs of the organisation, is critical. We use qualitative and quantitative research techniques to gather and analyse user needs, filtering out “wants” from “needs” and challenging any set of business requirements that may already exist for traceability to those needs. We’ve embraced the principles set out in the Government Digital Service’s Service Manual and are successfully applying these principles outside government, notably in financial services.
Alongside an articulation of vision, we work with our clients to improve their strategic planning by co-creating a map of their organisation to show how business processes and technology components connect to meet the organisation’s needs. This map is a representation of how an organisation delivers value to its customers. Identifying and understanding the landscape within which an organisation operates is to have “situational awareness”, and the best tool we’ve found for improving this awareness is the Wardley Map, named after business strategist, Simon Wardley.
These maps allow us to demonstrate how business processes and technology evolve, and against this to visualise the “value chain” between those elements. These depictions are immensely powerful, allowing us to collaboratively explore the path the client may take to achieve its vision. They help an organisation understand the way its people, processes, data and technology combine to deliver value to its customers.
This value chain mapping of organisational and user needs to technology allows us to avoid conventional IT roadmaps that tend to copy the buzzwords of the day into irrelevant and unachievable target operating models (TOMs). Although still widely used, TOMs are often guilty of painting an overly optimistic view of a future, static world, which in practice are delivered years late and aren’t fit for purpose. They struggle to adapt to changing business requirements and don’t keep pace with maturing customer needs. Furthermore, TOMs frequently coincide with multi-year service contracts that may further constrain the ability to change. TOMs quickly become out-of-date.
Instead, Rainmaker focus on what Wardley Maps tell us. They help us to:
- Understand the environment in which the organisation is operating;
- Highlight how opportunities for strategic change may be exploited;
- Question whether the organisation is making enough effort to understand what the novel and unique factors are that differentiate them, and whether they are using commodity services in some areas to help them compete and excel in other areas;
- Deconstruct complex landscapes so that appropriate decisions can be made for different parts of the organisation, avoiding a “one size fits all” or “me too” approach;
- Influence sourcing options, removing the dilemma from subjective buy or build decisions;
- Identify technological duplication, influencing application rationalisation plans;
- Connect us with appropriate project delivery techniques for each component — agile isn’t always appropriate;
- Explore the composition of delivery teams — often, less structure is needed not more, and people’s differing capabilities must be integrated;
- Expose bias within the IT landscape, such as any unjustified predisposition to building bespoke services.
Whilst all of these benefits are important, the key benefit of using these maps is that they allow us to centre discussion and make decisions based on the WHY and WHERE of change, not just the WHAT, HOW and WHEN of its implementation.
Armed with strong evidence of a client’s vision, values, principles, the needs of its users, and a map of its process and technology componentry, we can then build a transformation plan which maximises the business benefits of digital initiatives across the organisation.
For the organisation and its users to be successful on its transformation journey, all stakeholders must buy into the transformation plan, creating a culture which adopts digital at its core. This ensures the plan can endure ongoing iteration as circumstances change, be it due to market forces, product availability, organisational vision, performance, or the changing needs of its users.
It is through such detailed understanding of an organisation and its users, combined with a map of how their needs connect with technology that we are able to work together with clients to embed digital change and transformation. We start on that journey on day one and begin making real differences to users from the outset.
We’re always the first to volunteer that this process sounds straightforward. It is. But, our experience tells us that the IT industry over-complicates design and delivery. This is a result of not taking the time to understand in detail the needs of the user, not understanding how business and technology are best connected to deliver change, and not appreciating how existing technologies can be harnessed to meet the organisation’s vision.
Does it work? According to the client testimonials which we use to measure our success, yes, it does:
Rainmaker don’t beat about the bush. They have been able to tell us quickly what needs to be done, but in such a positive way that it has created fantastic results within the team — real energy, passion and a belief in our collective capability.
The team and Rainmaker worked together on each stage to co-create and co-deliver, and I’m pleased with the results. Rainmaker have acted as true critical friends and engaged with the team throughout. Everyone needs to understand both the value chain of delivery and their part in that chain. Rainmaker helped us to embed this culture and integrate this thinking across the team. — Jan Ford, Head of IT Service Transition, High Speed Two (HS2) Ltd